Central Washington ABC Trip 2018

Nineteen ABC birders gazed upon this type of snowy landscape on our annual Okanogan trip.

Saturday the ABC group of 19 birders and 5 vehicles met at 7:30 at the Snoqualmie Pass rest stop and headed east. First stop was Confluence park in Wenatchee where the warmed rest room was used and we briefly scoped the river, yielding a few ducks and grebes, but really less than usual. From there we headed to the Waterville Plateau. On the ride up the hill from Orondo we saw two soaring Golden Eagles, for nice views. Near Waterville we started seeing the first of a good number of Rough-legged hawks,
This beautiful dark morph RLHA was seen later in the trip.

and our first Northern shrike. As we got out onto the plateau we found a flock of 25 Snow buntings, and lots of modest sized flocks of Horned larks, from a few birds up to 50-75 birds each, but no massive flocks.We also found two flocks of Gray partridge (26 birds between them), starting off a fabulous “chicken” finding weekend.
We then headed for the area where Shep Thorpe and others reported an interesting bunting, possibly a McKay’s bunting in a flock of SNBU and HOLA. We found what we suspect is the same flock on the highway, and quickly located a very white bunting, that we think may have been the same bunting. We tried for digiscope photos, but the flock was very active and skittish, and adequate photos eluded us. After review we changed the ID later to a Snow/McKay’s bunging. In the same area Ken also spotted a group of 8 large grouse beside the road, and on looking they were Greater Sage grouse, a winter first for Ken’s groups. Pat got a photo flying. Earlier we had seen plenty of California quail, so this brought us to 3 species of gallinaceous birds.
At Heritage Road we followed the footsteps of other birders from the day before to find American tree sparrows with good looks for nearly everyone.
American Tree Sparrow

From here we headed for Omak to stay at the Omak Inn, have dinner at the Breadline, and be ready for the 7:15AM start the next day.
Sunday we headed for Tonasket where at the Country Gas Station we found 5 thistle feeders on the adjacent apartment building after Ken and I spotted a flock of small finches, that turned out to be about 30 AMGO and on careful one Common redpoll in the top of the tree by the road. Two Cooper’s hawks and one Sharp-shinned hawk looked on from a tree a few streets away. Four Clark’s nutcrackers were spotted on a distant fir treetop, and we gleefully headed up the hill toward Havillah.
First stop was on Fancher Road where we we found large numbers of Chukar in the first feed lot, and as we continued added to the estimated 80 Chukar about 100+ California quail, and 40 Gray partridge.

California quail in deep snow

No Golden eagles there, but we did find a Prairie falcon on a power pole, that gave a great fly-by for photo ops.
Prairie Falcon

On the way to Siwash Rd we stopped to look at a Sharp-shinned hawk perched on a barbed-wire fence by a feed lot.
Sharp-shinned hawk

From there we took a new route on Siwash Creek Road, across Havillah Rd from the Fancher area. A couple of weeks earlier a birder had an impressive list there, and the day prior Shep had a large flock of Sharp-tailed grouse. We drove the loop, and shortly after heading up the hill on the right in trees were two STGR feeding high in the trees, very close to the road for great looks and photo ops for all. The rest of the drive was scenic, but not birdy.
Sharp-tailed grouse on Siwash Rd.

The rest of the day on in the highlands was typical, few birds but the ones we saw were good ones. We came across a very low and close flock of Bohemian waxwings.

Bohemian waxwings

At a feed lot beside Hungry Hollow Rd was a large flock of Snow buntings, and up to 30 Gray-crowned rosy finches for distant foggy looks. We found a merlin on a distant treetop, who made a pass at a Golden eagle as the eagle soared nearby. Pat got great photos of the interaction. On Mary Ann Creek Rd Bryan located a Northern Pygmy Owl after Shelley saw a bird fly down the hillside.
Northern Pygmy Owl

We ended day two listening to a Great-horned owl at the Havillah Sno Park.
Sunday we decided to go to the north end of Cameron Lake Loop Road to try for White-headed woodpecker. At the usual place by the American flag over the road a pair of WHWO zoomed in to a recorded drumming playback, and gave nice looks on a high tree.
We also had a distant White-breasted nuthatch, but could not find Pygmy nuthatch. On the drive Mic (our Check Republic Rotary Exchange student birder, spotted a Ruffed grouse high in a tree, for more great looks, and closing out our “six-chicken” trip.
Ruffed grouse

The rest of the drive was foggy, and except for a flock of American Tree sparrows seen only by the first car, and a tough to ID distant raptor seen by the back car (? Gyr?) the rest of the drive was uneventful.
A great trip. 67 species, and for me 31 FOY Washington species.

One thought on “Central Washington ABC Trip 2018

  1. Thanks for documenting and illustrating this great trip, Ed. It really was a fun event with a great start to a new bird year.

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