[Tweeters] Salmo Boreal Owls, 9/26/07

Michael Woodruff crazybirder98 at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 28 19:53:07 PDT 2007

Looking at a fantastic weather forecast, my dad and I decided to head
up to Salmo Mountain in Pend Oreille County to search for Boreal Owls
on Wednesday evening (9/26/07).  Conditions couldn't have been better
as we arrived at 9:15pm.  The temperature was a few degrees above
freezing, the sky was mostly clear with zero wind, and a gorgeous full
moon rose over the mountains.

We began our search at the parking lot at Salmo Pass, and covered the
first quarter mile or so of the trail.  In about an hour and fifteen
minutes, we had 6 different contacts with BOREAL OWLS.  Most responded
with classic skews or chirps, but one broke out in full whistled "song"
for a couple rounds.  We had four visuals on two birds with the
spotlight, including two long very satisfying views through binoculars
of twenty or more seconds!  They seemed very responsive and it was
exciting and challenging trying to spot these ghosts of the northern
woods, which for the most part remained hidden.  We turned around
before covering even half of the good habitat along the trail in order
not to disturb them any further.

We camped out on the top of Salmo Mountain, which was a very cold but
very cool experience.  A short walk the next morning (9/27/07) found 4
"ARCTIC" HORNED LARKS near the summit.  Back down at the trail from
Salmo Pass, we had numerous good birds, starting with a NORTHERN
PYGMY-OWL that came in to my whistling.  We had a flyover BREWER'S
BLACKBIRD which was odd for the altitude, along with plenty of Red
Crossbill and Pine Siskin flocks and a few flyovers of EVENING
GROSBEAKS.  Along the trail we found 2 PINE GROSBEAKS, 2 GRAY JAYS, 3
Steller's Jays, 2 Hermit Thrushes, 1 CASSIN'S FINCH, and eventually
found the chickadee flock, which included a few BOREAL CHICKADEES,
Mountain Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Red-breasted

Starting down the mountain, we had a flyover CLARK'S NUTCRACKER.  At
the deepest hairpin curve, where Rd 272 cuts off and then dead-ends at
a campsite, we had a male THREE-TOED WOODPECKER chipping away at a snag
just west of the campsite.

Arriving back in the lowlands around Sullivan Lake, we quickly added
Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Black-capped Chickadee, which made for a
FOUR CHICKADEE morning!  Fun stuff.  Sullivan Lake had a few Common
Mergansers and 2 HORNED GREBES at the north end.

At Bunchgrass Meadows, we found more BOREAL CHICKADEES with another good flock of alpine birds, but nothing else of interest.

Working down the Pend Oreille River, we found Gadwall, Green-winged
Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, a Common Yellowthroat, and a
Bald Eagle at the Flying Goose Ranch.  The water level was too high for
shorebirds.  From the bridge at Usk, we scoped a MERLIN on a snag to
the south in addition to a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER on a little bit of mud.

Along River Rd between Usk and Cusick, we came upon 6 COMMON TERNS
roosting on floats near the shore.  One juvenile had tantalizing
Arctic-like features, but before we could get decent photos or study it
sufficiently, the terns took flight out over the river and headed
south.  Just then, a PEREGRINE FALCON came overhead.  The terns
represented a 2nd county record, and the falcon too is a code 5 bird.

Sparrows were in short supply at the Cusick STP, but we did have 2
Redheads, 3 Wood Ducks, and 4 GREATER YELLOWLEGS.  At the bridge over
Calispell Creek just north of the lake, we scoped 6 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS
and several more Long-billed Dowitchers.  Calispell Lake itself had a
WESTERN GREBE and 23 more Long-billed Dowitchers.

We had fantastic weather for the day and couldn't have had a better time up in this beautiful county.

Michael and Roger Woodruff

Spokane, WA

Explore the seven wonders of the world
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