[Tweeters] Hoary Redpoll in Asotin County

Gina Sheridan gsherida8502 at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 7 00:00:00 PST 2012

On a beautiful, sunny, but chilly late winter day (Tuesday, March 6, 2012), Jon Isacoff and I ventured down to Asotin County for some specific target birds. There was strong northerly breeze today and temps ranged from the 30's up on the plateau to the mid-40's along the Snake River.

With the water level of the Snake River quite low, we made a quick check in Swallows Park. The most notable bird that we saw there was the lingering  SANDHILL CRANE. However, the Sage Sparrow could not be relocated. 

In the town of Anatone, we were very pleased to see the roosting WESTERN SCREECH OWL that has graced the town with its presence. When we spotted the roosting screech owl, it was staring at us with its big yellow eyes.While enjoying the warming sunshine, the cute little owl quickly lapsed back into nap mode.

Cresting the grade above Asotin, we noted BALD EAGLE, NORTHERN SHRIKE, AMERICAN KESTREL, RED-TAILED HAWK,  and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. On Anatone Flats, we fruitlessly searched for the Snowy Owl. Oh where, oh where could the Asotin County snowy be? Obviously, the snowy was not visible from its preferred haunts surrounding the Onstott/Davis Road epicenter. Sigh...

Driving into the town of Anatone, we were hoping to see the previously reported Redpoll flock. At the feeder station on the west side of town, there was an impressive array of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDs, AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES,  HOUSE FINCHES, and 20+ COMMON REDPOLLs. Fortunately for us, most of the redpolls were feeding on the ground under the bird feeders. We had much better view of the birds on the ground than the sometimes awkward (and more limited) views of the birds on the feeders themselves.

After spending some time, scanning through the Redpoll flock, I called Jon's attention to a different looking Redpoll. This bird was a female with narrower streaking on the sides (as opposed to the the thicker tiger stripes on the flanks of most Common Redpolls,; it had a smaller more conical beak that appeared "more pushed in" to the face; bold white wing bars that were at least twice as wide as the normal Common Redpolls; and overall frostier wing coverts.  Perhaps most dramatically, this Redpoll had very fluffy looking, snowy white marginal coverts around the bend of the wings. 

Having viewed this interesting Redpoll on the ground for nearly ten minutes, it finally perched in a bare-branched shrub. At that point, we could finally view the undertail coverts quite well. Although there was one small smudge near the vent, the undertail coverts were completely unstreaked and appeared creamy white. Jon and I are both quite confident that this bird is indeed an adult female HOARY REDPOLL.

Since the Anatone Redpoll flock seemed quite content to stay around that bird feeding station, there is probably a good chance for other birders to see the Hoary Redpoll,( at least before all the Redpolls decide to depart for the season) . It is possible that the Anatone Hoary Redpoll might well be the same bird that Keith Carlson found earlier in the winter.

Our last birding act of the day, was to check the Two Mile Gravel Bars (located two miles east of the junction of Highway 12 & 95 on the Clearwater River). Good fortune smiled on us once again, and we beheld wonderful views of the lovely ICELAND GULL (in flight, swimming, and standing), RING-BILLED GULLS, HERRING GULLS, CALIFORNIA GULLS, and four THAYER'S GULLS. While scanning the gulls, several TREE SWALLOWs skimmed the river, and a bright male LESSER GOLDFINCH landed in the top of a shoreline Locust Tree.

It was truly a fantastic day to be out birding!

Gina Sheridan
Spokane, WA

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