[Tweeters] Okanogan Sharp tailed Grouse, WW Crossbills, and other goodies (Updated Photos)

Khanh Tran khanhbatran at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 16 12:04:57 PST 2015

Hi Tweets:

This weekend, we escaped the dreadful weather west of the cascades, and were rewarded with beautiful birds and nice weather in Okanogan and Douglas County. The birding was terrific! The trend continues with great diversity and number of wintering finches. The Okanogan Highlands and Methow Valley were lively with many roaming flocks of Pine Grosbeaks, White winged and Red Crossbills. The nomadic birds were actively and noisily feeding on top of conifers, ripping the spruce cones and dropping them on the ground like rowdy, miniature parrots. It was delightful to see and study so many different color variations in all three species. We had great, extensive looks.

The Saturday night storm, blanked fresh snow at elevations above 3000 feet and produced great birds. The fresh snow 'exposed 'the ground loving species and made it easy to spot them. We saw up to 80-90 Gray Partridge in the Okanogan Highlands in just a few hours! It was nice to join up with the witty and generous, Tom Mansfield for a bit. His fun presence and karma, gifted us with a birdy afternoon in the Highlands!

The heavily burned areas near Conconully was entirely snow covered. The picturesque valley gifted us a beautiful sunset, a 1000 Snow Buntings (Escher snowbirds), and a dozen Sharp tailed Grouse. This quickly erased any depressed feelings that I had this past summer as the fires destroyed several leks. I was just buzzing and smiling when I saw these niffy birds fly into their feeding grounds. They are so cool to watch as they gracefully walk on those spiny, tiny birch branches to feed. With or without much snow, I speculate these fancy grassland chickens may come to the water birch trees more readily to feed this winter since the surrounding, ground shrubs (food source) has been scorched from the summer's fires Interestingly, the birds at Bridgeport Hill Rd (Douglas County) have already been feeding at the Water birch trees this month without any snow on the ground.

Trip highlights included: seeing 1000 Snow Buntings swirl by our car, watching a dozen Sharp tailed Grouse feed, vocalize. and fly into the water birch trees along Scotch Creek Wildlife area near Conconully. We lucked out and watched a Northern Pygmy Owl at eye level for a while. And then the tennis ball-sized owl, face planted itself in the snow a few feet away and, got a rodent! Intimate encounters with many Common Redpolls was also fun.

So refreshing to see good birding activity this winter compared to the last several years!

Hyperlink to my photos can be found here. Hope you will enjoy!!!


Here are the highlights from the trip:

Sharp tailed Grouse-a dozen birds along Scotch Creek Wildlife area near Conconully

Gray Partridge-80-90 birds in the Okanogan Highlands along the many farming homesteads

Northern Pygmy Owl - up to five birds in the Okanogan Highlands near Chesaw and Havillah

Chukar-two birds along Hwy 17 near Dry Falls

Bohemian Waxwings-several flocks (50-400) in Pateros, Tonasket, and Bridgeport

Snow Buntings-small flock along Havillah Rd and 1000 birds near Scotch Creek Wildlife area

American Tree Sparrows-flock of 20 birds near Mansfield

Common Redpolls-several small flocks of 20-60 birds in Highlands, and Douglas County (Dezellum Hill Rd and near Mansfield)

Pine Grosbeaks-several flocks of 5-12 birds in Highland along Mary Ann Creek Rd

White winged Crossbills-several small flocks (1-50 birds) along Mary Ann Creek and Chesaw Rd

Red Crossbills-multiple flocks (12-30 birds) in Okanogan Highlands and mixed in with White winged

Gray crowned Rosy-finches-both flavors (Spumoni and Raspberry splash) at Nealey Rd feeders

Happy Holiday with much peace and love,

Khanh Tran


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