[Tweeters] WOS Winter Trip to Okanogan Highlands and Waterville Plateau Friday 2/18-Monday 2/21

Shep Thorp shepthorp at gmail.com
Tue Feb 22 22:23:42 PST 2022

Hi Tweets,

another memorable winter trip to beautiful north central Washington.
high counts of WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS and SAYS PHOEBE. We had cold to
moderate temperatures in the 20's to 40's degrees Fahrenheit with a mix of
snow, rain, wind and sun. Overall conditions were good for winter birding,
with frozen roads and good visibility. We only got stuck in the mud once.
As per the usual we put time and work into our sightings with misses and
unexpected surprises. We had a group of 10 wonderful birders, and Scott
Ramos and myself enjoyed the collaboration as we observed 96 species.

A majority of us met in North Bend Friday morning 2/18. Our first stop was
Debbie Sutherland's home in Cashmere where we had numerous LESSER GOLDFINCH
at the feeders. We stopped by the Confluence Park in Wenatchee which was
quiet, most of the snow from January had melted. Calliope Crossing on
Badger Mountain was very quiet in comparison to January, a few PINE SISKIN
mixed in with Dark-eyed Junco and Spotted Towhee. Once on the plateau we
worked on getting our target bird, Snowy Owl. Overall, we probably put 9
hours into trying to locate this species. 4 hours on Friday and 5 hours on
Monday. On the scout trip, we observed three SNOW around Atkins Lake and a
fourth on G Road NE of Mansfield. We could not relocate a single bird in
the Atkins Lake area or NE of Mansfield. Interestingly, a group of other
birders did find SNOW on the plateau on I Road south of 172, so I'll
remember to check this road as well in the future. We had good looks of
group found a perched PRAIRIE FALCON on Heritage Road south of 172 that
provided great looks and observation of flying low while hunting for HOLA.

On Saturday we decided to bird Conconully. We stopped by the Scotch Creek
Wildlife area twice, but were not able to locate any Sharp-tailed Grouse.
We did see our first of many WESTERN BLUEBIRD and two GREAT HORNED OWL. We
made a loop of Happy Hill Road and Salmon Creek Road, the habitat is
fabulous through this area, and we had upclose looks of MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE,
a small flock of AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL in Salmon Creek and we flushed
a RUFFED GROUSE for quick flight views half-way between Happy Hill Road and
Conconully Road. In town we relocated a BLUEJAY, previously reported by
other birders, feeding with STELLER JAYS at a feeder on the east side of
Main Street just north of the bridge over North Fork Salmon Creek. What an
unexpected surprise. We also had nice views of SAYS PHOEBE. We stopped by
the butte along the Riverside cut-off between Conconully Road and highway
97, and got to enjoy an eagle show. We watched two GOLDEN EAGLES, an adult
and an immature bird, soaring over the butte closely as they hunted
Chukar. Further along the butte, there were six BALD EAGLE, both adult and
immature sitting on the rocks. We searched for carrion and could not find
what the BAEG were eating, perhaps there was a deceased Deer nearby. We
moved on to Cameron Lake Road, where we had great views of HORNED LARK,
300+, and SNOW BUNTING, 60+. Between Cameron Lake Loop Road and Timentwa
Road, there is a creek that runs under the road with a cat tail marsh on
the east and small riparian area on the west, this was good for finally
locating an AMERICAN TREE SPARROW. We ended our day in Bridgeport State
Park. While driving on the entrance road, Half Sun Way, we observed
approximately 100 BOHEMIAN WAXWING, flying over the orchard between us and
the road north, Jack Wells Road. We had additional looks at Says Phoebe.
Fortunately with the help of others, we were able to relocate a single
NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, in a conifer in the park. We had seen three owls on
our scout, so to find only one on the trip was unexpected.

On Sunday, we headed to the highlands with our first stop at the butte on
Fancher Road. We were greeted with great looks of additional GOLDEN EAGLE,
and it took us a while to find several CHUKAR. Additional Says Phoebe were
observed. One of our falcon eyed birders spotted a beautiful CANYON WREN
along the rim rock. Driving up the lower or south side of Siwash Creek, we
located one dozen SHARP-TAILED GROUSE well above Rehmke Road. The birds
were feeding on Water Birch catkins on the right hand side of the road and
we got to observe the birds fly overhead downslope. The entirety of Siwash
Creek is excellent habitat and we had great views of RED CROSSBILLS,
CASSIN'S FINCH and CLARK'S NUTCRACKER. My overall impression is that we
had high counts of Crossbills and Finch. Along with that impression, north
of Oberg Road we found a previously reported large flock of 20-30
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS. We enjoyed the WWCR foraging in Engelmann Spruce
and observed some stunningly beautiful red males with crisp plumage. We
had really nice long looks of GRAY PARTRIDGE along Hungry Hollow Road. 60+
additional WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL were seen in Engelmann Spruce on Chesaw
Road between Hungry-Hollow and Mary Ann Creek Road. Unfortunately, we were
not able to relocate Northern Pygmy Owl on Mary Ann Creek Road. We did
find a roosting RUFFED GROUSE on Havillah Road just south of Chesaw Road in
riparian habitat. A big thank you to Meredith Spencer for her notification
of the horrible news about the double homicide at a home on Nealy Road. We
did leave seed at Highland Meadows, but did not have any notable sightings
on our way. We bumped into a local resident who cautioned us about the
tense environment and anxiety and fear of folks who live in the area. My
well wishes to the community for a quick resolution to this terrible
situation. We ended our day at 7pm in the Highland Sno-Park, where we
heard hooting owls. I'm convinced I heard several hoots and an irritation
call of GREAT GRAY OWL south of the upper meadow, a few in our group
agreed, but Scott was not convinced. A GREAT HORNED OWL was also calling.

On our going home day, Monday, we birded Washburn Island. We had great
looks of waterfowl including COMMON LOON, HORNED GREBE, PIED-BILLED GREBE,
PINTAIL, AMERICAN WIGEON, and AMERICAN COOT. The feeders were empty, and
sparrows were hard to find, so we did not relocate the Harris Sparrow seen
on the scout. He did have nice looks at a Harlan's variety of RED-TAILED
HAWK. We spent the remainder of the morning hunting for Snowy Owl, without
success, on the Waterville Plateau. There was wind and snow, so the
surroundings were perfect for a sighting that we dipped on. We did see
several more ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK and found a LONG-EARED OWL in a thicket of
Willow Trees. Normally we might see 30+ RLHA, I think we observed
approximately 10 birds for this trip.

Overall we had a great trip. While on the plateau one of our cars got
stuck in the mud, but was easily pulled out with a tow rope and traction
matts for the tires. We had numerous sightings that were really special,
simply for the view and behavior observed. A special thank you to all our
birders on the trip. They did a great job spotting birds from the caravan
of carpools, and we really enjoyed the collaboration. Additional thanks to
local birders enhancing the trip by allowing us to stop by their homes to
check their feeders, and the important tips on where some species might be
found. Thank you! We delivered 160lbs of black oil sunflower seed to
various birder friendly homes.

Be well, be safe during winter travel, and happy birding!

Shep Thorp
(and Scott Ramos)

Shep Thorp
Browns Point
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