[Tweeters] Okanogan/Douglas Co notes

Wayne Weber contopus at telus.net
Mon Jan 27 09:15:48 PST 2020

Stefan and Tweeters,

Your message about winter birding in Okanogan County seemed very
pessimistic- unnecessarily so in my opinion. I do quite a bit of winter
birding in Okanogan County and in adjacent areas of Canada (and have just
returned from a visit to the Okanagan Valley of BC).

The main reason that birding seemed poor this year is because this is not a
"winter finch" year. Almost all species of finches (House Finches excluded!)
are erratic and very variable in occurrence in the winter. This year, almost
none of these finches- which includes Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Red
Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills, and redpolls- are present in any
numbers. Some winters, all of these species are common, which gives one a
false impression of what is "normal" in the area.

Gray-crowned Rosy Finches deserve special mention. There is certainly no
"calamity". I have always thought it surprising that they show up almost
every winter at the Nealy Road feeders. This is far from any mountains where
the species might breed. When Rosy Finches show up in the lowlands, it is
usually close to mountains in which they breed. What is unusual, in my
opinion, is that they were seen so many winters in a place like Nealy Road,
not that they are absent now.

Bohemian Waxwings are scarce in much of the area right now, although this
species is far more abundant than any of the winter finches. However, this
species is a well-named wanderer, and can be abundant or absent at any given
locality at different times in the same winter.

You cite several examples yourself of species which are in good numbers this
year or have even increased.

In summary, I feel that your comment that "birds have declined pretty
dramatically" is false, misleading and alarmist. It may well be that next
winter, or the following winter, will be one of the best in history in terms
of numbers and variety of winter birds. Don't be so pessimistic!

Wayne C. Weber

Delta, BC

contopus at telus.net

From: Tweeters [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman11.u.washington.edu] On
Behalf Of Stefan Schlick
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2020 10:47 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] Okanogan/Douglas Co notes

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

- 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,

- 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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