[Tweeters] WOS Winter trip 2/14-2/16 Okanogan Highlands and Waterville Plateau

Shep Thorp shepthorp at gmail.com
Thu Feb 19 11:59:42 PST 2015


Hi Tweets,



Sixteen of us had a wonderful time in the Okanogan Highlands and Waterville
Plateau for Fanter Lane and my WOS winter trip Saturday February 14th-Monday
February 16th. Although as all of you already know, it was more of a late
winter-early spring trip. As my daughter said, she is enjoying her
“Febuly” over the President’s Day weekend. The snow coverage was minimal
and temperatures were in the high 30’s at night and in the 50’s degrees
Fahrenheit during the day. Highlights included GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH,
PINE GROSBEAK, COMMON REDPOLL, GRAY PARTRIDGE, SNOW BUNTING, and NORTHERN
SAW - WHET OWL, BOHEMIAN WAXWING, HARRIS’ SPARROW, GREATER SAGE GROUSE,
SNOWY OWL, LAPLAND LONGSPUR, LONG-EARED OWL and NORTHERN PYGMY OWL.



Saturday, Valentine’s Day, we headed to the Okanogan Highlands with our
eager birders. A quick restroom break at the Highland Sno-Park produced a
quick view of four GRAY JAY and an AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER for some
that flew in from the hill south. Unfortunately the woodpecker was shy and
did not return as we heard a very vocal PILEATED WOODPECKER in the area.

The Highland Meadows, Nealy Road feeders, were very productive for upwards
of 100 GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH, which showed up around 8:45am. The home
owner reports that 100-200 finch show up most regularly between 7:30am and
8:30am. We observed mostly gray cheeked or Hepburn’s variety, two brown
cheeked or interior/Rocky Mountains type were seen and photographed.

Our first drive through Mary Ann Creek Rd was an unexpected surprise as we
were greeted by dozens of male RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD claiming marsh
territory with display and song. This is the first time I’ve seen this in
the last six years over the President’s Day weekend. The back half of our
caravan observed upwards of fifteen PINE GROSBEAK fly north over the road
near the west entrance of Poland China Rd. The birds perched up and
proceeded to forage from evergreens, aspen and shrubs putting on a great
show.

Working our way south through Fields Rd, Chesaw Rd, and north Havillah Rd,
we had very nice looks at ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, RED-TAILED HAWK, BALD EAGLE
and GOLDEN EAGLE. We arrived at Gary Eagle’s home on Hungry-Hollow Rd just
north of Grange Rd to check out his feeders around 11:00am. The Grange Rd
feeders are no longer active as the new residents do not feed the birds.
Consequently, I suspect, the Hungry-Hollow feeders at Gary’s home are not
as active. While we enjoyed watching MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, BLACK-CAPPED
CHICKADEE, DOWNY WOOD PECKER, and many AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES, Gary showed us
his classically characteristic forge. We were treated to a magical
unexpected surprise of four COMMON REDPOLL that flocked in with the
American Goldfinch. Gary reported seeing Great Gray Owl in the Aspen tree
stand adjacent to the intersection of Hungry-Hollow Rd and Grange Rd in
December.

Bolster Rd, Chesaw Rd east of Chesaw, Myers Creek Rd, Bartoff Rd and Nealy
Rd were quiet with a fly over of a dozen BOHEMIAN WAXWING and a single
NORTHERN SHRIKE.

A second run through Mary Anne Creek Rd, moving on to Molson, then cutting
back through Fletcher and Davies Rd were also quiet. However we had many
nice looks at NORTHERN HARRIER, and additional ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK and GOLDEN
EAGLE.

We finished up our day at the Sno-Park with a nice evening walk. We had
great looks at HAIRY WOODPECKER and heard GREAT HORNED OWL, but dipped on
Great Gray. On our way back along the Havillah-Tonasket Rd, we took time
to spot for GREAT HORNED OWL, and came across at least 5 owls hunting from
power poles. The back of the caravan was treated to a nice fly over of
SHORT-EARED OWL.



On day two, we headed to Scotch Creek Wildlife Area where Happy Hill Rd
intersects with Conconully Rd at sunrise. Unfortunately, there was no snow
on the hill sides and we missed seeing Sharp-tailed Grouse. Just west of
this area along Conconully Rd, Fanter had a terrific spot of GRAY PARTRIDGE
in an agriculture field just north of the road. We spoke to one of the
local home owners who reported that in November there were thirty “Huns,”
Gray Partridge, in the area and that only eight remained as they were
heavily predated by “Snow Hawks,” Rough-legged Hawk. The home owner had
not seen any Sharp-tailed Grouse. Once in Conconully, we had nice views of
ALL THREE NUTHATCH, CLARK’S NUTCRACKER, TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE and AMERICAN
DIPPER. We were not able to relocate the two adult and single immature
Northern Goshawk we observed on the scout trip two weeks previously, which
speaks to the erratic sighting of this species.

After Conconully we headed to Cameron Lake Road. At the open pine forest
turn out on the north side of the road, we had unexpected great looks of
four WESTERN BLUEBIRDS. At the sparrow thicket on the flats between the
pine forest and Timentwa Rd, where the road takes an S turn and rises up
the hill, many of our group had short looks at AMERICAN TREE SPARROW and
SONG SPARROW. BEWICK’S WREN, previously seen on scout trip and reported,
was heard. Taking a left turn and heading east on Timentwa Rd., Fanter and
I were surprised to see most of the snow had melted. Fortunately just east
of the cattle farm, we came across a very observable flock of one hundred
SNOW BUNTING, mixed in with a hundred HORNED LARK. Returning to Cameron
Lake Rd, we headed south and the road was very passable. Between Greenaway
Rd and Delfeld Rd, we drove along a lake just west of Alkali Lake, which
provided nice observation of REDHEAD, GADWALL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, AMERICAN
WIGEON, and NORTHERN SHOVELER.

