[Tweeters] Umtanum Creek and other Destinations on Saturday
vkbirder at gmail.com
Sun May 11 23:16:07 PDT 2014
On Saturday nine of us met at 6 am for a Seattle Audubon Birdathon trip to
Umtanum Creek Recreation Area. Umtanum is a popular spring destination
because of the wonderful assortment of migrating songbirds as well as
resident species to be found there, including Prairie Falcon and Canyon
Wren. Jim and I and several friends scouted the trip on Tuesday since it
has been several years since we birded the area in May. The results were
dismaying: the birding was beyond "slow" -- most of the migrants we were
hoping to see on Saturday's field trip had not yet arrived. We also
discovered that beavers have been very busy and the main trail no longer
leads to a convenient lunch spot on a slope that overlooks trees that
Lewis' Woodpeckers once nested in. It now stops at a large beaver pond.
It is possible to proceed farther into the canyon if you're willing to do
a fair amount of rock hopping and make your way on narrow, sloping, and at
times steep paths.
Not knowing when the pace of migration might pick up, we revised our
initial plan to include additional stops en route to Umtanum, with options
for other stops afterwards.
On Saturday our group turned out to be enthusiastic, sharp-eyed,
knowledgeable, eager to see as many birds as possible and a lot of fun to
be with. In that number was Charles who is doing a "Big Photographic Year"
so we were all motivated to find good shots for his project.
After we reached Snoqualmie the west-side drizzle ended; our weather turned
sunny; and it warmed up by mid morning to a very comfortable temperature.
The challenge of the day was wind -- lots of it, throughout the field trip
that made spotting birds in the fully-leafed out trees and shrubs just
plain hard. We had the unexpected good fortune to have Neil Zimmerman, who
was scouting his own field trip to Umtanum next Wednesday, join us at
several locations. His sharp eyes and masterful pishing gave us great
looks at a number of species we otherwise might not have seen well or at
I plan to post the list of birds we saw on eBird (this will be a learning
experience) but would like the share some of the highlights from our
various stops. At Snoqualmie Pass both Rufous and Anna's Hummingbirds were
using a feeder near the main doors to the WSDOT facility. A stop at
Stampede Pass gave us lengthy views of Red Crossbills in the tall conifers,
with several adults feeding young, a Red-Breasted Sapsucker, and a Spotted
Sandpiper along the River. No dippers, unfortunately.
At the Cle Elum Railroad Ponds, Yellow-rumped Warblers were everywhere.
(They were undoubtedly the most common bird we saw throughout the day.)
Tree, Violet-green and Northern Rough-winged Swallows shared the sky with
about a dozen Vaux' Swifts. An Osprey was on its nest; Barrows Goldeneyes
were in the pond; House Wrens bubbled away; and several pairs of Western
Bluebirds were setting up housekeeping. The bird that stole the show was a
Bullock's Oriole seen well in a flowering shrub in brilliant sunshine.
At Umtanum we found a Prairie Falcon at its nest on the north wall of the
canyon but it was so perfectly camouflaged that it was very difficult to
see even through a scope in good lighting. We ultimately saw Lewis'
Woodpecker, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock's Oriole, warblers (Nashville,
Townsend, Yellow-rumped, and Wilson's). We heard a single Yellow-breasted
Chat but even Neil could not entice it to show itself. Canyon Wrens called
intermittently throughout our visit.
On Umtanum Road we had wonderful looks at both Mountain and Western
Bluebirds. Meadowlarks were singing as were Brewer's Sparrows. We watched
a Red-tailed Hawk hanging in the stiff wind for what seemed like a really
At the bridge over the Teanaway River (Highway 10) no Dipper was to be seen
when we arrived so we looked at yet more Yellow-rumped Warblers in the
willows and shrubs along the water. As we were thinking about giving up,
an adult Dipper flew up the river and landed on a rock across the river
from us, dipped a few times, then crossed over to our side and fed along
the rocks at the water's edge. He then flew up under the bridge and
disappeared. We were all delighted, but no one more than Charles who got a
lot of great shots. At the nearby wetland our final "group" bird was a
Pileated Woodpecker. Four of us who were the last to leave wrapped up the
day with a male Northern Harrier flying over the wetland.
It was a long but very enjoyable day, during which we saw 68 species.
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