[Tweeters] Asotin County Gyrfalcon & Sandhill Crane
gsherida8502 at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 9 23:55:18 PST 2012
On Monday (1/09/11), Jon Isacoff and I ventured southward down into Asotin County. Our pre-dawn departure was rewarded with amazing views of a full "Wolf Moon" setting in a velvet-black western sky. Later, beautiful orange lattice-like clouds coronated the dawn.
Overall, the day was sunny. with morning sub-freezing temps rising up to the low 50's by afternoon. However, there was a biting wind on the plateau and passerine activity was rather negatively impacted by it.
Upon our arrival at Clarkston's Swallow Park marina, we were thrilled to see the previously reported SANDHILL CRANE. The crane was feeding with geese and mallards on a narrow island on the south side of the lagoon. Aside from the CANADA GEESE, there were two CACKLING GEESE, BUFFLEHEAD, PIED-BILLED GREBE, as well as the ubiquitous AMERICAN COOTs. In Clarkston proper, there were both EURASIAN COLLARED DOVEs and MOURNING DOVEs.
On Asotin Slough, we saw HOODED MERGANSER, NORTHERN PINTAIL, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL. Chief Looking Glass Park hosted several Gadwall. There was a MERLIN in the town of Asotin, and Three Mile Rapids held an adult THAYER'S GULL (on the Asotin side of the river), CALIFORNIA GULL, RING-BILLED GULL, HERRING GULL, and BALD EAGLE.
Later, we climbed the grade up Weissenfels Ridge, and saw at least forty CHUKARs (in three different flocks). This had been my nemesis county bird for the last several years, but today we watched several Chukars nonchalantly taking a stroll in the middle of the road!
Higher on the ridge, we encountered eight GRAY PARTRIDGEs, AMERICAN KESTREL, NORTHERN SHRIKE, NORTHERN HARRIER, HORNED LARKs, RED-TAILED HAWK, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, and even a GYRFALCON. This was the same gun-metal gray adult, that I had seen last month. The Gyr was located two power poles west of the10 kilometer marker on the ranch.
On the Harbin Grade, we saw HAIRY WOODPECKER, N. FLICKER, CEDAR WAXWING, AMERICAN ROBIN, DE JUNCO, and a STELLER'S JAY. On the Anatone Flats, we diligently worked the reported hot spot area of Davis/Onstott/Savage Roads for Snowy Owl and Snow Bunting, but we dipped on both of them. We did see a distant GREAT HORNED OWL.
On Montgomery Ridge, we searched for Redpolls, but we could only find WILD TURKEYs. In the town of Anatone, we saw a large flock of AMERICAN GOLDFINCHes, but nothing else. At this point, the wind was a serious hindrance.
In Field Springs Park, we ran into a large flock of CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEEs and MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE. Other birds in attendance included GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH. An immature GOLDEN EAGLE cruised over the park too.
Heading northward on Hwy 120, we saw another MERLIN and a PRAIRIE FALCON (which was our fourth falcon species of the day). Along the river route between Asotin and Clarkston, there was a COOPER'S HAWK (our tenth raptor species of the day).
As a last ditch effort before dusk, we tried for Snowy Owl on Peola Road and drove all the way into Garfield County. Although we did find one more PRAIRIE FALCON, Coyotes, and large herds of Mule Deer en route, we didn't see much else of interest.
In the waning dusk light at Evans Marsh, we had a responsive VIRGINIA RAIL, and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW.
We concluded our birding after dark in Wawawai County Park (Whitman County) and tried for owls. However, we could only elicit hooting from GREAT HORNED OWLs.
All in all, we were quite pleased with some excellent winter birding in the southeastern corner of the our state.
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