[Tweeters] An interesting evening at Steigerwald NWR (Clark Co.)

Rich ryoung2107 at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 1 17:33:10 PDT 2016

Had an interesting evening at Steigerwald yesterday (5/31). Several firsts for my wife and I. We arrived about 5:45 and had one specific species we were targeting--LAZULI BUNTING. We listened to the song on my iPhone prior to exiting the car so that we would know what to listen for. About 20 feet from the parking lot we heard a bird singing and both said "I wonder what that is?". We looked up and sitting at the top of a 15 foot conifer was a gorgeous male lazuli singing his heart out (so much for us committing the song to memory....) He posed for several pictures in the evening light, then flew off toward the marsh. Score! Before leaving the parking lot, we read the board at the lavatories and noted that someone earlier in the day had written "Weasel (so cute!)". We talked about how cool it would be to see a weasel since we had never seen one there before. Well, we didn't see "a" weasel--we saw eight! They kept running back-and-forth across the path about 10-15 feet in front of us. They didn't seem all that concerned about us and a couple even posed for some great photos (have to admit--they are pretty cute). I have no idea what was going on, but they were everywhere! Another first for us was not one, but two western painted turtles who were excavating (assumed) nests in the dirt just off the path--one on either side of the bridge over Gibbons Creek. There was a very cooperative AMERICAN BITTERN next to the bridge at the west end of Redtail Lake--one of six bitterns we encountered for the evening. Not much in the way of waterfowl at any of the waterbodies--mainly MALLARD, one with six ducklings. At the east gate along the berm, as we were watching the PURPLE MARTINS, TREE SWALLOWS and NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS, we heard a familiar call--at least to me, having grown up in Minnesota. It was a lone COMMON LOON in the middle of the Columbia River channel (another first for the refuge for us). Along the Gibbons Creek trail, a man-made bird house was obviously filled with hungry and impatient young. A female HOUSE WREN with a mouth full of food stopped to scold us, then proceeded to serve dinner. Lots of SWAINSON'S THRUSHES along the Gibbons, but they didn't begin to sing until about 7:15. A PILEATED WOODPECKER flew about 10 feet above our heads and landed in a tree next to us, calling loudly. There were lots of other "usual" species as well--all in all a glorious evening to be on the refuge.
And one more first--perhaps the most perplexing. We were the ONLY ones there. From 5:45 to 8:30 the only other people we saw were a couple of bikers on the berm. Very interesting seeing as it was such a gorgeous evening.......
Rich Young

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