[Tweeters] A Swell Day in CWA - 3/31/16

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Sun Apr 3 03:24:43 PDT 2016

A slow and easy saunter through parts of Kittitas and Yakima counties, following Canyon Road from Milepost 4 up to Umtanum Recreation area, with a just-at-sunset visit to 2 Great Horned Owls up on Umptanum Rd. But my day started at 10 a.m. cruising easily on I-90 eastward, with a stop in Issaquah for some vittles, coffee and a little action on my phone. Then, enjoying the return to listening to my"road" music, it was pretty much straight to the Canyon Rd. exit and on down the road to start the real birding part of the trip - Milepost 4. Joined there by Kevin Lucas, we headed north with frequent pull-offs, looking primarily for Prairie Falcons and some of their nests from previous years, adding in a couple Golden Eagle nests, a kestrel or 2, and finding excitement in distant flying, soaring Common Ravens, Turkey Vultures, Black-billed Magpies. Kevin and I started with hearing and smiling about the melodic descending warbles and chatty "whits" of Canyon Wrens - Kevin heard the call of a Chukar. We saw Bighorn Sheep aplenty, as we searched the cliffs for Golden Eagle Nests, which we found, with no occupants or adult eagles seen anywhere. There was a solitary Mule Deer fawn up on the slopes near some of the bighorns. Kevin's great ear for and recognition of bird calls and songs helped us cue in to quite a few smaller birds like Goldfinch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-winged Blackbird. A prairie Falcon stooping on a raven caught Kevin's eye as the two zoomed down behind a far ridge, before disappearing from view faster than I could spin around and see it. But there almost always is a Prairie Falcon to be seen somewhere along the road at that end, if one takes the time. I will take more next trip.

Violet-green Swallows were seen at various road-cut cliffs. The nesting Bald Eagles are again at the Mile 15 1/2 Ponderosa Pine - The head of one was barely visible in the nest. Some ducks (Common Mergansers and others) were seen flying low close to the river or actually floating on it. Nice to see the water much higher than last year. Robins, Starlings and Rock Pigeons were seen at a few of our stops. One Black-capped Chickadee was heard in the trees at Umtanum RA- a crystal clear "dee-dee", nicely imitated by Kevin. The call stood out easily from the multitude of House Finches there. Every so often, especially at the Umtanum Recreation area, we would see bigger groups of Turkey Vultures (one group of 9 was impressive) and a good number of Common Ravens moving around at or above various cliffs and ridges. The most exciting sight was to see 2 hell-bent ravens, tuck and dive towards a cut inbetween cliff groups - a momentary flash of bravado - the v-shape of the pulled-in wings reminded me of a Blue-Angel performance - guess they would have been the "Black Angels" (Devils ?). :-)

A short list of species seen as I drove eastward toward MP4 on Canyon Rd: Great-Blue Heron, Common Raven, nesting Osprey in 2 spots, about 6 Red-tailed Hawks, perched on poles and one Belted Kingfisher diving into the Yakima River for fish.

As the sun was doing its farewell in an almost cloudless sky, I checked on the Great Horned Owls at the nest along Umptanum Rd. - saw one adult in a tree next to the nest tree and could see a couple of ear tufts sticking up from within the nest - the pair was there, so I pulled off the road just up from the nest and sat and watched each of the adults leave for the night's hunt, heading west of the nest after pausing briefly enroute, to look around from the top of a utility pole across the road. Always nice to end a CWA trip with a GHOW or two, silhouetted against a sunset sky.

Already looking forward to future spring trips back to this area, with the promise of more birds, more landscape color and more surprises.

Driving back to Seattle I was accompanied by Orion, the hunter, in the sky ahead of me. No highway work or many cars shared the road with me and the right-lane, lumbering semis on their night missions were well-behaved. Until I reached Hwy 405 and the 'minor' inconvenience of having only one lane and having to drive up to Lynnwood to get back to Seattle and home. Now that was bizarre, but low traffic made it not-too high of a blood-pressure experience.

Some photos from the trip - photography wasn't the 'focus' as much as the looking and listening and soaking in the general ambience of the fine day !


Barb Deihl
Matthews Beach Neighborhood - NE Seattle
barbdeihl at comcast.net

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