[Tweeters] Okanagan/Waterville Plateau/Lower Crab Creek Trip report

J. Acker owler at sounddsl.com
Fri Apr 5 14:17:46 PDT 2019

Hey Tweeters,

Returned from three days and two nights at my favorite places this time of
year. Winter is in fast retreat, and Spring is rapidly advancing.

Some highlights:

Cameron Lake Road was exceptional. The road itself was in great condition
with few mud holes to dodge. While the large bodies of water still had some
ice, there was open water in the smaller lakes and ponds. The waterfowl
numbers and variety were astounding. Sandhill cranes, one of my favorite
sounds of spring, were back in good numbers. Vesper sparrows were also in.
The large flocks of horned larks have dispersed, and I saw no snow buntings
the entire trip.

Fancher Road, near the intersection of Siwash Creek Road and Havillah Road,
yielded numerous Chukar. The Golden Eagle nest on the cliffs is active, and
White-throated swifts were present. I spent the night at the Havillah
Sno-Ski park, and for the third time this year, was unable to detect a Great
Gray Owl. (I listen for them - I do not call for them. If they are around,
they would be vocal). Great Horned owls called off and on all night, and
the stars were magnificent. It took me some time staring at the night sky
to realize that the Big Dipper was directly overhead. There were that many
stars out. Havillah was loaded with Williamson's Sapsuckers, calling and
drumming. The only Yellow-headed Blackbird of the trip was at the pond at
Mary Ann Creek Road. Bluebirds, both species, were numerous along the roads
and at the boxes. Rough-legged Hawks were still around at the usual
locations on Havillah Road.

Conconully was a bust for me; Salmon Creek Road was closed for a prescribed
burn. Hess Lake Road was also somewhat desolate, possibly due to an
individual conducting target practice at the end.

Bridgeport Bar had a Savannah Sparrow, possibly the same one I kicked up two
weeks ago, but was otherwise lacking in the previously experienced number
and diversity of waterfowl. I spent the night at Bridgeport State Park
(opened for camping April 1), and had a pair of dueting Great Horned Owls
that kept me up most of the night. I did have a Barn Owl scream at me as I
packed up pre-dawn to make the trek to the Leahy Lek. The lek was desolate.
I don't know if I was too late in the season, or if the lek has been
abandoned, but it was a major disappointment to me not to hear the grouse at
dawn, another of my favorite sounds of spring.

I then headed to Heritage Road and went south, hoping for large lark flocks,
but found none. There was a "Road Closed " sign midway down, but an unmarked
detour to the east got me around the bad stretch. The highlight of the trip
though was finding (or relocating?) the Snowy Owl near Atkins Lake. A most
welcome surprise. A small detour on HWY 2 to look for
buntings/larks/larkspurs was unproductive, however at a gas stop in Hartline
at the intersection of Range Street (the road to Wilson Creek), I bought gas
from an unmanned Cenex station that asked for my PIN when I inserted my
card. Little did I know that a few hours later my card would be used to
make a $100.00 purchase at a gas station is San Antonio, Texas..

At Wilson Creek I did not find the Ferruginous Hawk that had been there some
years in the past, so I proceeded east on SR 28 to the nest in Lincoln
County. There was one bird seen active in the nest area, and I stayed less
than ten minutes to minimize my disturbance. It was good to see this nest
still in use. On the drive back to SR 17, at Brook Lake there were White
Pelicans, and what appeared to be a pelican nest with two large and white
young in it.

Birder's Corner was another disappointment, in that there were no teal or
stilts present, only a few Canvasback.

Lower Crab Creek Road had several Loggerhead Shrike that offered good views.

I had an interesting experience at Frenchman Coulee when I went to look for
Prairie Falcon. The former nesting site has been usurped by a pair of
Peregrines. As I was observing the peregrines, I noticed three rock
climbers a couple hundred yards up the Coulee. (Meanwhile, five emergency
vehicles went by with lights going. They could not find "Echo Basin" and
went by me three times). I called to the climbers to inform them of the
danger of climbing in the vicinity of nesting peregrines, but they called
back that it was OK, because the area wasn't closed to climbing until May
1... As my former Engineer boss used to say, "The ignorant shall be

At the Quilomene Wildlife Area I found Sagebrush Sparrow and Brewer's
Sparrow (but no Sage Thrasher). My last stop of the trip was at the
Teanaway River Bridge near dusk. Hordes of swallows past overhead in
clustered groups. Heard turkeys calling, but the last highlight of the trip
was a responsive Western Screech-owl.

J. Acker

<mailto:owler at sounddsl.com> owler at sounddsl.com

Bainbridge Island, WA

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