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Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Iím off on a birding trip again, this time to southeastern Washington, doing county birding.† Iím trying to see at least 39 different species in each of Washingtonís 39 counties, a project I started three years ago.† When I started, I hadnít even heard of some of Washingtonís 39 counties, let alone visited them.† Earlier this year I completed my first goal, which was to bird in each county and list some birds.† Now Iím working on the second stage, which is to see at least 39 different species in each of the 39 counties.† As of this morning, I had seen 39 species in 25 counties, thus leaving 14 more to go.† On this trip, Iím hoping to complete 6 more counties in southeastern Washington by getting them to 39 species.† Two of the counties should be easy, two of them difficult, and two of them in between.† I plan to be out for five days/four nights, which leaves three full days for birding and two half days, due to travel.† It is about a four hour drive from home to this part of the state.
Today I got away about 9:40 and got here to Benton county about 1 PM.† My first birding stop was Horn Rapids county park, which I hadnít ever visited before.† People report lots of birds I need there, but I didnít do very well, which didnít surprise me, really.† It was the middle of the day, and the birds people see there would be a lot easier in the early morning, and seeing them would also involve walking for an hour or two.
It was only about 82 degrees when I got there, which is fairly cool for this time of year here.† I first drove around the park, scouting it out, but I only saw two or three species, and they were all ones I already had for the county.† I parked in the parking area and walked a little.† I soon saw a flycatcher, a good bird for my county list.† Flycatchers are very difficult, but I believe this one was a Western Wood-Pewee, so Iím putting it on the list.† Here is a picture of that one.
I walked some more, and I did see another flycatcher that would have been great for my county list, but I wasnít sure enough of the identification.† I think it was a Willow Flycatcher, but I couldnít get it to vocalize and I couldnít get it to sit still long enough to get a picture, so I didnít count it.
I drove to the boat ramp to look out over the Yakima River.† There werenít any birds except a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron across the river.† That was an excellent one for my county list, though.† By the way, I should say that I had 28 species in Benton county going into today, so needed to find 11 more to get to the magic number of 39.
Before I left the park I drove around again, and this time I saw another flycatcher, and I was able to identify this one as a Sayís Phoebe, so I left the park with three of the eleven species I needed for the county.
My real hope for reaching my goal was the Yakima River delta.† I hadnít ever birded there before, but I had read a lot of reports about the shorebirds that migrate through the area in September, and people see them on the mud on the Yakima River delta.† I had put up an inquiry on Tweeters, the Western Washington birding listserv, and I had gotten what I thought were good directions to find the delta viewing spot.† I drove there and went down the rough rocky road to the end, like I had been instructed.† Before I got to the end I saw some birds, though, so I stopped and I did manage to pick up one shorebird for my county list, Long-billed Dowitcher.† It was with a bunch of Killdeer, another shorebird, but one I had seen here before.
At the end of the road, there wasnít any mud and there werenít any shorebirds.† I did manage to pick up a couple of duck species for my county list, though Ė Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal.† So, I got three more species there, but I was hoping for much more than that.† The water was very shallow, so I figured maybe the level was too high for shorebirds, although there had been a report just yesterday of lots of them.† The water level is set by a dam downstream on the Columbia River, and it had rained in the last couple of days over here, so I thought maybe that the level was up a few inches from a few days ago.
Somewhat daunted, I headed back.† I didnít know how I would recover; I had been counting on the Yakima River delta.† On the way I saw some large white birds in the distance, swooping around over the water, so I stopped to check them out.† As I thought, they were American White Pelicans, one I needed that I had expected to see there.† So, I had seven species, out of the eleven I needed to find.† Four more to go.† Here is a picture of the Yakima River delta where I saw the pelicans, where the Yakima River flows into the Columbia River.
The pelicans were flying around out beyond those near islands.† As I looked at them with my binoculars, I realized there was some mud out there, to the right of the island on the left, and a little beyond it.† It was a long way away, but I could see there were birds on the mud.† So, I broke out my scope and took a look.† Eureka!† Bonanza!† I had found the mother lode.
