[Tweeters] Okanogan/Douglas County Birding (Glaucous Gull, Bohemian Waxwings and more)

Eric Heisey magicman32 at rocketmail.com
Mon Jan 11 07:05:16 PST 2021

Hey all,

Yesterday I embarked on a day trip from Winthrop down to the Columbia River around Pateros, Brewster and Bridgeport. It was gray and rather dismal all day, with light precipitation scattered throughout. Despite this, it still turned out to be a great day, as it seems mild temperatures in the lowlands have allowed many species that would often be absent in January to stick around.

I started in Winthrop, where I birded around the main part of town. The highlight was a couple continuing flocks of Bohemian Waxwings, one flock of 61 at Lost River Winery/Methow Ciderworks, and a larger flock of 187 frequenting some loaded Mountain Ashes off of Kineson Ave. The Mountain Ash crop is exceptional in town this winter, so keep an eye out for the waxwings, and possibly Pine Grosbeaks as winter presses on. Also of note around town were 7 Western Bluebirds and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, both normally absent in January.

I headed to the Columbia from here, with a stop in Pateros yielding the expected assortment of 13 waterfowl species and a Rock Wren, calling from the rocky slopes south from state route 153. From here, I decided to cross the Columbia in Brewster and bird its south shore, something I haven’t really done before, as I usually opt to stay with Okanogan County lines. I’m glad I did! At my first stop east of the bridge I spotted a 1CY Glaucous Gull loafing around with a flock of Horned Grebes and Scaup. I relocated further east and managed better views at the hulking white gull, though try as I might, I could not will it to fly across the river. I was also pleased to hear Pygmy Nuthatches calling from the Ponderosa Pines at this stop; certainly the only time I’ve ever simultaneously observed them with a Glaucous Gull in Washington. I stopped at a couple other riverside pullouts along hwy 173, adding Cackling Goose, Tundra Swan, Eared Grebe, many Common Loons, Mountain Chickadee, Bewick’s Wren and a calling Pacific Wren.

My next stop was Bridgeport Bar Wildlife Area, a place I hadn’t been before. It was awesome!!! The loaded Russian Olives at the west entrance were swarming with birds, including well over a hundred White-crowned Sparrows, Golden-crowned Sparrow (uncommon here), Hermit Thrush, Purple Finch, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglet, Spotted Towhee and Steller’s Jay. Really what impressed me was the sheer number of birds and the diversity, as I tallied 43 species in a brief visit. Certainly a place to explore further in the future, and somewhere I could easily see something like a Harris’s Sparrow showing up.

I loyally headed back to Okanogan County afterwards, stopping at Cassimer Bar for dusk. This is another under-birded wildlife area that often yields great numbers of waterfowl coupled with high diversity. The marshes here were unfrozen, and I encountered 3 Virginia Rails and a couple Marsh Wrens calling at dusk. At one point I stumbled upon a copse of trees that is obviously favored as a roosting place for Bald Eagles, as no fewer than 18 Eagles flushed from the tree, circling right above my head as the light faded. Amazing! Also of note here was an American White Pelican on the Columbia, several Great Horned Owls and 4 Yellow-rumped Warblers, somewhat rare this far north in winter. I tallied 40 species at this lovely spot in an even briefer visit.

It was a great day of birding, and I managed to record 78 species on the day, perhaps the highest total I’ve managed in January in this region. Best of all, I encountered virtually no people, always a highlight of Okanogan county winter birding.


Eric Heisey

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