[Tweeters] Early Spring in Kittitas and Grant counties

Bob bobs at world-wide.com
Mon Mar 23 08:37:40 PDT 2015

This weekend as a last minute plan my wife Laurie and I decided to take our
dogs on an adventure to eastern Washington. On Saturday in mid and late
afternoon we followed the recent paths of Blair Bernson, Jon Houghton, and
Barbara Deihl. Unfortunately it was moderately windy and even though we did
short hikes at both Quilomene and the Ginkgo Interpretive Trail both were
dead and we ended up missing most of the sage species and Say’s Phoebe for
the weekend. I think the main lesson here is that late afternoon in windy
conditions is not the best time especially if you cannot hear the high
pitched calls like me. However we were lucky enough to see a Gray Partridge
at WA 10 and Thorp Highway and 1 Prairie Falcon, 1 Horned Lark, and many
Mountain Bluebird along Old Vantage Highway. We had planned to van camp at
the park at the end of Recreation Rd on the Columbia River in Vantage.
While this has been developed into a nice little park with a few tent sites,
a combination of lack of waterfowl, not so great parking for the van, and
weird vibes from the other camping couple led us to continue on. We also
thought about some hot food but all the restaurants in Vantage were closed
and we ended up at the Martha 2 in George. This is a dim shadow of the
original Martha Café and closed restaurants are perhaps a sign that the
economic recovery has eluded eastern WA, at least during the off-concert

Anyway we ended up “camping” in the Desert Habitat Management Area on Dodson
Rd, just north of Birder’s Corner. Well it was cold and a little cramped
with 2 dogs. Also like Jeff Gibson I sometimes find sleep elusive with my
brain racing between personal, work-related, and worldly issues. So when
the mattress finished deflating at around 4 AM I decided to follow his
advice to go on a nature hike. Since my iPhone was broken and my flashlight
dim, this was going to be mostly a listening trip so I did take my hearing
aids. . Even though it was very cold the chorus frogs were loud at our camp
site near a stream. But when I walked down to Birder’s Corner I actually
had to turn my hearing aids down and could hear little else except a few
flushed Mallards. From there I walked about a mile east on Frenchman Hills
Rd to quieter “desert” (actually mostly riparian shrub and orchards) where I
heard a close and incessant hooting owl which later after listening to
Laurie’s iPad I decided was definitely a Long-eared Owl. On the way back I
heard a couple of Great-horned Owls and chorus from 2 competing packs of
coyotes. I was also greeted by the aroma of a close Skunk which made me
doubt my decision to leave the flashlight off for most of the trip (thinking
it was probably too cold for Rattlesnakes). Got back as the roosters were
starting to call and then actually had my best sleep in the hour before

Birder’s Corner was cool at sunrise in many ways including huddling in the
front seat with heater blasting peering through fogged windows at 30 diving
Canvasback that Laurie loosely first called as loons. We also saw a stalking
Coyote, our only 2 Cinnamon Teal, Lesser Scaup, other common ducks, Coots, a
heard Virginia Rail, Wilson Snipe and Killdeer (the only shorebirds we saw
on the trip). Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere but we could not find a
Yellow-headed anywhere. One thrill was the 30 fly over Sandhill Cranes but
we also 3 standing close to the road on the way to Potholes Reservoir. One
of these days I will get a new camera.

We saw many more waterfowl driving through the Columbia NWR, especially near
the Marsh Unit 1 overlook and Morgan Lake. We also saw 3 Bald Eagles,
Harriers, Red-tails, and 5 distant Swans. A quick roadside stop at the
Para/McCain's Ponds got us our only Redheads, Ruddy Ducks, and a Common
Goldeneye amongst the mostly Shovelers and Coots, but no rare blackbirds.
County Line Ponds had hundreds of Canada Goose, many Pintails, and best
looks at California and Ring-billed Gull but no egrets and the only
shorebird was a single Killdeer.

Driving by the Corfu Unit on Rd B SE we had our first of 5 Loggerhead Shrike
and fly over flock of 300 Sandhill Cranes. Most of our birding in this area
was along Lower Crab Creek Rd where the highlights were a flock of 3,000
Sandhill Cranes forging in a field just east of Rd E SW, 1 Chukar, several
Ring-necked Pheasant, and a Kingfisher. On the way home we made a quick
detour to the Teanaway River looking for Wild Turkeys (dipped) but did see a
Rough-legged Hawk at Sauk Prairie. We also saw Turkey Vultures at several
locations in Kittitas County including a flock of 8 soaring in the rain on
the return drive near Roslyn. Since this is getting long I will just say
that while we missed many target birds this was a fun adventure with our old
dogs, even considering that I picked a Tick off the back of my neck on the
drive home.

Bob Schmidt

Bothell, WA

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