[Tweeters] Sprague Lake waterfowl and longspur question

Randy Hill hill at smwireless.net
Sun Oct 19 20:16:49 PDT 2008

I finally made it over to Sprague Lake again today. Starting at Washtucna,
where it was 32 degrees, there were two Wilson's Warblers trying to find
something moving to eat. A male Slate-colored Junco was among many
Oregon-type. Two Pine Siskins were paired up with goldfinches on the way to
Benge, and after seeing 3 Rough-legged Hawks between Hatton Coulee and
Washtucna, there were 7 going from Benge to Ritzville. Also a Prairie
Falcon. At Sprague Lake a male Eurasian Wigeon was west of the kiosk.
Further out were at least 24 Snow Geese (no Ross's identified) and a few
Cackling Geese mixed in with Lesser and Western Canada Geese. Most of the
waterfowl were too distant to identify. Couldn't find the target birds that
Craig Corder and all found earlier in the week (GW Gull, Clark's Grebe,
Pacific Loon), but finally did locate the group of "coast birds" east of the
WDFW parking area. In all there were more than 100 of each of the five
Aythya divers, 500+ Ruddy Ducks, 24+ Western , 4+ Horned and 6+ Eared
Grebes, hundreds of Buffleheads, a dozen or so Common and one male Barrow's
Goldeneye (plus 2 probable females), and lots of coots and hundreds each of
at least 100 each of 6 species of puddle ducks. Also 1 female-plumage
Red-breasted Merganser. I finally found the scoters, first 1, then 4, 7,
and finally had a high count of 14 at once, both Surf and White-winged
Scoters. Two adult Bald Eagles spooked most of the ducks but not the
scoters, but there were at least 3 WW and 6 surf. A flock of 29 Tundra
Swans flew over before I left for the parking lot, where Craig and Judy
Corder had just pulled in.

I followed them to a pullout east of the access, and soon after I got out of
the car and spotted a finch-type flock, Craig called a flyover longspur
rattle. The bird I picked out had the distinct black triangular pattern in
the tail of a CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR, but I didn't get any other
distinctive markings on the bird other than it was pale underneath. My
question is do Chestnut-collared Longspurs rattle as Lapland Longspurs do?
I didn't identify the other birds in the flock but don't know if this was a
mixed flock of longspurs or what. When the flock was flying around all the
birds had the dip and rise action of the longspur flocks that I remember
from southern New Mexico where Chestnut-collared was the most abundant of
the three species that wintered there. I'm hoping others will relocate that
flock and get a good look.

At the next pulloff Craig waited patiently for a WW Scoter to swim into
Lincoln County as I waited for a Common Loon to swim into Adams County.
Neither cooperated. There was also no "first down line" on the water to
mark exactly where the county line crosses the lake.

Why is it Sprague Lake produces as many questions as answers?

Randy Hill


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