[Tweeters] Douglas and Okanogan Co weekend

Steve Giles giles.steve at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 24 16:34:05 PDT 2014

Inspired by the favorable weather report for the weekend my wife, Lois, and I spent Fri-Sun in N Central WA. We hoped to find winter visitors still around-maybe mixed in with early spring migrants. Whatever we might find we knew we would enjoy the landscapes with clear skies.

We arrived in Douglas Co by mid-day on Fri-traveling from the East on Hwy 2. Our objective was to check if the Snowy Owl last reported in Jan might still be around. Our expectations were low because we hadn't seen any recent reports of this bird. We found "O" road-headed N and in 1/2 mile came upon a parked car. Sure enough-100 yards to the W was a Snowy Owl sitting on an old piece of farm equipment in a small circle of dead grass surrounded by wheat field. This was a very large bird-female maybe. We watched and photographed it for about 20 minutes when it took flight and headed West. The man in the parked car lived further down "O" road and had just purchased a Canon Powershot camera with a 50 power zoom lens and was almost giddy with excitement at seeing and photographing the owl. We exchanged notes on birds and cameras and continued on our way.

We slowly worked our way N across the Plateau. Say's Phoebes were common. Along Hwy 2 W of Whitehall Rd were several Sage Thrashers. The thicket on the E side of Heritage Rd had 2 Great Horned Owls.

At every stop the Cascades loomed to the West. There was no snow at all on the Plateau and the temperature had warmed to 50. Not many birds but the vistas were stunning.

Sat we headed for the Okanogan Highlands. The day was clear and crisp-19 degrees and the snow sparkled where the sun shone on it. One of my WA nemesis birds is Sharp Tailed Grouse so I wanted to drive Mary Ann Creek road early. We didn't arrive at dawn because other birds captured our interest. The highlight was a male Prairie Merlin which had captured a female Mountain Bluebird and stationed on a fence post in front of us proceeded to pluck and consume the bird. We watched for 15 minutes and then got too close and the bird took its meal out into the pasture to finish it undisturbed.

Mountain Bluebirds were everywhere. We encountered many N Shrikes. A N Pygmy Owl tooted in the distance. N Rough-Legged Hawks and Red Tailed Hawks in many plumages were common. Along Fields Rd we found an adult Golden Eagle and watched two Bald Eagles perform their talon-clasping tumbling courtship behavior. Along Nealy Rd we found a Clark’s Nutcracker and at the Highland Sno-Park were three Williamson’s Sapsuckers.

Sunday we drove Cameron Lake Rd from N to S. The ponds and lakes to the N were still frozen over but as we worked our way S the water was open. Waterfowl were abundant. No unexpected species but many individuals. Vesper Sparrows were back in force and we found one Lark Sparrow. At the intersection of Greenaway Rd and Cameron Lk Rd we watched two juvenile Golden Eagles soar above us for ten minutes.

Our final stop was the last farmstead-about 1.5 miles before the road descends to hwy 97-here there are two large willows and a small pond. Working the willows were three Tree Sparrows and we heard many Sandhill Cranes calling in the distance.

Steve GilesSeattle

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