[Tweeters] Pend Oreille & Stevens County Birding

Gina Sheridan gsherida8502 at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 2 22:38:08 PDT 2006


On Saturday (9/30/06), Patricia Lott, Allen Lincoln,
and I birded Pend Oreille County. While the southern
reaches of the county did not offer up much that was
noteworthy, we did see plenty of Ring-necked
Pheasants, California Quail, Western & Mountain
Bluebirds, American Pipits, Townsend's Solitaire, RC &
GC Kinglets, and WC Sparrows. The Flying Goose Ranch
held SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS - 3, LINCOLN'S SPARROW - 1,
and a couple of lingering Osprey.

However, our best of the day was on the Harvey Creek
Grade en route to Bunchgrass Meadows. In the lower
reaches of  Harvey Creek, we saw half a dozen Varied
Thrushes and a couple of Ruffed Grouse. When we
stopped on the edge of the last open brushy barren
(before entering the closed canopy boreal forest), we
were met with total silence and no bird movement. As I
anxiously scanned the mountainside for any sort of
avian life, I was surprised to see that a bird had
appeared on the track a mere fifteen meters away from
us. When I binned the bird, I was astonished to see
that it was a Hepburn's race, GRAY-CROWNED ROSY FINCH!
The rosy finch proceeded to hopped in so close to us
that we had trouble being able to close-focus the
bird. After this remarkable encounter the rosy finch
flew downslope and disappeared.

Near the Bunchgrass Meadows primitive campground, we
briefly saw a BOREAL CHICKADEE fly across the road.
Overall, it was very quiet around the meadows. 

Although we were at 4800 feet in elevation, we were
well below the ridgeline where one might expect to see
them in the fall. Rosy finches are very difficult
species to find in P.O. County.

Later, Matthew Moskwik joined us for some owling
around Bunchgrass Meadows. Unfortunately, we could not
coax any Boreal Owls to respond. There was a breeze
that night, but much of the area was sheltered from
the wind, and we still could not find any owls. 

Our consolation prize for the evening was that we did
see modest display of aurora borealis. Mainly, we saw
a fairly bright auroral arc that sometimes expanded
into a bluish-green curtain.

On Sunday (10/01/06), we birded the Little Pend
Oreille Highlands in Stevens County. Due to it's
higher elevation, we opted to bird up  FR 350.
Fortunately, this was quite a birdy spot. The upper
part of the road was second growth that had a rich
diversity of flora (i.e. Subalpine Fir, Engelmann
Spruce, W. Larch, Douglas Fir, Mt. Ash, Sitka Alder,
Aspen, bearberry, twinflower, blueberries,
huckleberries, etc.) Both RC & GC Kinglets, BC & Mt.
Chickadees, YR Warblers, Gray Jays, juncos, HERMIT
THRUSH - 2, and RB Nuthatches were common here. 

When I began my pygmy owl imitation, Alan said that
there was an owl answering me, Sure enough, a NORTHERN
PYGMY OWL flew high overhead and landed in the top of
a tall snag. This cute little owl kept right on
tooting and would occasionally emit a whinny. A second
Pygmy Owl called from the farther down the slope. 

As we were enjoying the pygmy owl show, we heard
SANDHILL CRANEs flying over. Even though, we did have
a clear view of the sky and could not see them, it was
still a thrill to hear them.

When we began walking back to our vehicle, I heard the
clucking of a grouse. Since Patricia needed a Spruce
Grouse for a lifer, I had her walk in toward the
unseen bird. Fortunately, she was able to the bird as
it flushed and could identify it as male SPRUCE
GROUSE. When we fanned out to refind the bird, I
managed to flush it again. I could just glimpse the
grouse  through the dense understory.

As we were bushwhacking through the undergrowth, Allen
and I saw perhaps the smallest (by weight) mammal in
North America. This tiny critter was a PYGMY SHREW
that was crawling under small shrubs and forest floor
litter.

Our final stop was at the Colville STP. The rapidly
receding lagoons held LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER - 15,
PECTORAL SANDPIPER -5, and a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER. 

It was glorious weekend to be out birding. Patricia
ended up with two ABA life birds (Spruce Grouse &
Boreal Chickadee), and I added one P.O. County lifer
(GC Rosy Finch), and five Stevens County lifers
(Hermit Thrush, No. Pygmy Owl, Spruce Grouse, Sandhill
Crane, and LB Dowitcher). 

Gina Sheridan
Spokane, WA

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