They were hundreds of yards away, which I hadnít expected, but I worked my way through the birds, using the highest power on my scope.† I was surprised how well I could identify the birds at that distance.† My ridiculously expensive scope paid off today.† There were some Caspian Terns, a species I had expected to see there.† I saw several Red-necked Phalaropes, stopping off here on their journey from their breeding grounds in the tundra of the far north to the tropical oceans, where they spend the rest of the year, never coming to land for many months.†
There were lots of Western Sandpipers, and I managed to pick out a PECTORAL SANDPIPER, one I actually needed for my year list, as well as my county list.† I saw two or three other sandpiper type birds that were larger than the Western Sandpipers and smaller than the many Killdeer.† I decided they could only be BAIRDíS SANDPIPERS, another one for my year list as well as my county list.† I saw at least one American Avocet and at least one Lesser Yellowlegs, too.† There were some American Coots out there as well.†
I saw some American Wigeons, a duck I needed for my county list, and finally, as I was almost ready to leave I saw a Semipalmated Plover.† All those birds I mentioned except the Killdeer were new for Benton county for me.† As I said, it was a bonanza.† As I was driving out, I saw 5 or 6 ducks in a group and I stopped and checked them out.† Ruddy Duck, still another one for my county list.† So, by the time I left there, I had fifteen species for my county list, and I was at 46 for Benton county.† So, thatís one down, five more counties to go.† I had considered Benton as one of the two medium difficult counties, so that leaves two easy ones, one additional medium one, and two difficult ones.
On my way to my motel I stopped at a pond in Columbia Park, and I got this picture of a male Mallard in eclipse plumage.† In breeding plumage, a male Mallard has an iridescent green head and a solid red-brown breast.† But, from about July to about October or November, they look like this one.† Birders call the non-breeding plumage of ducks eclipse plumage.
All the ducks I saw today were in their eclipse plumage, which makes it harder to identify them.
With the two year-birds I got today, I now have 360 species for the year, and 8 of them are lifers.† Two more of them are US firsts.† I donít expect Iíll see any more year-birds on this trip, although it is barely possible.† Iíll send out reports anyway, to record how I do with my county birding.† Five more counties to go.† Iíll hit three of them tomorrow.† Weíll see how I go.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
I continued my county birding today.† Having taken care of Benton county yesterday, I was free to move right on to Franklin county, just across the river from where I was staying, which was in Benton county.† My first stop was Chiawana Park.† Before I even got to the park, I saw a Eurasian Collared-Dove on a wire, and that was one I needed.† Immediately inside the park was a flock of Canada Geese, another one I needed.† It was a pretty park, and I drove around and walked a little, and I managed to see one California Gull there, which was great.† Oh yes, I had 33 species in Franklin county from two years ago, so I only needed 6 more today.† Three down, three to go.† Franklin county was one of the ones I had considered a medium difficulty one, mainly because I had so few birding sites to check there.
My next stop was a pond referred to as the Dog Pound pond, because it is near the local dog pound (Which is exactly what they call it Ė not animal shelter, but the rather old-fashioned term, dog pound.)† It was a pretty degraded pond, meaning there was lots of invasive vegetation around it, and the water was pretty scummy.† There were ducks on it, though, and I rapidly picked up Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Gadwall, and Pied-billed Grebe for my county list.† There were also a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds around, another one I needed.† So, I had taken care of Franklin county, bringing my total to 41 there.† Time to move on.
Next was Walla Walla county, just across the Snake River.† I had 31 species in Walla Walla county from my only other visit there, back in 2012.† I thought it would be easy to top that up to 39, based on reports I had seen and the number of possible sites I had to check out.† My first stop was the Two Rivers Unit of McNary NWR.† I had seen reports of large numbers of shorebirds there, maybe enough to bring me to 39 by itself.† I drove around, though, and I never found any place where I could even see any habitat for shorebirds, let alone any shorebirds.† I guess you probably had to walk some distance to the river, but I had no idea where to walk, and it was a big place, so I threw in the towel.† As I left one part of it, I did pick up Yellow-rumped Warbler, though, so I had one of the eight species I needed to see in the county.
