[Tweeters] Snow Buntings and Grouse Scat, Kittitas County

walter walter.szeliga at gmail.com
Wed Jan 1 15:09:45 PST 2014

Dear Tweeters,
I took advantage of the nice warm, windless weather today (1 Jan.) to climb the Skyline Trail from the Umtanum suspension bridge (Yakima River Canyon) to the Durr/Wenas Ridge Rd. At the very top, where the trail intersects with the Durr/Wenas Ridge Rd. I found two Snow Buntings. I was able to get terrible (witness quality) video of the birds, mostly for the audio since they were quite vocal. The birds were present in the same location a few hours later when I began hiking down as well. They scattered when a truck drove by, but returned to pretty much the same region. These birds had nearly all of their brownish-orange gone (their white feathers are actually a product of wear) which seemed weird to me.

There is no snow, and only very minor ice along the Skyline trail. The Buntings were about 2 miles from the Umtanum parking lot in the Yakima River Canyon, that would be 2 miles and 2200 vertical feet though…

Also along the Skyline trail in the heavy sagebrush section, I found quite a few winter droppings from some game birds. My initial thought was that they looked quite a bit like Ptarmigan dropping (yes, I know they aren’t). I have seen Chukar in the area, and I know that there are Greater Sage-Grouse in similar habitat and elevation not far away just across the river. There aren’t many wide, flat areas for a Sage-Grouse lek up along the Skyline trail, but who knows. At any rate, the size of the droppings and overall look closely resembled photos of Greater Sage-Grouse droppings I was able to find online.

Walter Szeliga
Ellensburg, WA

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