[Tweeters] Okanogan Spring - Day 3
jon.houghton at hartcrowser.com
Fri Feb 26 21:13:18 PST 2016
Hi Tweets - another crisp and mostly clear morning in Omak, followed by fabulous birding weather (not so much, the birds, though). We started along Scotch Cr. where the melting snow and warmer weather seems to be keeping the Sharptailed Grouse up high, or at least somewhere else. No repeat of their abundance in late Dec and early Jan. On the way into town, along Conconully Rd. we saw a FOY Western Bluebird near a nest box on a fence post.
In Conconully, not too much different from Wednesday's report. I did find a Townsend's Solitaire on a tree top near the post office, and saw a nice Golden Eagle juv. soaring high over town. The abundance of Clark's Nutcrackers all over the place in Nov. and Dec. seems to be over - they must have all headed for the hills.
About 11 am, we headed up Cameron Lake Rd. out of Okanogan. We stopped, looked and listened at a couple of nice vantage points in the pine woods on the way up but they were warm sunny, wind-less, and bird free. Beyond the pavement, the plateau was gorgeous with about half, to a foot of nice walkable snow cover, and no wind! We stopped at a couple of tree and shrub patches and found Song Sparrows singing, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, and Robins. Alas, no American Tree Sparrows at two places where they have been very reliable in colder weather. Along the road we saw an occasional Red-tailed Hawk, Western Meadowlark, and Northern Shrike, along with many Ravens and Horned Larks. Up Timentwa Rd., just past the first farm, we fully expected to find the flock of Snow Buntings that performed well on the WOS trip last week and that we've seen consistently in this location over the years. Nada. Well, not nada, but no SNBU. Lots of Larks, RW Blackbirds making a ruckus, Rock Pigeons, of course. Three or more Bald Eagles and a number of Ravens were having a good time just over the hill where we suspect one or more cows had just given birth. We waited there about an hour, eating lunch and enjoying the sun, but no SNBU showed. We drove on about a mile as the road became increasingly muddy (don't try Timentwa (road, or Plateau) without a high clearance 4wd!) but still no buntings. From there back to Route 97, the best we could find was a coyote, well out in a field but definitely aware of our presence - trotting away from his lookout perch on a rock pile as soon as we stopped.
Down on the valley floor, we couldn't resist returning to the scene of the crime on Cassimer Bar Rd. If you missed the saga: a local resident, perturbed at folks looking at and photographing a Northern Hawk Owl in a tree on his property, shot the owl - Thanks in part to an outcry from the birding community, he was fined $5K by the Colville Tribe (it was on tribal land). Perhaps in a fit of pique, he bulldozed the abandoned house on his property and cut down all the trees in which the owl had perched, burning the whole lot. Well, today, there was a backhoe there, loading the debris of the house and trees into a large dump truck. Nice to know we caused some change there in some way, I guess. Maybe he'll make it into a nice bird-friendly garden?? Happy birding! - Jon Houghton, Edmonds
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