Next I tried driving across the highway to Dodd Road.† Again, I had seen great reports of huge numbers of shorebirds at some ponds there.† The first time I drove by the ponds, I didnít see any birds at all except some starlings, which I had seen in 2012.† I turned around after a while and came back by the ponds.† This time I did see a large group of birds on the water, maybe 90 or 100 Red-necked Phalaropes, a good one for my county list.† I saw Red-necked Phalaropes in May in Burns, Oregon, this year, when they were on their way north to their breeding grounds in the tundra, and now I was seeing them on their way back south, where they spend their winter at sea in tropical oceans.† Cool.† Here is a small part of the flock of Red-necked Phalaopes.
I carefully scanned the edges of the pond this time, and I spotted a single Pectoral Sandpiper, a species I had seen reported there, and an excellent one for my county list.† Yesterday I added that species to my year list at the Yakima River delta.† There were a few Killdeer there, too.† There also turned out to be three or four Western Sandpipers there, another good one for my lists.† So, I hadnít seen the huge numbers that others had seen a couple of days ago, but I had added five of the eight species I needed for Walla Walla county.† I had several other places to go still, too, so my hopes rose.† Walla Walla county was supposed to be easy, but it was like pulling teeth, it seemed.
I stopped briefly at the grain terminal near the bridge over the Snake River, at the county line, mostly to look for a rare goose that had been reported there recently.† No goose, but I did see a couple of common pigeons, another one I needed for the county.† Six down, only two to go.
Across the highway, I stopped at Hood Park, the other place the rare (in Washington) Rossís Goose had been seen recently.† It supposedly hung out with Canada Geese, and I saw several flocks of Canada Geese, but no Rossís Goose, which would be hard to miss because it is pure white, with black wing tips that you donít see until it flies.† I walked quite a bit around the park, but I didnít see anything else interesting there.† I did get a picture of a Spotted Sandpiper, a species I had seen at that same park in 2012.
Hereís another picture of Spotted Sandpiper with a Killdeer for size comparison.
I was running out of places to visit, but I only needed two more species, so I went to the headquarters area of the McNary NWR, hoping to see some ducks I needed there.† My hopes were rewarded.† There were lots of ducks on the water as I approached the headquarters, and I picked up American Coot, Ruddy Duck, and Pied-billed Grebe to put me over the top.† I turned around at the headquarters, but decided to go down the short road beyond that, to see what I might see.† There were a bunch of Barn Swallows on a wire, and I needed them.† Even better, there was a single Cliff Swallow nearby on another wire, and I needed that one, too.
So, I was done with Walla Walla county and it was only a little after noon.† I was ahead of schedule by a couple of hours, so headed for my next county to get started there.† As I left the area a California Quail flew across the road, so I got another one in Walla Walla county, and as I was going down the highway leaving the county, I saw a Common Raven by the side of the road, still another one I needed.† So, I ended up seeing 14 species in Walla Walla county today, to bring my total there to 45.
It was after noon by then, but I was hoping to get to Columbia county to eat my lunch.† I saw a mileage sign, though and I realized it was too far.† I saw a sign to Charbonneau Park, only 1.5 miles off my route, so I went there and enjoyed half of my Subway tuna sandwich, purchased in Pasco that morning.† I kept the rest of it and got back on the road to Columbia county.† I rated Columbia as a difficult one, and I wanted to get a head start on it.† I had all of tomorrow allocated to Columbia if I needed it, but I was hoping to pick up 3 or 4 birds today.† I only had 27 species in Columbia county, and there arenít any lakes, so ducks, shorebirds, and other water birds were not going to be easy.† I did have a couple of sites on the Snake River to check out, but they didnít sound all that promising, so I was worried about Columbia county.
