[Tweeters] Sabine's Gull and Sage Sparrow surprises in the shrub-steppe

Dennis Paulson dennispaulson at comcast.net
Sun Sep 18 13:15:52 PDT 2011

Hello, tweets.

The Seattle Audubon Master Birders class traveled out to eastern WA on Saturday (9/18) to see what we could find.

Rye Grass Rest Area on I90 had two Sage Sparrows at the seed spread and water basin behind the restrooms, much to my surprise. As many times as I have stopped there, I have never seen that species there, and this seemed like a rather late date to me. Also great numbers of House Finches and House Sparrows and a few White-crowned Sparrows. The lady who feeds the Least Chipmunks and birds there said she is retiring in a few years, and there may not be anyone to put out seed there any more. That would be a real shame, and I hope all tweeters who stop there will bring sunflower seeds and mixed bird seed to spread around. Maybe we can make an informal request for the employees to continue putting out seed and water, if we supply it.

At Vantage we saw about a dozen Townsend's Solitaires, the most I have ever seen in one small area. While we were at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest museum, everal groups of three flew past us along the cliffs heading north and dropped down to the woodland at the end of the old road. When we were down at the bottom, we saw others flying around high above us, and I would say there was an actual movement north along the river there. Oddly, all the birds were moving north through the trees, including many Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers and one Orange-crowned Warbler.

On the rocks there were several Rock Wrens, which I would also have thought would be on their way south. More surprising to me, about a dozen White-throated Swifts circled over the cliffs above us, then disappeared. I wonder if the late spring was the cause for what I considered rather late individuals of some of the shrub-steppe birds. Two Spotted Towhees below the museum were probably migrants as well, and a big flock of Chukars moved up a ridge high above us to the south. On the lake there were many Horned Grebes and a few Ring-billed and California Gulls as well as a beautiful juvenile Sabine's Gull that foraged in front of us for many minutes.

Both the Ginkgo museum grounds and Wanapum State Park to the south were mostly empty of birds, no conspicuous numbers of migrants.

At Potholes State Park, there were huge numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers (I estimated 50 just around one of the bathrooms where we stopped, but there were probably many more), also a young Western Tanager. At the boat launch on the Potholes Reservoir there were two Bonaparte's Gulls. Farther north in the reservoir, there was a massive flock of hundreds of coots at the shore, and on Wanapum Lake south of Vantage there were rafts of what looked like thousands of coots. Staging areas?

One late juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper was with a half-dozen Leasts at the County Line Ponds on hwy 26. One Semipalmated Plover, one Greater Yellowlegs, and three Long-billed Dowitchers were the other migratory shorebirds there.

Carl Haynie spotted and identified the Sabine's Gull, but apparently his instant post to tweeters about it didn't make it through.

Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115
dennispaulson at comcast.net

More information about the Tweeters mailing list