[Tweeters] Unexpected Trip to Eastern Washington - White Faced Ibis and More

Blair Bernson blair at washingtonadvisorygroup.com
Sat May 17 07:00:13 PDT 2014

On Thursday at 10:30 a.m. I was alerted by a
friend that White Faced Ibises had been seen in
Richland, WA. This has been a nemesis bird for me
having never seen it in Washington and having
missed it by a day on two previous failed
attempts, I had a dilemma. Go now (with the
attendant changes in plans, negotiations, timing
issues) etc or wait until the weekend, which was
planned for a trip to the coast anyhow and just
change directions and plan some other stops to
enhance the trip. BUT I had waited too long
before, and having an understanding partner, I
headed home, packed a bag and took off for Island
19 in Richland.

Without any details about the drive, let's just
say that despite leaving Edmonds at noon, I
arrived at Waterfront Drive just across from
Island 19 (with superb directions) at a "very
reasonable hour". Earlier that week 40 Ibis had
been reported and the numbers had diminished each
day. By Thursday when I arrived it was not clear
that any remained and I was not optimistic as a
number of boaters were seemingly buzzing the
island as I got out of my car to scope the north
end of the island where they had been seen before.
Boaters be damned, boaters be praised. Within a
minute of arriving (what if I had delayed???) a
single White Faced Ibis was flushed from its
grazing area on the Northwest end of the island
and flew east and behind the island where I could
no longer see it. BUT it was unmistakeable in a
clear view in flight even seeing the white facial
detail that gives the bird its name. HURRAY!!!
The long drive was rewarded. I waited another 90+
minutes hoping the bird would work its way back to
a clearly viewable and although distant hopefully
photograph possible location. No luck. But
finally success. And otehr good birds there
included a single White Pelican, many Forster's
Terns keering loudly, Great Egret, Black Crowned
Night Heron, Black Necked Stilts and a Long Billed
Curlew among others.

I love the planning part of a trip for birds -
usually a specific target takes me to an area but
then I can enjoy other birds, other places, and
the details while there or in the area or along
the route. This trip had no such planning and I
was not at all familiar with Richland or
Tri-Cities. It was approaching 6 PM and I wanted
one more stop before figuring out whether to try
the long drive home or stay the night and bird on
Friday. I remembered the word "Kahlotus" and its
association with a Grasshopper Sparrow spot and
punched it into the GPS and took off as it was
less than 30 minutes away. In "just enough" light
I was able to find some Grasshopper Sparrows and a
treat for me, a favorite sparrow - the Lark
Sparrow - the latter in great numbers. I was
tempted to stay in the area and try for the Ibis
again in the early morning hoping for a photo op
but decided instead to head towards Yakima and be
able to check out a Bank Swallow area the next
morning and then bird that area on Friday.

The plan proved successful and enjoyable as I
spent a lovely day birding first in Granger (the
Swallow nests in a bank above the Yakima River at
Cherry Hill on Emerald Road) and then heading off
to the Wenas Area birding at a number of stops
including some in Selah near Wenas Lake on North
Wenas Road and Elk Ridge. Then to the Wenas
Campground area and then heading home over Umtanum
with a final stop at Robinson Canyon. It was a
beautiful day with wildflowers in most fields and
hillsides, the sage in bloom, a few rattlesnakes,
and good birds that varied from "in abundance" to
"scattered". The highlight of the day was finding
3 White Headed Woodpeckers, up close and personal,
on the private "Kindle Lane" property (is there an
Amazon story there?) on Umtanum (or is it still
North Wenas Road) just north of the pass. Nice
photos. Other bird comments - very few
woodpeckers (but if the White Headed had been it,
so what); empidonax and Western Wood Pewees were
in most areas with their incumbent challenges; a
good number of various warblers and a number of
Cassin's Vireos (and finches); Bullock's Orioles
were seen in numbers at many areas; many Black
Headed Grosbeaks as well; Lazuli Buntings were not
prolific but great views at Elk Ridge Road; both
Calliope and Black Chinned Hummers were seen - no
Rufous; and there were Ospreys at every nesting
platform I saw...probably 10+.

All told - 90 species for the trip - and no
speeding tickets!!!

Blair Bernson

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