[Tweeters] Okanogan/Douglas Co notes

Stefan Schlick greenfant at hotmail.com
Tue Jan 21 22:46:35 PST 2020


I lead a couple of trips to the Okanogan and Waterville Plateau recently, but I can't say we saw a whole lot. Having done trips twice a winter (or more) to the area for about 15 years, I have a reasonable amount of data available for the area. Birds have declined pretty dramatically over the stretch of these 15 years. A 5-day trip nowadays yields about half of a 3-day trip 10-15 years ago. Unfortunately, every year is a little worse than the year before and I find myself uttering apologies to trip participants every year. Here some notes, but also sightings (cryptic or not):

- Gray-crowned Rosy-finches have disappeared from the area after having been reliable in the Okanogan Highlands for many years. Either they are using a yet undiscovered area in the winter, or a calamity occurred and they are now gone.
- For the first time ever I found no Bohemian Waxwings this winter. It often was a little tricky, but more so for the lack of trying, and we often found birds on our way out of the area. One reason for their scarcity this year could be the warm winter and that the birds have simply not arrived yet. There is a lot of fruit available for them around Bridgeport/Brewster.
- Snowy owls have not been reported until now
- Winter finches like Red (we found a few, mostly birds in Ponderosa Pines, i.e. type 2) and White-winged Crossbill (no reports I'm aware of) have been very rare. There is no cone crop failure in the area as much as I can tell. Pine Grosbeaks have been seen (I had one single bird on one of my trips; another group was in Leavenworth), but are rare. Common Redpoll have not shown up, with the exception of a lone bird near Bridgeport.
- I'm not seeing a change for American Tree Sparrow. One will still be able to find the birds at the right locations.
- Sharp-tailed Grouse have shown well since the arrival of the snow. The solid numbers are likely due to the good work of WDWF and Michael Schroeder.
- Snow Buntings are now showing in good numbers on the Waterville Plateau, both mixed in and as pure flocks. A stationary flock on Teas Rd of about 600 birds has been in the area (Okanogan Highlands) for a week plus.
- Gray Partridges can be found with a little bit of work. We found a few in various spots.
- An irruption of Short-eared Owls was noted both in Okanogan and Douglas Co, but especially on the Waterville Plateau. My last trip yielded 15 Short-eareds total, several of which were along 17, 172 and Rd H. Northern Pygmy Owls seemed normal and Northern Sawwhet-Owls were readily findable at Bridgeport SP.
- When you see a checklist like this one (https://ebird.org/checklist/S63537052), what does it tell you? A bird was likely listed there, but you won't be able to see it. This should key you in as to what the species is. The bird was seen along Rd H, but also on 172 just east of the intersection with Rd H.
- My last trip found a Loggerhead Shrike en route at the Wanapum Boat Ramp on Huntzinger Rd, the Ferruginous Hawk at Dallesport found last winter and a Red-breasted Sapsucker at the entrance gate of Bridgeport SP (48.011108, -119.611694).
- Major roads on the Waterville Plateau (like 2 or 172) were not plowed last Saturday until early afternoon. Please be careful out there and don't take unnecessary risks where there is a snow storm!

Stefan Schlick
Hillsboro, OR
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