[Tweeters] July 12 on SR 410

Paul Webster paul.webster at comcast.net
Wed Jul 13 11:48:42 PDT 2005

Hi Tweets,

Barbara and I set out early yesterday morning from Seattle, naively intending to bird Bethel Ridge (Opperman: 328-9; DeLorme: 50) located roughly at the junction of US 12 and SR 410, but several factors changed our plans: the sheer distance from Seattle proved too much for a single day, construction on SR 123 promised 20 minute delays, and the birding along SR 410 turned out too good to ignore. We had fog and drizzle early on the west side of the Cascade Crest, turning to broken clouds and temps in the mid- to upper 70s.

We stopped briefly at Federation Forest SP, looked and listened a few minutes, saw and heard some of the usual suspects and had the first of several frustrating encounters for the day with empidonax flycatchers -- brief views and no songs. We also found two Brown Creepers, one adult and a tardy juvenile that gathered surprisingly big calls from its small parent to keep close.

At Tipsoo Lake it was 45 degrees and a bit foggy, a mysterious setting for the otherworldly calls of three Hermit Thrushes, two Varied Thrushes, and a ventriloquial Blue Grouse we tried to find, but couldn't track down. Additionally, we saw about eight Dark-eyed Juncos -- adults with young tagging along, a Lincoln's Sparrow, several Mountain Chickadees, and a busy Spotted Sandpiper on the lakeshore.

Just over Chinook Pass the sun peeked in as three Rufous Hummingbirds snuffled scarlet-colored penstemon on the sheer rocks, Pine Siskins skipped about on the rock wall, and Steller's Jays squawked at each other nearby. About three miles further down SR 410 we stopped to check out two Clark's Nutcrackers in a snag, and spotted the first of an amazing day-full of Williamson's Sapsuckers, a young male whose throat was still white. At Morse Creek we stopped for two Evening Grosbeaks, another species we saw repeatedly at different sites. There were more at the Fife Peaks viewpoint, and a Townsend's Warbler, along with the first of our Western Tanagers.

We stayed an hour at Hell's Crossing of the American River, and ate our picnic lunches as we watched a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers across the river, a Western Wood Pewee on her nest, plus Warbling Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song and Chipping Sparrows, more tanagers and Evening Grosbeaks, and a brief appearance by a low-foraging empid -- probably Hammond's, we thought. Overhead were a Turkey Vulture, a Red-tailed Hawk, and two Vaux's Swifts. A brief stop at the Boulder Cave area netted Cedar Waxwing and Yellow Warbler, Violet-green Swallows and another Vaux's Swift over the Naches River.

We still might have dashed to Bethel Ridge, but it was after 1 p.m. and we were seduced by the description of the habitats on Bald Mountain in the Birder's Guide to Washington, so we turned left up Forest Service Road 1701. This is a good birding area, and the roads are in good condition. There were lots of birds from the start -- an adult Western Kingbird with three juveniles, a Black-headed Grosbeak flew past in front of the car, a large female Cooper's hawk drifted over the mixed forest along the creek, there were Cassin's Finches, another male Williamson's Sapsucker, another brief view of an empid, a loud Nashville Warbler we tried in vain to locate in an alder and elderberry patch, Warbling Vireo, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, flickers, a brief glimpse of a probable Hairy Woodpecker, and as we started back down the road another young male Williamson's Sapsucker, whose parents arrived to forage with him, and a Say's Phoebe.

We calculated the 30 mile run into Yakima for a return via I-82 and I-90 against some 100 miles of two-lane highway on SR 410. It was easy to choose the first option. We arrived home around 9 p.m. Next time we're going to take a couple of days for a trip to this great birding area. Total species seen: 53; total Williamson's Sapsuckers seen: 7.

Good birding!

Paul Webster

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