[Tweeters] Trip Report for WOS Okanogan/Waterville Plateau 1/17-1/19

Stefan Schlick greenfant at hotmail.com
Tue Jan 20 10:14:29 PST 2015

Our first day, Saturday 1/20, took us to the Okanogan Highlands. We found a Northern Pygmy Owl, a flock of maybe 60 Snow Buntings and got fabulous looks at a large covey of about 15 Gray Partridge all along Nealey Rd en route to the feeder. We got to the Nealey Rd feeder at around 9:50am (which is late) and were pleased to find about 40 Gray-crowned Rosy-finches still hanging around. A Ruffed Grouse flushed out of the shrubs near the road as we were admiring the rosy-finches. Further east along Nealey were several Bald and one immature Golden Eagle. Bolster Rd was somewhat quiet, but we did find the notorious Chesaw Kingfisher and ran into a large flock of 100 Common Redpolls at the very end of the road were it turns uphill to the right. The area around the Chesaw cemetery yielded 3 Bohemian Waxwings and Townsend's Solitaire tightly sticking to the only tree with any fruit. Heading back out along Mary Ann Ck Rd we found 3 perched up Ruffed Grouse, but not much else. A second Northern Pygmy Owl was at the "turkey" farm along Havillah Rd. The traditional attempt to find a Great Gray Owl near the Snopark concluded with the similarly traditional dip.
We were slated to do the Waterville Plateau on Sunday, but could not pass up the opportunity to try for Sharp-tailed Grouse at Scotch Creek WA along Conconully Rd early in the morning as there were several inches of fresh snow on the ground. We found 7 birds, 1 relatively close, 6 perched up high further out, all from the main road between the pullout and Happy Hill Rd. At least 3 Golden Eagles and another flock of about 10 Gray Partridge were seen from along 200yds up Happy Hill Rd. With some delay we headed up the Waterville Plateau. We found a large flock of maybe 20 American Tree Sparrow along Division & 23 Rd NW, but failed to get to the spot where the Snowy Owls had been seen. The whole group was treated to a close-up look at a perched Long-eared Owl in the traditional spot along Heritage Ln east of Mansfield. [If you go, PLEASE try not to flush this/these birds] 4 American Tree Sparrows were also in the area. We found several decent flocks of Horned Larks, but no Snow Buntings. A likely Lapland Longspur was just north of Division & 172 (I also had a Lapland Longspur there during my scouting trip), but at that time the wind was blowing at 40mph sustained and nobody really wanted to get out of the car any more. We could not refind the candidate. A Golden Eagle was seen somewhere up there as well , but I can't remember the details right now.
On the final day, we headed up Cameron Lake Rd. We had a heck of a time to find small birds, mostly because we were a little early and there were Northern Pygmy Owls everywhere we stopped. We succeeded with seeing Pygmy Nuthatch, but we only heard one Red Crossbill fly over and White-breasted Nuthatch was also heard only. At least one Clark's Nutcracker was also in the wooded section. The unmaintained part of the road was ok to pass with a high clearance/AWD/4WD vehicle, but I wouldn't recommend it for a regular sedan. While it was a gorgeous morning, we didn't see all that much. A flock of maybe 60 Snow Bunting in the distance east of the Abel Ranch gate, 2 Western Meadowlarks and a nice Prairie Falcon on the row of poles right before you drop down towards the Columbia River were the highlights. We briefly scoped the waterfowl in Brewster, but the real target were the Pine Grosbeaks in Leavenworth. A quick stop in Cashmere yielded the continuing Acorn Woodpecker and in Leavenworth we found 40 some Pine Grosbeaks at Mine & Whitman feeding in mountain ash. It was a nice way to end that way. Varied Thrush, Townsend's Solitaire and Chestnut-backed Chickadee were found during our about 35 min search for the grosbeaks. To top it off, Randy spotted a White-headed Woodpecker at the parking lot of the Sleeping Lady Resort.
What was memorable about this trip was the looks that we got. The Gray Partridge and Long-eared Owl looks were essentially once-a-lifetime experiences. Seeing a flock of 40+ Pine Grosbeak is amazing to start with, but getting close looks at eye level of the birds feeding in the mountain ash was a real treat. After getting Sharp-tailed Grouse for several years in a row, but dipping the last 2 years, we were elated to get them this year and the looks were excellent also.
Thanks for the great spotting during the trip, especially Randy Hill! Also thanks to Ken Brown for his suggestions and tips, and Ken Hemberry for sharing his notes on Leavenworth.
Stefan SchlickHillsboro, OR

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