[Tweeters] Okanogan Oddness?

Jon Houghton jon.houghton at hartcrowser.com
Thu Mar 2 21:06:45 PST 2017

Hi Tweets - Yesterday (Wednesday), Kathleen and I completed a nice and routine journey over Stevens Pass, to Leavenworth (couldn't find any birds at the Sleeping Lady), to Cashmere (nice looks and photos of the Lesser Goldfinch on Pioneer Avenue), over Badger Mt. (Western Meadowlarks and a Golden Eagle, but nothing else special), and across the windy Waterville Plateau, where snow was drifting into the roads despite the warm (mid 30s temps). We stopped in Withrow and quickly found a small group of Gray Partridge in a vacant lot, next to an abandoned trailer (white with green band around the top) at the north end of Douglas Street. Other birds on the plateau included Red-tailed Hawk, Common Raven and lots of Horned Larks - alas, could find no buntings or longspurs among them. Around Mansfield, we looked hard for a Snowy Owl along E, G, or H Roads north east of town but succeeded in finding only a lot more HOLA, and one Peregrine Falcon juvenile that we failed in our attempts to make into a Gyr. Continuing north on H, we ended up winding down to the main road (SR 17) and headed toward Bridgeport. We went up Bridgeport Hill Road past the usual Foster Creek Sharp-tailed Grouse places but didn't find much. Back down Bridgeport Hill to 17, we went on the Washburn Island road for quick success at finding our first of the year Redheads and several other of the expected waterfowl. Then, on to an evening in Omak.

Today, we headed for the Okanogan Highlands and were at first, just a little curious that we reached the Havillah SnoPark without finding any raptors (save a couple of Redtails and Bald Eagles overseeing calving season at the feedlots down the hill). We spent a full hour in the morning and again in the afternoon walking the road in the area where the Great Gray Owl was seen two weeks ago. We also skied for an hour from the parking area - all in great bird habitat. The only birds seen were 5 Mountain Chickadees that responded to my first (of several) entreaties for a Pygmy Owl to show. The rest of the day was a bit like that. We drove Havillah Rd. to Nealy Rd. and on to roads around Chesaw. The only birds seen were Common Ravens, and a flock of Gray Partridge as we approached the Nealy Rd. feeders. The multitude of Am. Goldfinches at the feeders were the ONLY FINCHES seen all day!! Also, no sparrows, juncos, woodpeckers (not even a flicker) or, most remarkably, no Rough-legged Hawks! This is crazy! And the first time we've ever done this route in the winter without Rough-legs. Consolation prize for the day was a pair of Ruffed Grouse I picked out of the brush along Chesaw Road as it descends toward town, and a covey (?) of Wild Turkeys on Swanson Mill Rd. So, I regret to report a continuation of a trend several of us witnessed in December and into this year. There are seem to be no (non-gold) finches up there!! Not even siskins, as far as I could tell. Let's hope there's a late spring resurgence! Will try for one more chicken (Sharp-tailed) at Scotch Creek tomorrow and will also test the roads on the Timentwa Plateau. Stay tuned and Happy Birding! - Jon Houghton, Edmonds

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