Anyway, I got to Lewis and Clark Trail State Park about two oíclock and had the second half of my sandwich.† There are two parts to the park, a day use area on the south side of the highway and a camping area on the north side.† I had eaten on the south side in the day use area.† I was familiar with the park because I had visited it two years ago in May, on my only other visit to Columbia county.† I walked around the day use area, playing the calls of Black-capped Chickadee, because I knew they lived there, and I have found them to be responsive to playback.† Before I saw any chickadees, though, I saw a group of Wild Turkeys, a female with four young ones.† So, my count had started.† I stopped at a table and just listened and played the chickadee song, and by golly, I soon heard an answer.† I kept playing it off and on, and the bird slowly approached and finally perched just above me, looking for the chickadee that was calling back to it.† So, I had two.
I went across the road to the camping area and drove around, stopping a few times.† I was playing the calls of Spotted Towhee, but I never got any response, and I didnít see anything for a long time.† Eventually, though, as I was coming to the end of the loop through the camping area, I saw a tree ahead that had a number of birds flitting around it.† As it turned out, there was some kind of fruit on it, and robins were feeding on it.† There were some smaller birds, too, though, and I was pleased to be able to add Cedar Waxwing to my Columbia county list.† Here is a picture of a Cedar Waxwing.† Note the yellow on the tip of its tail, as if the tail had been dipped in yellow paint.† Note also the fruits on the tree that the birds were feeding on.
I love the appearance of Cedar Waxwings Ė they look so sleek, and the black mask is very striking.
As I was moving around trying to get pictures of the waxwings, I heard a tapping in the woods next to me, and it turned out to be a lovely little male Downy Woodpecker, another one I needed for the county.† I tried for pictures, but it was too obscured by the branches and I didnít get any worth showing.† I played its call, trying to entice it out, but that didnít get it out in the open either.† Back to trying for pictures of the waxwings, I spotted another woodpecker high in a tree.† A Pileated Woodpecker, the largest of our woodpeckers.† Here is the best I could do for a picture of that excellent bird.† It wouldnít come out into the open.
I played its call, too, but it didnít seem to notice.† While I was trying for pictures of it, I noticed a couple of smaller woodpeckers, and I figured it was the Downy Woodpecker and another one.† They seemed a bit larger, though, and when I got a good look, I realized that these two were a third woodpecker species, Hairy Woodpecker.† Here is a picture of the two Hairy Woodpeckers.
I had stopped because I saw some robins feeding on fruit in a tree, and I ended up getting Cedar Waxwing and three woodpeckers for my county list.† Outstanding!† I had six for my Columbia county list, when I had hoped to maybe get 3 or 4 there at that park.† But, the fun wasnít over yet.† I decided to go around the campground loop again, as I had plenty of time, and it was only about five miles to Dayton, where I was spending tonight.† The second time, I took a shortcut through the group camp area, which was empty.† That paid off because I saw a large group of California Quail, another one I was looking for at that park.† I got out of the car to try for pictures, but never got any usable ones.† After the quail had dispersed, though, I saw a smaller bird fly up into a tree, and it turned out to be a Hermit Thrush, one I wasnít even hoping to see.† Here is a picture of the Hermit Thrush.† Itís terrible, as there wasnít much light, and I was hand holding the camera at full zoom, so there is a lot of motion blur.
So, I had gotten eight species there at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park, when I had been hoping for 3 or 4, and not sure I would get any at all.† Suddenly Columbia county wasnít looking so tough.† Before I left, I drove across the highway to the day use area again, and I saw the Wild Turkeys again.† I got this picture of one of the juvenile Wild Turkeys.
