trip east March 16 & 17
hunn at u.washington.edu
Sun Mar 17 17:42:21 PST 2002
George Gerdts and I did a loop east of the mountains yesterday and today,
got blizzarded fiercely in northern Douglas and Grant counties this morning.
The last gasp of winter, we hope.
First, we found a striking immature KRIDER'S RED-TAILED HAWK about 1/2 mile
south of I-90 on Thorp Rd., south from the Thorp exit (# 101). It had a
white head (with light flecking on the forecrown, blackish barring on the
crown and a brown nape splotched white. White beneath but for a light
partial belly band. The tail was pale rufous finely & evenly barred brown,
but whitish toward the base, rather long relative to the folded primary,
extending ca. 1 inch beyond. Extensive white on the scapulars (or maybe they
were greater coverts?), a tertial (I think it was) was broadly barred
whitish and brown, the pale bars broader. Bill blackish, cere whitish, iris
white or very pale yellowish-white. Underwing mostly white. We at first
passed it off as an adult male Rough-leg but thought again about it, turned
around, and relocated it, as the tail was essentially that of a very pale
immature red-tail. It called once like a Red-tailed. Legs feathered down to
ca. an inch or so above the toes.
Next we enjoyed the COMMON GRACKLE, on Postma Road a few hundred yards down
from Birchfield, foraging on the ground with the usual suspects. This was
George's 400th Washington Bird, and since he hails from Rhode Island he was
slightly disgusted to have to drive so far to see a Common Grackle on such
an occasion, but on close inspection it is a stunning bird, the metallic
colors of the head and breast shifting from deep violet to teal with the
light, contrasting with the metallic bronze back and purplish wings. A
lovely pest, indeed.
Next we oogled the ROSS'S GOOSE from up on the road above the Para Ponds at
Othello and numbers of both swans there also. A MERLIN on a fence post by
the road was dining on House Sparrow. Way to go, Merlin. Then spotted 56
SANDHILL CRANES drifting over toward Crab Creek.
We stayed in Electric City to get an early start for the Sage Grouse lek
near Leahy Junction, but woke up to a blizzard, wading through deep drifts
in white out conditions to find no grouse (which we probably couldn't have
seen anyway in the teeth of the gale). Cruising back through drifting snow
across the Waterville Plateau we checked a thousand or so Horned Larks and
found just one SNOW BUNTING but at least a dozen LAPLAND LONGSPURS, many
males in alternate plumage.
A detour east to Wilson Creek for FERRUGINOUS HAWK (one seen very well
perched on a phone pole) and TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS, but also SAY'S PHOEBES
and ROCK WRENS.
At Dry Falls Overlook and later at and near Vantage we identified five
Lomatiums (a plant: Apiaceae: L. canbyi, L. farinosum var. hambleniae, L.
gormanii, L. piperi, L. macrocarpum), sage-brush buttercups, Draba verna,
and a single yellow-bell, indicative that spring is really just two days
off, despite the blizzard. Three SAGE SPARROWS were at the usual spot at the
Colockum WRA turnoff west of Vantage, but silent.
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