[Tweeters] Columbia Gorge - Swans, eagles, wintering ducks...

Susan R O'Hara susan at winesnw.com
Mon Jan 6 15:39:43 PST 2014

Apologies for the slow post; these sightings occurred on New Year's Day,
but are worth repeating.

While driving up the Gorge on the Oregon side from Vancouver, a friend
and I spotted lots of swans on a lake just next to the south side of
I-84. Taking the Rooster Rock exit (I think it was exit 25), we pulled
over and set up a scope to have a look. We figure there were about 40
TUNDRA SWANS floating along the far edge of Mirror Lake; we were treated
also to a fly in of a handful more very close to us reminding me how
huge a wingspan these beauties boast. Also on the lake were a number of
dabblers and divers, including a beautiful pair of HOODED MERGANSERS.

Crossing back over the Hood River toll bridge into Washington and
turning north on Hwy 14, we were treated to an unusual sighting for this
time of year... an EASTERN KINGBIRD... perched on a telephone wire just
waiting to be noticed.

Our destination was Lyle to take in the gathering of a few BALD EAGLES,
an annual event now commemorated by Memaloose winery at their lovely
tasting room situated at the confluence of the Klickitat and the
Columbia rivers. The winery's deck overlooks the sandbar where many
eagles take up gorging on the carcasses of the river's winter run of
salmon. Most memorable of the eagles gathering at this spot was a
mature pair perched together on a log, illustrating clearly the
significantly larger size of the female compared with its male partner.

Hiking up the Klickitat Trail with eagle expert Tim Nelson, another
memorable experience was a VERY long look at a first-year juvenile bald
eagle perched on the top of a snag. Nothing spooked this mottled
youngster and setting up the scope revealed why. Eagle expert Tim
Nelson estimated the eagle probably weighed about 11 pounds... BEFORE it
gorged itself on probably about four pounds of salmon, so completely
full of the feast that her crop was fully bulging. If she had tried to
fly, she would have had a tough time staying airborne. Most common also
along this trail were SCRUB JAYS and NORTHERN FLICKERS. The trail gave
us good views of half a dozen mature BALD EAGLES perched in evergreens
on the east side of the Kilickitat and we were entertained by much
vocalizing among the group.

Taking in a nearby half-mile loop trail on the old Hwy 8, about .2 miles
north of Hwy 14 on the west side of the Klickitat, we came up empty
handed as we headed by to the car, but as we approached a GOLDEN EAGLE
soared on the thermal rising off of a hillside to the west. Thrilling.

Leaving Lyle at about 1:00 pm, we made one more stop at Bingen, WA,
south of the railroad tracks and down toward the port. The riverside
pond there was practically vacant, but within nearby roadside inlet from
the Columbia was a very nice collection of ducks, a few CANADA GEESE and

It was a chilly day, but no rain, making it an enjoyable way to start
the new year.

Susan R O'Hara
Vancouver, WA
susan at winesnw.com

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