I drove on into Dayton but it was still only a little after four oíclock, so I drove around town and looked for town birds.† I needed House Finch, House Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco, and I thought I might see some or all of those.† No such luck.† I drove around for over a half hour, but the only birds I ever saw were three Eurasian Collared-Doves, which was at least one I needed in the county.† I donít understand how there could be no songbirds at all in the town, not even any robins or starlings.† It was a warm day, in the high 80ís, so maybe the birds were laying low, but that isnít all that warm for this area in the summer, where it gets up to triple digits regularly and is usually in the 90ís.† I did get one picture here in Dayton today, though.† There were deer in various places, and here is a picture of four fawns.
So, Lewis and Clark Trail State Park had come up trumps for me today.† With the collared-dove here in town, I had nine species in Columbia county today, so I only need three more to make my 39 number.† I had planned a full day tomorrow to do Columbia county, but maybe I can take care of it in the morning and devote the afternoon to the next county, Garfield county, which is the toughest one of the trip.† I only have 22 in Garfield county, and there arenít any lakes there either, so water birds wonít save me.† I have all day Friday devoted to Garfield county, and if I can get a good head start tomorrow, that would be great, because Garfield is going to be a real challenge.† I do have a couple or three sites on the Snake River in Garfield county, and maybe I can get a few water birds there.† Other than that, it is going to be the mountains and farmland, neither of which usually gets me much.
Iíve been to four counties so far on this trip, Iíve been successful in three of them, and I have a great leg up on the fourth for tomorrow.† Weíll see how I do.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
I slept well last night in my fancy-pants Best Western Plus motel in Dayton, and the free breakfast this morning was excellent.† I was up at 7, but by the time I had taken care of morning stuff, fueled up the car, and gotten a ham and cheese sandwich at Subway, it was about 9:15 when I finally hit the road to look for birds.† I had done so well in Columbia county yesterday that I had changed my plan for today, and I headed toward the Snake River and the town of Starbuck, which was on the way.† I only needed three species today, to bring Columbia county up to 39 total.† Before I even got to Starbuck, I spotted several Red-tailed Hawks, one I needed.† Then there was a huge flock of starlings in a field, and I sorted through them and came up with a Brewerís Blackbird, so I had two of my three.† Starbuck was a nice little community, and I drove through the streets there, looking for town birds.† I found a house with a couple of feeders, and I added House Sparrow to my county list, which brought me to the magic 39 number.† It wasnít even ten oíclock yet, though, and I wanted to see the Snake River and Little Goose Dam, so I went on.† I stopped at the very nice boat launch and camping area, Texas Rapids, and there were dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers working the trees there for insects.† I also picked out one Orange-crowned Warbler among them.† Moving on along the Snake River, I spotted three Common Mergansers.† Here is a picture of a Common Merganser.
I wanted to see Little Goose Dam, though, and it turned out to be a good decision.† I picked up Ring-billed Gull and Double-crested Cormorant, which was expected, but then I stopped at the pretty little rest area at the dam visitor center.† There was a little mixed flock of birds feeding in the grass, and I picked up Dark-eyed Junco and White-crowned Sparrow right away.† There was also a Hermit Thrush, which I had counted yesterday at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park.† My picture yesterday was very blurred, so here is a less blurry picture, although it still isnít very good.† Hermit Thrush.
There was also a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the trees above, my first for the trip.† I also saw a Golden-crowned Sparrow in the flock.† My Washington county spreadsheet indicates that there are fewer than five records of Golden-crowned Sparrow in the county, and Iím sure another birder would assume I had misidentified a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow, but I stand by my identification.† I saw it very clearly.† If I had known it was so rare in the county, I would have tried for a picture.
Here is a picture of Little Goose Dam.
To the right of that picture was the rest area, with people fishing.† Here is a picture of that area.
In addition to the nice rest rooms, they had a little building for fish cleaning, with two sinks in it.† It looked like a very pleasant place to fish, if you liked that sort of thing.
