[Tweeters] E. Wash. Pilgrimages

hrudkaj mary hrudkajm at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 5 15:40:45 PDT 2006

Looks like I'm not the only one taking an early season pilgrimage to eastern 
WA via Cle Elum, Old Vantage Hwy, Birder's Corners, Othello and Lower Crab 
Creek Rd.  I left before sunrise Tuesday and began counting species as soon 
as it was light enough to make an ID.  Sure is a challenge to be going over 
Snoqualmie pass alone, trying to ID birds, drive and make notes at 65mph.  
Years of practice helps.  My total for 12 hours of birding Tuesday and 3 
hours today was 80 birds.

I found one tri-colored bird at the grain silo on the north end of Othello 
just past the smelly potato processing plants.  Not having seen one before 
it was a joy, such richness in its black.  Great egrets were present at Para 
Ponds just north of Othello along with a smattering of ducks and lots of 
coots.  A killdeer was observed in a beak to beak with a yellow-headed 
blackbird that came too close, the killdeer won.

The county line ponds west of Othello were packed with Canada geese and 
sandhill cranes last evening.  This morning at 6:20am a lot of the Canada 
geese were gone but present were at least 15 greater white-fronted geese.  
The single avocet had become three by this morning, joining a black-necked 
stilt.  Other than what may have been western sandpipers only a greater 
yellow-legs filled out the shorebird roster.

Tuesday, late afternoon, Birder's Corner on Dodson Rd. was an amazing place 
to be.  Redheads and canvasback ducks were within amazingly close viewing 
distance.  Being right next to one another it was a good visual to see their 
distinctive but similar markings.  Northern rough-wing swallows darted about 
while six tundra swans either slept or preened.  Several black-necked stilts 
delicately waded about.

One of the main reasons I go to Othello this time of year, besides the 
sandhill cranes, is to see the burrowing owls.  Their burrows are marked on 
my DeLorme's map, for all time.  Their feisty postures are intimidating, to 
a grasshopper perhaps.  It's always good to find them back in the same place 
every year.

The Cle Elum area was rich in western bluebirds, nuthatches (all three 
species - pygmy a lifer for me), hawks and kestrals, and ravens big enough 
to make small children shivver.  I've never seen so many ravens as I saw 
this past two days.  Is it me or do the ravens east of the Cascades seem 
bigger than the ones we have over here? I dipped on the white-headed 
woodpeckers and WIlliamson sapsuckers, oh well...

Mountain bluebirds have taken up residence in the boxes along Old Vantage 
Hwy.  Three pairs were quite vocal both Tuesday and early today.  Near their 
boxes the spring wildflowers are just coming into bloom and are beautiful.  
I saw the tail end of a sage thrasher not too far from the bluebirds.  Sage 
sparrows were not seen but heard, like good little children.

I don't imagine I'm the only one that went east for birds and sunshine.  But 
I see it's sunnier here than it is east of the mountains.  Oh well, at least 
the birds were plentiful and the flowers beautiful.

Mary Hrudkaj
hrudkajm at hotmail.com

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