[Tweeters] Okanogan Highlands and Waterville Plateau Highlights

Scott Ramos lsr at ramoslink.info
Sun Feb 21 14:51:57 PST 2021

Shep Thorp and I led another field trip to the highlands and plateau over President’s Day weekend, though with participant numbers limited due to the coronavirus and not as conservation-minded as we would have liked (each to their own car). As Shep has mentioned in an earlier post, we found most of the target birds and were rewarded with great views of some. Here are some of the highlights.

On our way over, Shep and I stopped in what has become the go-to stop for Snowy Owl. While still being found in other locations on the plateau, the few square miles around Atkins Lake are now reliable. It had just started snowing at that end of the plateau when we arrived; nice setting for this owl.

Snowy Owl: https://youtu.be/5YEpznCWF5U

As is usually the case, a Townsend’s Solitaire (there may have been two) was easily found in Conconully. Mostly, this bird is seen at the top of one of the trees, but it once came down to feed on fruit, almost at eye level. While we watched we could hear a faint ‘whisper’ song. Although I was not able to capture that on the video, you can find a recording on the checklist (https://ebird.org/pnw/checklist/S81291902).

Townsend’s Solitaire: https://youtu.be/h2XH2A8-O1s

Mary Anne Creek Rd is another obligatory hotspot as it always has something of interest. This time, a small group of Pine Grosbeak were flushed from their feeding by our arrival and they were content to just loaf in the marsh while we watched for a spell. Love the colors on these birds.

Pine Grosbeak: https://youtu.be/gmkuRn9m8sE

One of the prime targets of this trip is the Sharp-tailed Grouse. There have been some fairly dependable locations but one of them, on Bridgeport Hill Rd, was decimated by last year’s fires. Scotch Creek, on the way to Conconully, turned up a total of 3 birds, and only scope views. But, we hit a jackpot on Siwash Creek Rd with two dozen birds that we might have missed had we not stopped to watch a large flock of Common Redpoll!

Sharp-tailed Grouse: https://youtu.be/80oUKLpnRJk

We stopped to check the feeders on Nealey Rd and soon after a Ruffed Grouse flushed from the road to begin feeding in the trees. Then another appeared, then a third! We rarely see more than one at a time. We were just about ready to leave when a large flock of Crossbill flew in to the nearby Douglas Firs. Most were Red Crossbills but there may have been some White-winged mixed in.

Ruffed Grouse: https://youtu.be/p0onynVhOSY

All of these iconic and charismatic birds are trip highlights, but my favorite view during these 4 days was this small ‘grove' of American Tree Sparrow. A tundra breeder, they are usually found in WA just in winter and mostly east of the Cascades. Their rusty colors make this a very attractive bird and a nice contrast to the monochrome snow.

American Tree Sparrow: https://youtu.be/YrsKx9lGzRQ

Enjoy our winter birding!
Scott Ramos

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