As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a larger bird fly into a tree, so I tried to get a look at it.† It flew to another tree, and when I saw it, I had a hard time taking it in.† It was a Townsendís Solitaire, no doubt about it.† I think of them as mountain birds, although I actually saw my first one in the middle the city of Tacoma, where it had been hanging out for a week.† It was only the third one I had ever seen in Washington, and maybe the 6th or 7th one I had ever seen in my life.† It was totally unexpected, of course.† As it turned out, it wasnít a year bird, though, because I had seen one in Oregon in May this year.† Still, it was a great addition to my Columbia county list.
As I left the Little Goose Dam area, I stopped to take this picture of the dam, showing the dry hills around it and the Snake River.† You canít even see the dam, but the picture shows the area around it.
That stop turned out to be one of the highlights of my day, though.† Since I was already out of the car, and since I had seen reports of Rock Wren in the area and the habitat looked good for it, I played the song of Rock Wren.† After a minute or so, a wren flew in and I got a good look at it.† It didnít seem quite right for Rock Wren, though.† I thought they were less colorful.† It turned out that it was a lovely little Canyon Wren.† Wrens often respond to the calls of other wren species, I have noticed.† Here is a picture of one of the three Canyon Wrens that ended up flying in and showing themselves.
Is that tail beautiful, or what?† As it turned out, a Rock Wren also flew in, although it was less cooperative for picture taking.† I chased it for a while, and I eventually got this picture of a Rock Wren.† You can see how less colorful it is, compared to the Canyon Wren.
I guess it was about to move on; note how its right foot is off the ground.† Here is another picture of Rock Wren that I like, because of the lighting and the background.
That one appears to me like it is a different bird from the one before, so I guess there were at least two Rock Wrens there, along with at least three Canyon Wrens.
So, with my two wrens, I was up to 51 species in Columbia county, completely blowing away my goal of 39 species.† It was still before noon, so I abandoned my original plan to go up into the Blue Mountains, and I headed for Garfield county, which I was expecting to be my hardest one.† I had expected to spend most of today completing Columbia county, but I had gotten such a huge number of birds yesterday at the state park that I was done early today.† I had planned to spend all of Friday on Garfield county, but now I had a chance to get a good head start on it, and it wasnít even noon yet on Thursday.
Most of Garfield county is boring farmland, but there are also mountains and the Snake River.† I had birded in the mountains two years ago, the only other time I have been to the county, so I wanted to check out the Snake River sites on this trip, then go up into the mountains as necessary after that.
My first destination was Central Ferry, which I guess must have had a ferry at one time, but now there is a bridge there.† Here is a picture of what it looks like as you approach Central Ferry from the south side of the Snake River.
I saw some Rock Pigeons in the fields as I approached, my first new one for Garfield county.† There were Canada Geese on the water, too, so that was two.† Some Ring-billed Gulls made it three.† Then, from the grain terminal on the south side of the river, I saw a Red-necked Grebe.† That surprised me, and when I checked my Washington county spreadsheet tonight, I found that Red-necked Grebe was coded red for Garfield county, meaning there are fewer than five records for the county.† It was just like the Golden-crowned Sparrow earlier in the day, a rarity for the county.† This time I got pictures, though, and here is one of them.† It sure looks like a Red-necked Grebe to me.
Red-necked Grebe breeds in inland Canada and it winters along the west coast, so it seems reasonable to me that one might be migrating through here at this time of year.† This bird is pretty scruffy looking, which indicates it is molting from breeding plumage to winter plumage.† I guess today was my day for county rarities.
I went up Deadman Creek Road, heading for various Snake River sites.† I stopped at the Central Ferry market, which is open only on Saturdays from 9 to 5.† I suppose that is a winter schedule.† There was a little trailer park there, though, and I looked around.† I got this picture of a Sayís Phoebe there, a good one for my county list.
There was a little flock of sparrows there, too, but most were Chipping Sparrows, one I already had for the county.† I did see a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in a tree, though, and that added to my Garfield county list.
I took the turn off to Willow Landing, on the Snake River.† I stopped at one point to take a picture of the Snake River.
