[Tweeters] Back from the Okanogan - Bird and Snow Reports

Blair Bernson blair at washingtonadvisorygroup.com
Fri Nov 21 19:11:19 PST 2014

This adds to the report of the Northern Hawk Owl
on the Brewster Flats yesterday including birds
from today and our trip home over a VERY snowy
Highway 2.

First yesterday's Hawk Owl. As reported we saw
this bird after a call from Tom Mansfield who
located it after maybe an hour of searching. It
was on a telephone pole on N. Star Road not far
from the intersection with Blossom Lane - west of
Old Highway 97. We spent more than 5 hours
looking thoroughly through the entire area before
this success. Our efforts included at least 6
visits to the exact spot Tom found the bird. I
see that Terry Little had the bird again today -
so hopefully it remains and many others will see
it as well. We did not see it early this morning
on a return to the area after a night in Pateros.
We did however find Michael Hobbs and that proved
a valuable find as well.

The weather yesterday was cool but beautiful.
Today not so much - early clearing turned to
clouds then ice rain then snow with temperatures
getting into the mid 20's. We birded Bridgeport
State Park - no Saw Whet Owls but a lovely young
Merlin. Then to the Wells Wildlife area on
Bridgeport Hill Road. No Sharp Tailed Grouse but
a number of Rough Legged Hawks. Timing is
everything. We spent at least 20 minutes at the
turnoff that goes down to a Quail feeding station
and a stream reclamation project. Some hawks, a
Flicker, starlings and some house finches were
it. 30 minutes later I got a text from Michael
that he had two flocks of Goldfinches there which
each included at least one Common Redpoll. We
returned and quickly found one of the flocks.
VERY jumpy but at least one CORE included.

In steadily declining weather we then birded on
the Waterville Plateau hoping especially for
Hungarian Partridge and maybe some early
arrivals. No such luck - again lots of both Red
Tailed and Rough Legged Hawks and Kestrels.
Another text from Michael who had an American Tree
Sparrow respond to a recording at a small woodlot
at 13th and Heritage Roads (L Street) about 5
miles from Mansfield. We had elected to go to
Withrow instead of the Mansfield area so did a
u-turn and found the woodlot with further coaching
from Michael. Whereas his recording immediately
produced the ATSP, ours produced a large flock of
House FInches. We found the sparrow in the flock
but could not get a photo at distance - it did not
come out at all - and then the flock dispersed.
We remained and tried a number of times in vain to
get the bird to respond. We then went away for 10
minutes and returning we tried again and it came
in close for a good photo op. At least good under
the now pretty awful weather conditions - colder
and heavier snow fall.

We decided it was time to head home and being very
low on gas changed route to go back to 97 instead
of carrying on to Waterville. Now the snow was
falling fairly hard making birding a challenge.
Again lots of hawks and perhaps as a precursor to
the weeks ahead - many flocks of Horned Larks - at
least 75 birds in all maybe more.

The drive back on Hwy and especially over the pass
was daunting. Chains (or all wheel drive)
required. Heavy snow - poor visibility and timid
and/or poor drivers were challenges. There were a
number of spin outs and cars in ditches off the
side of the road. I finally passed everyone and
then had clear sailing with no issues (I have all
wheel drive). Snow turned to rain about 10 miles
down from the summit but the summit really did
require attention and care.

We are planning a trip back to the Okanogan for
several days in Late December. It would be nice
if some more of the "winter" birds arrived ... and
if Tom and Michael are up there as well.

Blair Bernson

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