[Tweeters] Okanogan Day 3

Houghton, Jon Jon.Houghton at hartcrowser.com
Fri Jan 22 20:27:05 PST 2021

Hi Tweets- Day 3 of our first EWash adventure of the new year was clear and cool all day. In the mid to low teens at the Foster Creek overlook on Conconully Rd. We've had great luck finding 'budding' Sharp-tailed Grouse in the water birch and cottonwoods along the creek west of Happy Hill Rd. but not this year. No snow on the ground, means no grouse to be seen. Actually, no raptors either, between Omak and Conconully! - A winter first, but they were out when we headed back to Omak at 1030. We drove up Happy Hill and took each of the two deadend roads off Happy Hill and found but one RL Hawk and a couple of Ravens and Magpies. In Conconully, temps were in single digits but there were a few birds around downtown: 'Wild' Turkeys, Flickers, a Townsend's Solitaire, and Mt Chickadees. West on Broadway along the reservoir shore, the feeders at No. 71 were excellent and attracted the vast majority of the species and numbers seen all morning: Am Goldfinch, 3 spp of nuthatch, Pileated and Hairy Woodpecker, Flicker and 2 spp of Chickadee. Nice change from miles and miles of bird free woods! (Which we encountered again driving south on Broadway to the Sno-Park and north along the lake shore. By noon, we were well up Cameron Lake Rd where we sadly confirmed Blair's report that the vast majority of the pine woods around the lakes had burned with only a few scattered pines that may survive. I expect that some of the aspen groves, while badly burned, will regenerate more quickly from their root network. The only birds we saw along the road south to well past Greenaway Rd we're a couple of Ravens - not even a single Horned Lark or Gray Partridge! My favourite habitat on the Plateau, a mini ecosystem of trees and shrubs developed around a perennial spring and small stream about 0.5 miles north of Timentwa Rd. was badly burned. This was usually a sure place to find Am. Tree Sparrows in the winter. On Timentwa Rd itself, the first farm was essentially eliminated, with the house and all outbuildings gone. A couple of horses remained with some hay bales but no cattle and none of the great numbers of Larks and Snow Buntings that had wintered here. A couple of houses farther out Timentwa were gone but some had survived. Farther along Cameron Lk Rd, at the abandoned farm by the 'Butt Hut' (a low roof spring house?) the house remained but the hut, barn, and corrals were gone. The nice patch of owl friendly woods behind the former Butt Hut has been severely thinned, but the next similar copse, a little farther along, appeared to have been missed. The only actual working farm on the main road was missed by the fire, and the wetlands west of the house were intact. With temps in the teens, a brisk breeze, and all the open water frozen, I couldn't find any of the Tree Sparrows that are also pretty reliable here. After the couple of 90 degree turns, and where the road begins to descend, the fire effects are a little more patchy and we finally saw a small covey of Gray Partridge and farther along, a small flock of Horned Larks (foraging in an area of scrub that had burned!?). Off the Plateau, finding no waxwings in the orchards at the junction of Rts 17 and 97, we made a quick stop at Washburn Is. Duck numbers were surprisingly low and sadly lacked my hoped-for Redheads. Walking across the causeway to the island, I found the hoped-for Zono flock, but couldn't pick out anything beyond many WC and GC sparrows. Then, wrapped it up and headed home. In sum - great weather and scenery, seemingly Covid-safe living and dining, many great birds...but...few of the hoped for Okanogan winter specialties - we'll just have to do it again in a few weeks!! - Happy Birding - Jon Houghton, Edmonds

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