While I was taking the picture, a Northern Harrier happened to fly by, along the river, an excellent one for my county list.† I also heard the call of Belted Kingfisher, and turned around quickly enough to get a look at it flying to a perch.† I just happened to stop to take a picture there, and I got two more for my county list.† Birding can be interesting.
There wasnít much at Willow Landing but a lot of magpies, which I didnít need.† I did see a Yellow-rumped Warbler, though, so that went on my list.† As I retraced my steps along the river, I picked up White-crowned Sparrow, another one for my list.† I also got this picture of a male American Kestrel, showing his pretty colors.† Check out the flying insects.
Back at Deadmanís Creek Road, I followed the signs for Lower Granite Dam, another place I wanted to visit.† Along the way I picked up Barn Swallows, sitting on a wire.† There were some juvenile ones there, too, which kind of stumped me at first, until I saw one of them being fed by an adult.† It was getting late and I was getting pretty hungry, so I stopped at Lambi Creek recreational area and had my ham and cheese Subway sandwich.† While I was eating, I heard a California Quail give its distinctive Chi-ca-go call, so that one went on my list, since I count heard-only birds now, if Iím sure of the identification.
Fortified by the calories, I continued on to Lower Granite Dam.† I saw a Common Merganser in the river, so that was one more.† That was number 36 for the county, and I was starting to think I might complete the county today, and be able to head for home a day early.
When I reached the dam, I stopped at the visitor center and went in.† There was a fish viewing room, where you could see the salmon that were heading upriver to breed.† Some of them were well over two feet long.† The dams are very high, but they obviously have some scheme to enable the fish to get past them.† I wanted to ask if the road went beyond the dam, because I was originally planning to travel that way, due to what I had seen on Google Maps.† I didnít see anyone, though, so I just took the road to the top of the dam.† I found it interesting that you can actually drive across the dams, both Lower Granite and Little Goose.† It is restricted to certain times of the day and you have to show picture ID, for security reasons, but you can drive over to the other side of the river, in both cases.† I wasnít interested in doing that, but I was very interested to see that you could do it.
I went on beyond Lower Granite Dam to Offield Landing, a boat launch and recreational area.† I got out of the car there to try playing the Rock Wren song, and I immediately saw a Pied-billed Grebe.† Here is a picture.
I like the way it is looking over its shoulder at me, as it swims away.† That was number 37 for the county.† I was definitely going to be able to complete Garfield today.† I moved along the rocky edge of the river, playing my Rock Wren song, but I never saw any wrens.† I did see a Spotted Sandpiper, though, and here is a picture.
That was number 38.† Almost there.
The road that went beyond the dam looked pretty primitive, so I decided to take the paved road to Pomeroy, my destination for tonight.† That meant backtracking for 20 miles or so, but it was the faster route.† At one point along the river, when the habitat looked good for it, I stopped and again played the Rock Wren song.† This time two of them responded and flew in to take a look at me.† That was number 39 for Garfield county.† It was only 3 PM, and I was done!† Amazing.† I have been very lucky on this trip.
I continued on the roads to Pomeroy, and at one point I saw some large birds crossing the road ahead of me. I stopped, and it turned out to be a mama Ring-necked Pheasant and four little ones, almost full grown.† I had an insurance bird, in case I had made a mistake in my counting, which has happened.
I got to Pomeroy about 4 oíclock, which was too early to call it a day, so I drove around town looking for town birds for my list.† It took a long time, but eventually I did see a Eurasian Collared-Dove, one I needed for the county.† I turned into the town cemetery, in case I could see some sparrows in the grass, and I picked up Killdeer, my final one for the day for Garfield county.† That brought me to 42 species here.† I was done.
So, I have gotten to 39 in five counties now.† I had planned to stay another day, but there isnít much point now, so I plan to head for home tomorrow.† I have one more county to top off, Whitman county.† I have 37 there, though, so Iím expecting it to be easy.† I go through a corner of Whitman county on my way home anyway, and I plan to spend as much time as I need to there to get it up to 39 before I head for home.† Iím a little more than four hours from home here, but I want to beat the traffic on I-405, so I want to be home by 3 at the latest.† As long as I donít have a problem picking up my two species in Whitman county tomorrow, I should be fine.
