Date: 2/22/18 9:45 am From: Shep Thorp <shepthorp...> Subject: [Tweeters] WOS Winter Trip Sat. 2/17-2/19 to Okanogan Highlands and Waterville Plateau
we had a wonderful winter trip to the Okanogan Highlands and Waterville Plateau for the Washington Ornithological Society Annual Trip. We observed 75 species, saw many of our target species, and safely endured two days of snow with chilly temperatures in the teens and twenties with a windy Sunday, gusts up to 30 miles per hour.
Highlights included Snowy Owl, Gray Partridge, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray-crowned Rosie Finch, Northern Goshawk, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak, Northern Pygmy Owl, Snow Bunting, and Sharp-tailed Grouse.
On our going over day, unofficial - Friday 2/16, many attendees picked up 1 or 2 SNOWY OWL, on H Road, NE of Mansfield, near 17th. I observed one on G Rd near 15th during my scout in January. We were able relocate an owl on Monday driving north on H Road on the east side of the road just before 17th for our entire group to enjoy. I saw LESSER GOLDFINCH and COMMON REDPOLL, along with other expected species at the Sutherland home feeder in Chelan.
On Saturday 2/17 the forecast for Omak, our base, was for rain and temperatures in the 30's degrees Fahrenheit. The snow level was approximately 2,000 ft, so I decided to go to the Okanogan Highlands to bird in the snow over the rain. This paid off as we got to bird the day in snow instead of rain.
Fancher Road and flats was quiet at 7am, although scout trips in January reported good number of Chukar later in the morning, so perhaps we were too early. I decided to drive up Siwash Creek Road which connects to Oberg and Tonasket-Havillah Rd, because in January I observed 30 plus Sharp-tailed Grouse feeding in Water Birch 2 miles up the road. Unfortunately we did not observe the grouse, but had our first COMMON REDPOLL and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK.
On Havillah Rd, between Havillah and Nealy Rd, we had great views of GRAY PARTRIDGE adjacent to a farm.
There is a new feeder on Nealy Rd, at a home on the south side of the road, after the turn off from Havillah Rd and before Grange Rd, that was good for CLARK'S NUTCRACKER and MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE. The Nealy Rd feeder at Highlands Meadow (Nicki Girard's mothers home) was fairly active with a single GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH, COMMON REDPOLL, and great looks at MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, DOWNY WOODPECKER and AMERICAN GOLDFINCH. I spoke to the owner and she has *not* seen regular numbers of visiting Rosy-Finch. The Hungry-Hollow Rd feeder (Gary Eagle's place and the Forge) was good for MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE and CALIFORNIA QUAIL.
We headed back down to the Highlands Snow-Park in Havillah, and had great looks at GRAY JAY and BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER. We also had nice looks at GOLDEN EAGLE.
On Hungry-Hollow Rd between Grange Rd and Chesaw Rd we located a flock of 125 GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCH (mostly Hepburn or gray cheeked coastal variety with a few brown cheeked interior variety) that were perched on a power line and feeding from disturbed ground near cattle at a ranch and vegetation poking through the snow. I felt very fortunate to come across this flock of birds.
By the time we arrived in Chesaw, our vehicles were encrusted in snow. After some maintenance we checked out Bolster Rd which was good for NORTHERN SHRIKE and RUFFED GROUSE. The cemetery was quiet, but on our way out of town we located a immature NORTHERN GOSHAWK which put on a fabulous show with great looks and photo's, and pointed the way to a flock of BOHEMIAN WAXWING with a single PINE GROSBEAK in the mix.
Mary Ann Creek Road was quiet in the late afternoon. We did find our only NORTHERN PYGMY OWL of the trip and had additional ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK.
Sunday 2/18 was forecast to be colder, temperatures in the twenties, with snow and wind. We chose to bird Conconully, north Cameron Lake Rd, and hot spots around Lake Pateros.
Sadly, no grouse for us at Scotch Creek Wildlife Area, but other birders did see grouse on Monday. We did have a wonderful walk up and down Happy Hill Road with GREAT HORNED OWL x 2 in the Water Birch. And GOLDEN EAGLE, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, and NORTHERN GOSHAWK actively hunting the area. Many COMMON RAVEN were soaring around and hunting small mammals from the hill side, possibly voles. Conconully's feeders were good for RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, PYGMY NUTHATCH, WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, DARK-EYED JUNCO (Oregon and Cassiar variety), and VARIED THRUSH. We dipped on Townsend's Solitaire and Red Crossbill.
By the time we got to north Cameron Lake Rd, the wind was howling with snow obscuring visibility, and snow drifts crossed the road making driving difficult. Birding from the cars, we did get very nice looks at good numbers of SNOW BUNTING and HORNED LARK, especially at the ranch on Timentwa Rd. Coming off the plateau and meandering through protected sagebrush and pine, we did find a nice flock of 100 plus COMMON REDPOLL foraging in sage and a GOLDEN EAGLE perched in a pine.
At Bridgeport State Park, we found 4 NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL roosting in conifers, we were careful not to disturb as it appears they have had many visitors with all the foot prints in the snow.
Washburn Island gave us three falcons, AMERICAN KESTREL, MERLIN and PEREGRINE FALCON. We also had nice looks at COMMON LOON, HOODED MERGANSER, HORNED GREBE, BUFFLEHEAD, COMMON GOLDENEYE, SCAUP, NORTHERN HARRIER and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW.
Monday was our best weather day with clear sunny skies and cold temperatures in the teens. We started the day with nice looks of approximately 15 SHARP-TAILED GROUSE at West Foster Creek Wildlife Area on Bridgeport Hill. As I mentioned, we relocated a SNOWY OWL on H Rd, NE of Mansfield, near 17th Rd, which was an exciting time for our group. We observed additional SNOW BUNTING. We checked the thicket at the abandoned farm on Heritage Rd hoping to relocate 20 plus American Tree Sparrow that I had seen there on my scout trip in January. No sparrows, but we did inadvertently flush a LONG-EARED OWL.
Division Road south of the connection with Central Ferry Canyon Road, was good for additional GRAY PARTRIDGE, GREAT HORNED OWL and RED-TAILED HAWK. Looking for Horned Lark flocks on F Rd north of 8th or Spraurer, we came across a beautiful PRAIRIE FALCON which flushed up large flocks of HORNED LARK and SNOW BUNTING foraging in the canola fields beyond our line of sight.
The Lamoine Windbreak was quiet for us with three COMMON REDPOLL and one RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH. I did stop by Calliope Crossing, the Graevell's home feeders, and observed additional Mountain Chickadee and Clark's Nutcracker on Badger Mountain on my way home.
All in all a pretty nice winter trip with many special birds to enjoy and photograph. We dipped on Great Gray, Red Crossbill, and American Tree Sparrow, but that was easily made up for by the wonderful time and other terrific sightings. Many thanks to all the intrepid birders who made the effort and the trip. Ruth, Jay, Susan, Scott, Lin, Megan, George, Terry, Kyle, Hannah, Vicki, Jim and Carol were great attendees with consideration, cooperation, patience and appreciation for the moment.
Until next year, happy winter birding! The Okanogan and Waterville Plateau our treasures to our state, all year round.