[Tweeters] April's Fool Birding In Snowy Othello

hrudkaj mary hrudkajm at hotmail.com
Fri Apr 3 08:03:25 PDT 2009

I and a neighbor (being newly initiated into birding) headed over to Grant Co and other places for my annual trip for sandhill cranes and other birds. After making it over snowy Snoqualmie Pass we never made it out of snow the entire day on the 1st. Because of the weather viewing was limited but we did see some great birds.

On Hwy 10 east of Cle Elum we were treated to a beautiful golden eagle perched in the top of a pine tree which, for us, was at eye level. A raven landed above the eagle and perched for a bit before flying off when a large truck came by. In the snow the eagle was magnificent. The ospreys are back at the nest site by the Cle Elum exit and were busy maintaining their nest and pair bonding.

Vantage Road produced mountain bluebirds but not much else in the wind and snow. Lots of ducks were found south to Wanapum Dam south of Vantage and there was little snow there fortunately. But no pelicans to be found there or anywhere in the Othello area.

Birder's Corner held wigeons, mallards, coots, a pair of cinnamon teal, three trumpeter swans and a lone black-neck stilt. Heading over to the Royal Lake overlook we almost decided to bypass it as it was snowing heavily and visibility was less than 1/4 mile. But I could see the sky lifting just west of us and by the time we got to the overlook visibility had improved greatly. No Ross' goose to be found but lots of Canada geese and Northern Pintails which were being harassed by a red-tailed hawk.

The detour to the overlook paid off later as we were making our way back down to Hwy 26. Several of the plowed under cornfields north of 26 were full of cranes, many dancing, calling and generally socializing.

County line ponds had lots of pintails but no shorebirds at all. By the time we got to the Othello cemetary it was snowing heavily again. We couldn't find the owls or any crossbills. The wind was whipping the snow horizontally into the car windows making for miserable conditions. Along LeMaster Rd we found no burrowing owls but there was 2 inches of snow on the ground by this time and any self-respecting owl would be hunkered inside.

Heading over to Para Ponds we found a long-billed curlew and whimbrel feeding about 50 ft apart in a snowy alfalfa field. It was great for comparing size and bill shape. My neighbor was quickly becoming a confirmed birder. The ponds had a single yellow-headed blackbird, the usual cast of ducks, geese and gulls. Very few blackbirds were around as there are no cattle in the pens just northwest of the ponds.

Thursday morning dawned sunny and mild (comparatively). We found tri-color blackbirds and hundreds of yellow-headed blackbirds along 26 west of Othello near where the cattle are. Lower Crab-Creek Road yielded lots of white-crowned sparrows, western meadowlarks and northern shrikes. Redtail hawks were everywhere we went.

In all it wasn't the birdiest trek I've taken to eastern WA. But the quality was superb. My neighbor is now wanting to get a decent set of binoculars and another bird ID book.

And no, Randy, snow in Othello wasn't an April Fools Day joke.

Mary Hrudkaj


hrudkajm at hotmail.com

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