I want to mention that Iím staying in the Pioneer Motel tonight, in Pomeroy.† Itís the only motel in Garfield county, as far as I can tell.† Pomeroy is the only town in the county, with a population of about 1400.† This is rural America, folks.† The owner of the motel calls it a ďmom and popĒ motel, and thatís a good description.† It doesnít look like much, but my room smells fresh, it has a little fridge and microwave (and the fridge has a freezer compartment for my blue ice packs, which the one in the Best Western Plus didnít have), it has a queen bed and air conditioning that is quite efficient.† It has a desk to work at.† Best of all, it is only 40 bucks a night, compared to 108 bucks for the fancy-pants place in Dayton.† It must be the last motel in the country to not have wi-fi, but Iím able to connect by tethering my cell phone to my laptop and using my Verizon data plan.† They donít even have a website.† I found them on the Garfiled county website.† No free breakfast here either.† It is basic, but for the price, it is just fine for the Old Rambler.† I consider it a ďfindĒ.
So, the trip is mostly over now.† I only have the four-plus hour drive home tomorrow now, with enough stops in Whitman county to get two more species there.† It has been an extremely successful trip in terms of birds, and Iíve enjoyed it all.† What a life!
Friday, September 11, 2015
Today was a travel day, coming home.† It was about a four and a half hour drive, but I needed to pick up two species in Whitman county, to bring my total there to 39.† I crossed the Central Ferry bridge into Whitman county and stopped at the entrance to the state park there.† The park itself has been closed for years, but there was a small parking area with some trees around it, so I drove through.† I listened and I thought I heard birds, so I got out.† I soon spotted a couple of birds in a tree nearby, and they turned out to be Yellow-rumped Warblers, one I needed for the county.† So, it was one down, one to go.
I drove across the road into an industrial park with grain elevators and train cars on sidings.† I saw starlings, House Sparrows, and Brewer's Blackbirds, but I already had all those species for Whitman.† I drove on through the industrial area and got this picture of an Osprey in the morning light.
I already had Osprey, too, but I can't pass up a picture opportunity for Osprey.
Driving out of the area, I saw some birds on a wire.† Most of them were starlings, but there were a couple of smaller birds, and they were Barn Swallows, another one I needed for Whitman county.† I had my two species, and it wasn't even nine-thirty AM yet.† Time to boogie for home.
I couldn't help but notice a couple of American Kestrels as I drove along, and so I had an insurance bird for my count.† Then there were two male Ring-necked Pheasants in the road, and I added that one to my Whitman county list.
Soon after that, there was a bunch of sparrows by the road, so I turned around and went back to check them out.† OK, I didn't actually need any more species to get to my 39 number, but I was birding, and these were birds.† Some of them were House Sparrows, but as I started up again, I saw a different one and I turned into a driveway and got this picture of a Song Sparrow, another one for my county list.
At that same point, a Savannah Sparrow posed for me - another one for my county list.
In all three of those pictures, the morning light was coming from the left and from behind the birds.† In each case I was looking south pretty much, and the birds were facing west.† Light from behind isn't usually desirable, but I think the effect is actually kind of nice in all three of these pictures.
That brought me up to 43 species for Whitman county, and I didn't stop again to look at any birds, although I did add Osprey to my Adams county list without stopping.† I had a nice drive home and I beat the Friday afternoon traffic, although things were just starting to slow down at 2:15 as I came up the home stretch on I-405.
So, it was a very successful trip.† I topped off all six counties I was aiming at, and I came home a day early to boot.† Now I have done my 39 in all the counties east of the Cascades.† I still have eight counties in Western Washington to bring up to 39, so I hope to get out this fall and finish those off.