3-Day Central Washington Trip

Lupen in full glory under pine forest at Wenas Campground

We met at my house at 6 AM and headed east to Ashford, across Skate Creek Road to Packwood, and then east on Hwy. 12. After a brief stop in Ashford hoping for Evening grosbeak for my Pierce year list was not successful we next stopped at Kuupfenburg Lake, a tiny montaine lake just west of White Pass looking for ducks and warblers. Only 4 species, Townsend’s warbler singing, and no ducks at all. Barrow’s goldeneye are usual breeders there, we saw them earlier in June on our birdathon, but not this time. Not to be denied we saw a Barrow’s goldeneye a few miles farther east, but in Yakima County at Dog Lake (on the left of Hwy 12).
Our biggest stop of the day, and our most disappointing of the trip, was at Bethyl Ridge, where we spent nearly 4 hours over about 7 miles largely looking for woodpeckers. We found only Hairy woodpeckers (4) and N. flickers (3) but not the hoped for Williamson’s sapsuckers, Three-toed and Black-backed woodpeckers. We did get nice looks at a female Western bluebird, Townsend’s solitaire, but left with 32 species.
We next stopped at a place new for us, Bear Canyon where large rocky cliffs and a riparian habitat hosted 3 Rock wrens, a Canyon wren I was able to hear but sang only twice and Ken could not get onto, and Nashville warblers singing.
From here we headed to Oak Creek Canyon, with a brief stop just before getting there at the White-throated swift viewing area pullout (6 seen) where we enjoyed lots of Lewis’s woodpeckers, a distant soaring Golden eagle, one Ash-throated flycatcher (near the entrance), Yellow-breasted chat, and a nice variety of breeding passerines.
Dinner was early (4:30 PM) at Subway in Naches, and then on the drive into Wenas we mads a circuitous route of farm roads, adding our first Swainson’s hawk and lots of birds of agricultural fields.
We made stops at Wenas Lake and Hardy Canyon and made an incidental eBird list of a Northern Harrier harassing a Red-tailed Hawk (FOY Yakima County for both birds). A walk around the Wenas Ccampground near dusk yielded 2 distant Common nighthawks and a silent Gray flycatcher.
After pitching camp and putting on warmer clothes we headed down Dry Creek Road and parked near the gate at the end. It was quite windy and though I was able to hear two or three distant calling Common poorwills Ken was not able to hear them. We both heard and saw a Western Screech Owl though just after dark at close range a short walk from the gate.

No luck on Ferruginous Owl though, and we headed for camp and a short night’s sleep about 11 PM.

Sunday morning we awoke early, just before sunrise, and headed out Hog Creek road hoping for Red-naped sapsucker and White-headed woodpeckers. We heard and saw lots more Gray flycatchers, heard two drumming RNSAs, saw huge numbers of Cassin’s finches, two White-headed nuthatches, and had a beautiful morning walk, but no WHWO until we were back in the campground. Just as we were giving up, having walked back on Hog Creek Road and started to circle back to our tent a WHWO flew right by us. Ken saw it and we both relocated it and got nice looks. It was nice to see again after missing these in 2016. I was reminded that they are Hairy Woodpecker size. After a quick breakfast and breaking camp we drove out Dry Creek to just before the creek crossing. We spent some time looking for hummingbirds, but none were found. We especially had hoped for Calliope but not this day.
We left Wenas campground about 9:20 AM and headed out to bird the lower road (Maloy Road) where we had great luck. I was able to hear a Least Flycatcher calling as we drove in, and after some looking we got pretty good looks, and heard the definitive che-bek calls. While ther two Gray Catbirds sang and showed themselves, and we found a nesting pair of Red-nape sapsuckers at their nest hole.
Next we headed north toward Ellensburg. We moved fairly quickly, did manage to see a Mountain Bluebird, Brewer’s and Vesper sparrows.
Our next stop was at the Egret/Comorant rookery at the N Potholes Preserve. We incredibly missed finding Black-crowned night-heron there (and neer found one the whole trip!) but did see Lark sparrows, lots of Forester’s terns, and totaled 35 species there. Ken had a distant Black Tern that I could not get into view.
Next was a stop on Moses Lake, at Perch Point (actually near there on a new entrance road to us) and we failed to find a Franklin’s gull, but looked over thousands of distant gulls on two islands along with a few water birds, and a fellow with 6 Labrador Retrievers (one a charming Basset Hound- Lab mix) chatted us up a bit after a comical routine of herding them all into his van using a referee whistle.
From here we drove to Othello where we found the Burrowing Owls just where Bruce guided us. They were on an irrigation ditch about 0.3 miles down Lemaster Road from it’s turn off Lee Road off Hwy 17.
snagged a hotel room at the Quality Inn,and dinner at a nice Mom & Pop Mexican food place before finishing the day at the County Line Ponds where we got the expected specialties including nesting American Avocets and Black-necked stilts, Wilson’s phalaropes, a Ringed-neck Duck and left in time to scout the Para Ponds before bedtime. No luck with TCBL that evening.

American Avocet on a nest at County Line Ponds

Sleeping in a comfortable bed, after a good meal and a shower felt great, so we slept well if not long.
We were up at 5:30 Monday to eat at the hotel buffet (opened at 5:30 7 days a week) and had better luck. Inside the dike roads past the no treapass sign at the feed business we located the flock of TCBL when Ken saw a possible bird fly overhead and land in a big patch of sword grass. We scoped it and were pretty sure most of the flock there was Tricolored blackbirds. After walking back to the entrance, then down the road behind the building back towards town about 3-400 yards, we got to the flock, and sure enough lots of TCBL mixed with a few YHBL and less RWBL. By far the biggest flock either of us has seen in WA. Good to know where now.
From here we headed to the Columbia NWR, and I spotted an American Bittern on the way on the R side of the road just past the Para Ponds, doing it’s hide in place and look like the grass thing. Good looks and photos were easy.
We finished the trip with a drive across the NWR on the dirt road, with several stops looking for Canyon wren without luck, but finding Yellow Chat at the usual stop, just a very few ducks on the lakes, and got to Moses Lake. There we tried for both Franklin’s gull and the Long-tailed grackle that had been found at the boat launch, all without luck. At the campground we had another Gray Catbird, and then tried at a feeder in a nearby trailer park for hummers at a feeder, but none were present. Stops on the way home were to miss the Black-chinned sparrow at the usual spot near Ginkgo / Vantage, and to get White Pelican in the Columbia just beyond Wanapum Dam. We had lunch at Getty Cove, and headed home. A quick stop at Bullfrog Pond yielded a Wilow flycatcher, another Gray catbird and a nice variety of passerines.

Totals for the trip:

Total Species: 146

FOY Washington Species; 26

Yakima County Species: 92 First Yakima County per eBird: 9 — Yakima life list total 112

Adams County Species: 53 first Adams County per eBird: 8 — Adams life list total 110

Grant County Species: 71 first Grant County per eBird: 9 – Grant life list 132

FOY Kittitas County Species: 17 (YTD 90) first Kittitas County per eBird: 2 — Kittitas life list total 154

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