[Tweeters] Black-throated Sparrow at Steptoe Butte

Gina Sheridan gsherida8502 at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 24 23:28:51 PDT 2008

On a glorious summer day (6/24/08), Jon Isacoff and I birded three pre-selected sites in eastern Whitman County. With temps that ranged from 50 to the low 70's, we were never in danger of heatstroke.

As we approached Steptoe Butte, we found a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT in an agricultural ditch. Upon arrival at the picnic grounds of Steptoe Butte State Park, we wandered around for a while and picked up the usual suspects (i.e. American Crow, House Wren w/fledglings, Western Wood Pewee, Bullock's Oriole, Robins. Finally, I heard the harsh call notes of a Veery. After we worked the damp creekside understory, a VEERY perched up beside us long enough for Jon to snap some photos of the bird. Meanwhile, second Veery skulked around us.

The Veery is very rare for Whitman County, and this pair of birds were discovered by the Webers and Terry Gray several weeks ago. At any rate, this specie is always a treat to see.

Beyond the picnic grounds, we saw a slinky LONG-TAILED WEASEL cross the
road, and Yellow-bellied Marmots were sunning themselves on the rocky outcrops. In the brushlands past the pine woods, there was a plethora of sparrows that included SAVANNAH, VESPER, CHIPPING, and BREWER'S. Other birds en route to the summit included CASSIN'S VIREO, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, SPOTTED TOWHEE, GRAY CATBIRD, LAZULI BUNTING, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, EASTERN KINGBIRD, and ROCK WREN. On a barren stretch of road, we saw an unexpected AMERICAN PIPIT.

In the lower parking lot of the summit, we stood teary eyed in the stiff breeze and tried to focus on a singing sparrow that was downslope from us. When Jon went back to retrieve his camera, I spied a BLACK-THROATED SPARROW perched on the guard rail at the far end of the parking lot. When Jon returned, the Black-throated Sparrow sang most cooperatively from a conspicuous spindly shrub. We were excited to once again find this species on Steptoe Butte, and it was an ABA lifer for Jon.

Our second stop of the day was the city park in the town of Palouse. Our objective here was to find Cordilleran Flycatcher that had been reported by Charles Swift. Initially, our search was hindered by the noise of swimmers in the public pool, and by lawn sprinklers that were spewing water through the wooded area of the park. While we managed to find HOUSE FINCH & SPARROW, CEDAR WAXWING, WESTERN WOOD PEWEE, WILLOW FLYCATCHER, VIOLET-GREEN & ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWs, and even a male BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (near the RR tracks), we couldn't seem to locate our quarry.

On our second pass through the park, we pushed out search to the park perimeter (past the pool), and began hearing a Western type flycatcher. By playing a recording of a Cordilleran Flycatcher, a CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER flew in and graced us with some crippling looks. This bird was Jon's second ABA lifer of the day.

Our third and final stop, was Kamiak Butte County Park. Even though it was early afternoon, birdsong and activity was quite high. My favorite stretch of the park is the trail from the farthest parking lot that backtracks through mixed coniferous forest, and broad, semi-open brushy area populated by young aspen. The latter section produced the most birds. Some of the species that we racked up included SWAINSON'S THRUSH, RED-BREASTED & PYGMY NUTHATCH; ORANGE-CROWNED, NASHVILLE, YELLOW-RUMPED, and MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS; BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, CASSIN'S VIREO & FINCH, WARBLING VIREO, HAMMOND'S & WESTERN FLYCATCHERs, HAIRY WOODPECKER, FLICKER, HOUSE WREN, RED CROSSBILL, PINE SISKIN, and WESTERN TANAGER.

It was fabulous early summer day! For completeness sake, Jon's EBird report extract is listed below:

Observation date: 6/24/08
Number of species: 11

California Quail 1
Red-tailed Hawk 5
American Kestrel 1
Northern Flicker 2
Western Kingbird 2
Eastern Kingbird 2
Black-billed Magpie 4
Common Raven 4
Horned Lark 2
Bank Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 4

Location: WC-Steptoe Butte
Observation date: 6/24/08
Number of species: 33

Ring-necked Pheasant 1
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
American Kestrel 1
Killdeer 1
Mourning Dove 4
Western Wood-Pewee 5
Willow Flycatcher 3
Eastern Kingbird 5
Warbling Vireo 2
American Crow 6
Rock Wren 4
House Wren 6
Veery 2
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 2
European Starling 5
American Pipit 1
Yellow Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 1
Spotted Towhee 2
Chipping Sparrow 2
Brewer's Sparrow 2
Vesper Sparrow 2
Black-throated Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 2
Lazuli Bunting 1
Western Meadowlark 1
Brewer's Blackbird 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Bullock's Oriole 3
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 2

Location: WC-Palouse (Town)
Observation date: 6/24/08
Number of species: 18

Red-tailed Hawk 2
Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Western Wood-Pewee 5
Willow Flycatcher 2
Cordilleran Flycatcher (Western) 1
Violet-green Swallow 5
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5
Cliff Swallow 5
Mountain Chickadee 1
American Robin 10
Cedar Waxwing 5
Yellow Warbler 2
Song Sparrow 2
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 5
American Goldfinch 2

Location: WC-Kamiak Butte
Observation date: 6/24/08
Number of species: 33

Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Kestrel 4
Mourning Dove 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Western Wood-Pewee 6
Hammond's Flycatcher 1
Cordilleran Flycatcher (Western) 2
Cassin's Vireo 3
Common Raven 2
Violet-green Swallow 2
Mountain Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 4
Pygmy Nuthatch 6
House Wren 8
Swainson's Thrush 1
American Robin 10
Cedar Waxwing 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Nashville Warler 1
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
MacGillivray's Warbler 1
Western Tanager 1
Spotted Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 2
Black-headed Grosbeak 2
Western Meadowlark 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Cassin's Finch 1
Red Crossbill 2
Pine Siskin 5
American Goldfinch 5

Gina Sheridan
Spokane, WA

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