Along our way where SR 97 intersects with SR 17, or the ‘truck scales,’
just north of Lake Pateros, we had very nice views of BOHEMIAN WAXWING
perched in Poplar’s adjacent to orchards and fly catching over the
orchards. As we made our way to Bridgeport State Park, we continued to
find many Bohemian Waxwings spread out along power lines and Poplar’s
sallying for insects. With some very good luck, and helpful insight from
Meredith Spencer and other local birders, we were able to spot a NORTHERN
SAW-WHET OWL, in a fir or spruce tree, roosting in the park. We did not
see this species on our scout trip or the year before, so we considered
ourselves fortunate. There were three or four good tree candidates in the
park with droppings and casts on the ground above a potential roost spots,
so there may be one or two owls choosing different roost spots daily.

We finished our day at Washburn Island, where hawk eyed Ken Lane and Fanter
Lane were able to relocate a code 5, HARRIS’ SPARROW, in the area of the
grain feeder immediately west of the causeway entrance onto the island.
Fanter discovered this bird two weeks prior, and I was impressed and
grateful for their efforts to relocate the bird among the hundreds of
immature and mature WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS. A lifer for many, and a thrill
to observe. Other passerines seen included NORTHERN FLICKER, SPOTTED
TOWHEE, DARK-EYED JUNCO, SONG SPARROW, WESTERN MEADOWLARK, HOUSE FINCH and
HOUSE SPARROW. Waterfowl seen included COMMON LOON, PIED-BILLED GREBE,
HORNED GREBE, AMERICAN COOT, GREATER SCAUP, COMMON GOLDENEYE, BUFFLEHEAD,
RUDDY DUCK, RING-NECKED DUCK, MALLARD, AMERICAN WIGEON, and NORTHERN
PINTAIL. GREAT HORNED OWL was heard.



On our final day, we decided to split up in the morning. Fanter and Ken
elected to take some birders to West Foster Creek Wildlife Area on
Bridgeport Hill Rd NE, to look for Sharp-tailed Grouse. Again, with the
lack of snow, we unfortunately did not find this species here on our scout
trip or trip day. I took the remainder of our group to Leahy Cut-off Rd on
a tip from Marcus Roening where we very fortunate to observe a single male
GREATER SAGE GROUSE, displaying on a Sagebrush covered hill just south and
east of the Lek area from two years ago. When we first arrived at 7:30am,
other birders who were already present reported seeing two birds, in the
light tan agricultural field south of the road. The early bird birders
elected to drive on farther west on the road as our group stayed to scan
the fields. One of the early bird birders stopped to scan the southwest
section of the field, two male grouse flushed from our viewpoint, two of us
followed the grouse as they flew east and dropped behind two sage covered
hills directly south. George Gerdts reports this is very early for the
grouse to display, and obviously great care should be taken to not disturb
the Lek (remain quiet, discrete, stay blinded or camouflaged as best as
possible). As we carefully scanned the area for 10 minutes we were
extremely lucky to spot a single male walk up onto a hill south
approximately ½ mile away and display for 5 minutes.

The abandoned farm thicket on Heritage Rd was quiet, although a more
patient birder not in our group picked up American Tree Sparrow after we
left. We scanned 15th Rd between F and K, north of SR 172, on the north
side of SR 172 just east of H Rd, we observed two GREAT HORNED OWL in a
large Box Elder tree.

On F Rd north of Lamoine and Sprauer Rd, between 11th and 12th Rd, we
relocated three of six SNOWY OWL, which we discovered on Friday on our way
over. This area still had large patches of snow, and we speculated whether
the remaining snow was the main attraction for the owls and the SNOW
BUNTING and HORNED LARK along the road. It was great to see additional
Snow Bunting, and we located two LAPLAND LONGSPUR among the Horned Lark.
We closely observed the Horned Lark to appreciate the white throated
lighter Eremophila alpestris articola, “Arctic” subspecies among the more
brightly colored yellow throated year round resident Eremophila alpestris
merrilli, “Dusky” subspecies. Many Dusky Horned Lark were vocalizing and
some were displaying.

Cautious careful inspection of the Lamoine windbreak revealed a single
LONG-EARED OWL. On another tip from Marcus Roening, a third pass through
Lamoine produce our only NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL for our trip as we had five on
our scout trip two weeks earlier in the highlands. Our final stop at the
farm and school house on I st south of US Rte 2, we had additional nice
looks of 11 GRAY PARTRIDGE.



Overall we had a wonderful winter trip with plenty of great sightings
despite the “Febuly” conditions and lack of snow. We observed 89 species
and missed out on Sharp-tailed Grouse, Great Gray Owl, Northern Goshawk and
Gyrfalcon. Fortunately we had magical moments with Gray-crowned
Rosy-Finch, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, Snow Bunting, Northern Saw-whet
Owl, Harris’ Sparrow, Greater Sage Grouse, and Snowy Owl. As is my
tradition, we delivered 40lbs of seed to Nealy Rd, Hungry-Hollow Rd, and
Silver St in Conconully west of Sit N Bull Café, feeders for our gratitude
of their efforts to feed the birds.



Until next time, good birding.



Shep

--
Shep Thorp
Browns Point
253-370-3742
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