[Tweeters] Road Trip! Day Two – Lincoln, Spokane and Grant Counties

Tim Brennan tsbrennan at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 19 08:22:11 PDT 2012

Hey Tweets!

I left early Tuesday morning from Wenatchee. My aim was to be in Lincoln County as the sun was rising, but sleep won out a little! A Say’s Phoebe called loudly in the dark as I got in my car, and made my way along Highway 2. I got to watch a few sunrises as the road rose and fell, and it was tempting to stop several times as I drove through the sage. I finally gave in and stopped and listened. White-crowned Sparrows and Meadowlarks – no big surprises! The sun was still rising so I swore not to stop again, but had to once for a Loggerhead Shrike perched on sage not far off the road!

Entering Grant County on Highway 2 is a dangerous endeavor – there are so many birds in the pothole puddles on the left and in Banks Lake to the right. Kept my eyes mostly on the road, but spied Buffleheads, Caspain Terns, and Eared Grebes as I drove. Grant County is on the way to so many places, I feel like I am often not stopping there, and that a lot of my county birds in Grant have been seen at this speed!

I pressed on into Lincoln County and made my first stop at Miles-Creston road. I was turned back here last year when I was making my trips to all 39 counties – some kind of road closure – so I was excited to hit the Ponderosa Pine habitat in Lincoln. I only went 5-10 miles up the road, but it was a great side trip. I had all three nuthatches, Red Crossbills (life looks as they worked the lower branches of trees), Pine Siskins and several Mountain Bluebirds. The exciting bird down this stretch was a Hammond’s Flycatcher! I wasn’t fully prepared to see any flycatchers on this trip, but watched this backlit empid calling with two note phrases – none of the clear ones that a Dusky might give, and I imagine a Dusky would be an even more surprising sighting this time of year. My morning birding finished with a stop at the Reardan Ponds. They were ducky, and also included a few shorebirds – Killdeer, 5 Black-necked Stilts (one of them very close), and a Greater Yellowlegs.

After a morning obligation in Spokane, I grabbed some lunch and lamented not having my gazetteer with me. I decided that a stop in the Medical Lake area would have to do, and that I’d push on to Lincoln and Grant Counties. It proved to be a nice stop, with Canvasbacks, Redheads, Shovelers, Buffleheads and Pied Billed Grebes. A stop at one of the puddles on the way also gave me some winnowing Wilson’s Snipe, and continuing west down gravel roads, I got a Prairie Falcon before deciding to call it a day for Spokane.

At this point, I was pretty tired – long morning, and already a few hours into the afternoon. I wanted somewhere birdy to go grab a quick nap, and chose the Davenport Cemetery. The one bird in the cemetery, a robin, sang me to sleep. The navigation on my phone was ready to send me to Wilson Creek, where I hoped to get Ferruginous Hawks and Tricolored Blackbirds. It had been sending me down Highway two, but now that I had turned in a little to Davenport, it decided that Highway 28 was a better call.

This was actually an amazing stretch. I had never driven that highway before, and I got a chance to see a few more little towns with main streets and grain elevators. Passing the Harrington STP, I saw it was alive with swallows, and I added Cliff to my county list. Past Odessa, the craziness really began. Raptor on a pole – I check and it’s a Red-tailed Hawk. Of course it is! Every buteo I’d seen on the trip had been, and it was getting a little old! I started the car again, and three poles down was another buteo – a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk! I was surprised to see it so close to the Red-tailed, but I guess there’s good eats outside Odessa. Less than five minutes later, another buteo…. Swainson’s Hawk! I looked at my watch, and all three had come between 5 and 5:15. How many buteos could I find in an hour?? I continued to Wilson Creek, keeping an eye out for Broad-winged Hawks….

Wilson Creek. I got there and realized that without a map, and without Opperman, and having never asked anyone how to find any of the birds there, that this could be a bit of a challenge. I had seen a Red-tailed Hawk nesting in some cliff faces as I approached the town, so I looked for the same, passing by the water that likely held the Tricolored Blackbirds along the way. I went into town, and then east of town, stopping to scan the cliffs to the north, finally finding the Ferruginous Hawk perched on the rocks. I enjoyed it for about 5 minutes in the scope before it flew up and over to the other side of the rocks.

I continued down the road – did not arrive at the water, just arrived at “Primitive Road no warning signs” (but isn’t that a warning sign?), and then arrived at cows, and turned back into town for a burger and a beer at the Harvest Moon Tavern. The gal at the bar and the locals were chatty, so we talked about birds a little – none of them knew of the interesting birds their town held, which I guess means people haven’t been stopping to support the local economy when they go for their blackbirds (tsk tsk). I finished up and decided to pass on the blackbirds and make a return trip, giving everyone a “See you later”.

I was pretty good on birds for the day, and needed to get to Wenatchee, but couldn’t resist a stop at Soap Lake, where I found a Least Sandpiper, and a gorgeous American Avocet – closer than I’ve ever seen one. No camera, so I sat and collected mental pictures as it worked the shoreline in front of me before heading back. No Long-billed Curlews in the fields near Quincy as far as I could see, and I got back to Wenatchee just as it got dark.

Tomorrow – Sage-Grouse!

-Tim Brennan

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