[Tweeters] Okanogan Highlands birding: Rosy Finches and Snow Bunting still there

Wayne Weber contopus at telus.net
Tue Mar 24 15:32:24 PDT 2009

Tweeters and Inland Birders,

Unable to resist the allure of the Okanogan Highlands, I made a brief visit
on March 22 (early evening) and 23 (all day). I visited Molson, Chesaw,
Havillah, and many of the roads in between. Highlights: The GRAY-CROWNED
ROSY FINCHES were still present on Nealey Road, at least one SNOW BUNTING
near Havillah, and GRAY PARTRIDGES at Molson, but unlike my visit to the
Chelan and Bridgeport areas last week, there was abundant evidence of spring

Noteworthy sightings (all on March 23 unless otherwise noted):

CANADA GOOSE-- Already present in the highlands; at least 28 were on and
near Molson and Sidley Lakes, even though both had only tiny areas of open
water (in the case of Molson Lake at least, due to an aerator) and seemed
weeks away from full breakup.

BALD EAGLE-- 3 imm. perched near a cattle operation near the N end of
Havillah Road, and 1 imm. soaring over Chesaw.

COOPER'S HAWK-- I ad. flushed from a clump of water birches along Molson

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK-- Only 4 seen; one along Molson Road, one along Nealey
Road, and 2 near Havillah.

AMERICAN KESTREL-- One male seen along Nealey Road was carrying what
appeared to be a fairly large rodent.

GRAY PARTRIDGE-- Two heard calling along Molson Road and two seen at close
range at the north end of Molson near dusk on March 22. Two seen the next
day also in Molson, feeding along the edge of somebody's driveway (!). I've
found Molson to be a hotspot for this species in the past.

RUFFED GROUSE-- 4 seen eating buds in a small cottonwood tree along Mary
Ann Creek Road east of Molson, after 7 PM on Mar. 23-- one of my last bird
sightings for the day.

WILD TURKEY-- A flock of 16 were feeding along the Chesaw Road about 5
miles east of Oroville on March 22.

CALIFORNIA QUAIL-- Widespread in the highlands, with small numbers seen or
heard at Molson, Chesaw, Havillah, and along Nealey Road.

GREAT HORNED OWL-- Two heard hooting, one at the Sitzmark ski area and one
near the east end of the Mary Ann Creek Road.

SAY'S PHOEBE-- Widespread; 5 seen in various locations, including in Molson
and at the Sitzmark ski area north of Havillah.

HORNED LARK-- Seen only in the area just N of Havillah, along Havillah Road
(flock of 10 flew across) and about 10 more along Wildermuth Road. I got
some nice photos of larks sitting on snowbanks.

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW-- A few already in the highlands; two perched on wires
next to frozen Sidley Lake, and one right in Molson (elev. 3700 feet).

TREE SWALLOW-- One heard (but not seen) flying overhead on Molson Road;
probably checking out nestboxes.

GRAY JAY-- Three seen in a forested area along northern Nealey Road.

WESTERN BLUEBIRD-- At least 7 seen, mostly in the area between Oroville and
Molson, and generally a bit lower down than the Mountain Bluebirds. However,
a pair of Western Bluebirds appeared to be taking turns with Mountain
Bluebirds and Starlings checking out potential nest cavities in an abandoned
house along Nine Mile Road east of the site of Sidley. Maybe not prime real
estate for humans, but definitely prime real estate for birds!

MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD-- Pairs were widely distributed, especially along roads
with nest boxes (e.g. Molson and Nealey Roads). A total of at least 41 were

DARK-EYED JUNCO-- Many flocks of 10 to 25 birds seen in various locations;
migration obviously in full swing.

SNOW BUNTING-- At least one bird sitting on a snowbank along Wildermuth Road
near Havillah, which was close enough for photos. At one point, I briefly
saw 3-4 smaller birds with a flock of HORNED LARKS which could have been
buntings, but I could not confirm this.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD-- Scattered birds were on territory all over the area,
with two sizable concentrations; about 20 at the cattle operation on
northern Havillah Road, and at least 25 in the marshes near the east end of
Mary Ann Creek Road.

WESTERN MEADOWLARK-- Lots of them present and singing, but mostly at lower
elevations where there was little or no snow. Only a few seen in the snowy
areas above 3500 feet (in contrast to Mountain Bluebirds, which were seen
all over the place, snow or not).

GRAY-CROWNED ROSY FINCH-- At first I couldn't find these birds at the
Highland Meadows feeders along Nealey Road, but they were there when I
checked a second time about 4 PM. There were at least 25 present. At one
point, about 20 of them flew off to the south, but 5 were still there when I

COMMON REDPOLL-- I heard one or two birds flying overhead at the Sitzmark
ski area, but did not see any. However, I would recommend Bolster Road north
of Chesaw for anyone looking for redpolls in future winters. (There were
sightings there this winter). The Myers Creek valley along Bolster Road has
large stands of Mountain Alders, and alder seeds are one of the preferred
foods of this species.


There was still a foot or more of snow over much of the higher areas (above
3500 feet), but hopefully it will start melting soon! Most of the main
roads were in good shape, but a few (Poland-China, Grange) were very muddy.
I managed to drive into the Highlands Sno-Park near Havillah despite glare
ice on the access road (thank heavens for good snow tires), but there was
nothing there but a couple of Red-tailed Hawks.

Except for the two GREAT HORNED OWLS, owling was a bust. I couldn't spot a
Pygmy-Owl, and several stops along Mary Ann Creek Road after dusk on March
22, even with the help of recordings, produced no N. Saw-whets. However,
luck in finding the Rosy Finches and Snow Bunting made up for my lack of
success with owls. Both these species were first sightings for me east of
the Cascades in WA.

Many thanks to everyone who has posted sightings from this area over the
last few weeks, especially Khanh Tran and Ron McCluskey-- it was a big help
in finding birds!

Good luck and good birding,

Wayne C. Weber
Delta, BC
contopus at telus.net

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