[Tweeters] Benton County
paul.webster at comcast.net
Sun May 23 22:31:39 PDT 2010
Barbara and I spent Friday and Saturday in Benton County. We had cool,
breezy weather on Friday and partly cloudy skies Saturday with a few
scattered showers, one of which brought the birds out when it stopped. We'd
like to express our appreciation for the Lower Columbia Basin Audubon's
excellent website with its list of birding locations and maps, that helped
us plan our trip to fit our limited time.
We arrived in Benton City around 10 a.m. on Friday and set off up the McBee
grade, where we found lots of *swallows* (Bank, Cliff, and Barn), *Western
Kingbirds*, *Horned Larks*, and *meadowlarks*, with *Lark Sparrows* singing
at the top of the grade. Farmhouses had *California Quail*, *Say's Phoebe*,
and a *Northern Harrier* quartered one of the fields nearby. Turning onto
Webber Canyon Rd we found a *Swainson's Hawk* with a small animal clutched
in a talon, waiting for us to leave so it could return to its nest. We also
picked up *Rock Wren* on the way back down to Benton City.
Our second stop was Horn Rapids Park, where we located a *Great Horned Owl*,
a pair of *Downy Woodpeckers*, *Cedar Waxwing*, *Wilson's Warbler*,
Oriole*. A flock of *White Pelicans* wheeled above the river (amazing how
gracefully these huge birds soar!), a *Long-billed Curlew* flew below them,
and an *Osprey* flew past, searching for prey in the water below. We next
tried Snively Marsh, but the road had heavy traffic, big machinery was
tearing out Sagebrush for a housing development, and we were in the quiet
time of late afternoon, so we checked into our motel in Kennewick.
We reconnoitered Bateman Island before dinner, finding *Canada Goose*, *
Bufflehead*, *Western Grebe*, *Forster's Tern*, *Double-crested Cormorant*,
*Black-capped Chickadee*, lots of *Bank Swallows* buzzing to each other
overhead, *Wilson's Warbler*, *Western Tanager*, and a lone *White-crowned
We felt Bateman Island would be worth another look the next morning, so at
6:30 we walked across the causeway. *Black-headed Grosbeaks* had arrived in
force, we saw at least a dozen, at a small pond we found a *Townsend's
Warbler* in the willows, and a *Yellow-rumped Warbler* a short distance
further along the trail. The apparent whine of an ill-tuned engine revealed
a *Yellow-headed Blackbird*, and a *Marsh Wren* chattered nearby. Another
overnight arrival was a *Western Wood-Pewee*, and a family of four *Downy
Woodpeckers* scolded us as we moved past. We heard other warblers,and got
good looks at a *Wilson's*. A local birder told us we would find W. E.
Johnson Park worthwhile, so we drove up to Richland and had a *Killdeer* fly
over the car as we were getting out of it. This is a great park, not
manicured, just good habitat preserved along the Yakima River. Almost the
first thing we heard was the call of an *Olive-sided Flycatcher*, and it
obligingly flew in so we could get a good look. Then following the calls we
located a *Yellow-breasted Chat* in riverfront trees. Looking down on the
river we found *Wood Ducks*, a single *Common Goldeneye*, and three *Spotted
Sandpipers*. On the way out of the park we saw a *Black-chinned
*House Finches* at nearby feeders.
After lunch we drove to the Acme Ponds on Carrier Road, where we found
Duck*, *Cinnamon Teal*, and *Black-crowned Night Heron*, surrounded by
blackbirds and *Cliff* and *Bank* *Swallows*, and a *Cooper's Hawk* escaping
with a small bird clutched in its talons.
Then we headed for Rattlesnake Mountain, following the loop detailed in the
ABA Guide. At the marsh on Bunn Rd we found *Virginia Rail*, *Sora*,
Stilt*, an *American Avocet*, and a pair of *Gadwall*. Rain clouds
accompanied us up Rattlesnake Mountain, and it rained on and off several
times, stopping just before we turned from Crooks Rd onto Case Rd, Then we
stopped as a *Sage Thrasher* began singing from atop a fencepost, a *Brewer's
Sparrow* held forth from across the road, and a *Vesper Sparrow* sang from a
sage bush. As we drove downhill on Case Rd, we stopped to watch a *Loggerhead
Shrike *pounce repeatedly into the grass for insects. And as we turned from
Case Rd onto Hanks Rd we exchanged glances with a *Eurasian Collared-Dove*.
We left Benton County feeling good about our short trip. We had seen 82
species in the better part of two days, and gotten a sense for how good
spring birding in the Lower Columbia Basin can be.
Paul and Barbara Webster
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