[Tweeters] WOS Convention, Walla Walla

enhunn323 at comcast.net enhunn323 at comcast.net
Wed Jun 11 08:52:39 PDT 2008


This should have gone out yesterday but I'm having issues with my Outbox.

Gene.

Tweets,

A follow up to Mike Denny’s preliminary report. The Walla Walla conference was fun with lots of good birds and birder visitations, though we froze our bunns Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Sunday was fine and Monday not bad, though the next front was coming. I found a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE in the snow at very near the “usual spot” along Biscuit Ridge Rd., but about ¼ further up. Missed the GREAT GRAY OWL that was spotted there the next day, but apparently not seen subsequently, despite daily visits by WOS birding crews. Two towhees were caught in the act of copulating on Sunday on Biscuit Ridge and were seen also on Lewis Peak, the other traditional site near Walla Walla. My Oregon trip Saturday stopped to examine a dead bird beside the Toll Gate road (near mp 7) (Umatilla County, Oregon) and found a nearly perfect Great Gray with its body still warm and flexible. RIP. In any case, the specimen is now at the Burke.

As Mike noted, two of the most sought after birds were the apparently 1st summer male INDIGO BUNTING (judging by the white vent and undertail coverts) 5.0 miles up the North Fork Coppei Creek road from the fork with the South Fork Rd. Jim Danzenbaker found it Thursday while scouting and actually saw it copulate with a female Lazuli. On Sunday the female Lazuli was nest building! So it’s likely to stick around and maybe have some hybrid offspring. The Coppei (pronounced “cop-ii-eye”) forks support wonderful riparian groves, as do most of these foothill streams. At the junction of Coppei Rd. (that is, below the junction of the South and North Fork Coppei Creek Rds.) with McCown Rd. (which goes off east from US 12 just south of Waitsburg), at the bridge, is a returning pair of LEAST FLYCATCHERS. Everytime we stopped we could hear them giving their rather sharp “whit” notes but only rarely did we hear the “che-beck” song of the male. Nevertheless, they frequently perched in the !
open di
splaying their distinctive features, which I won’t bother to repeat here.

Much in evidence in the alder thickets along the streams draining the Blue Mountains are CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERs, which look and sound pretty much like the Pacific-slope Flycatchers of the Cascades and west (both of which used to be just Western Flycatchers). In response to a question as to why they were “Cordilleran” and not “Pacific-slope” I argued that they were “Cordilleran” by definition. The male position notes, said to be slurred in Pacific-slope and two-parted in Cordilleran may in fact be either in at least the “Cordilleran” populations in southeastern Washington. The third phrase of the full male song is supposed to be more definitive in shape, but this requires either a great deal of imagination or a tape recording you can play back at ¼ speed or a sonogram. Nevertheless, they must be “Cordilleran” if we are to accept the judgment of the AOU Checklist Committee which in its infinite wisdom acted on the recommendation of the late Dr. Ned K. Johnson, based on his mo!
nograph
on the subject (which, however, is seriously incomplete). Johnson published a Whitman County, Washington, sonogram and two Washington Blue Mountain specimens as “Cordilleran” in his monograph. Thus the Western Flycatchers (still likely the better name) of southeastern Washington can’t be Pacific-slope Flycatchers unless it could be shown that the two forms are sympatric, which no one to my knowledge has ever argued, or that a stray Pacific-slope, like our Indigo Bunting, somehow got lost on migration, to end up amongst the Cordillerans in the Blue Mountains (though how would one ever know which was which). In any case, we got excellent looks at one singing Cordilleran Flycatcher along the South Fork of Coppei Creek that responded strongly to my Cordilleran Flycatcher recording.

Other out-of-place individuals included a LESSER GOLDFINCH spotted by Brad Waggoner just downstream from Tom Lamb’s “Hummingbird Crossing” just east of Dixie on the Biscuit Ridge Rd., and three odd-balls Brien Meilleur and I encountered: a female PURPLE MARTIN flying away past the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park (Columbia County), 3-4 BLACK SWIFTS screaming down slope off Biscuit Ridge, and a lone BAND-TAILED PIGEON flying up the south fork of the Walla Walla River se of Milton-Freewater, Oregon. By the way, Tom Lamb’s hummingbird crossing is spectacular and he is always the generous host. A gazillion BLACK-CHINNED, CALLIOPE, and RUFOUS HUMMERS, males and females, at point blank range. But even away from his feeders hummers were a conspicuous presence.

Field trips coming and going added most of the eastern Washington summer specialties (a full account will be posted on the WOS website and a summary in the next issue of WOSNews). Try as we might, we were unable to stir up a Black-throated Sparrow at the usual spots near Vantage but did call out an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER at the usual milepost 24 locale along the Old Vantage Highway.

In any case, thanks to the tireless efforts of the various volunteers (mostly WOS east side board members) who put this conference together despite a variety of impediments. Despite the weather and the usual exhaustion induced by owling till 11 then up at 4 the next morning we all enjoyed our visit to the Denny’s home turf.

Gene Hunn
18476 47th Pl NE
Lake Forest Park, WA
enhunn323 at comcast.net

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