Here some of the highlights of my annual 4th-of-July trip to the Okanogan:
7/3: Robinson Canyon, Vantage, Okanogan Highlands
I woke up to the call of a single Common Poorwill at Robinson Canyon near Thorp. I then briefly tried for Black-throated Sparrow along Huntzinger Rd in Vantage – with no success. Sage, Lark and Brewer’s Sparrows, plus a boat load of (mostly young) Sage Thrashers were still along the Old Vantage Hwy.
There was no Least Flycatcher at the little picnic area at 97 & Okanogan River. First time I can remember. Reason might be that there were hardly any mosquitos present.
Also no Grasshopper Sparrows about 1.4mi up Soap Lake Rd. The habitat looks to be very much degraded due to cattle grazing. A Sage Thrasher was about 1.9mi up and Little Soap Lake had a nice assortment of ducks including several Redhead and a Wilson’s Phalarope.
About 1.9mi up Nine Mile Rd, coming from Oroville, there was a Clay-colored Sparrow in a waterbirch/rosehip cluster.
I met up with Mike Fleming at the Highlands Sno-Park. No Great Gray Owl for us, yet a Barred Owl was heard late.
7/4: Briefly Okanogan Highlands, Sinlahekin Valley and Okanogan Cascades
Early at the Alder Flycatcher spot along Havillah Rd (just south of Teas Rd), there were 2 Trail’s Flycatchers with weird songs. They sounded like neither Willow nor Alder. Maybe decendents of hybrids? A few Willows were also present.
Mike and I again had the Clay-colored Sparrow early in the morning. The bird was singing as well. A pair of Dusky Grouse was also in the area. And many Vesper Sparrows. We then split and went separate ways for the day.
A Least Flycatcher was calling along Ellisforde Bridge Rd not far from its intersection with 97 in Ellisforde. About 1mi north of Tonasket, a Eurasian Collared-Dove was on the wire along Westside Rd.
Connor Lake south of Loomis was active mid-morning, even though I could not find an American Redstart there. 2 singing Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, several Veery and plenty of Catbirds.
I then took a mid-afternoon drive up FR39 where I had a Williamson’s Sapsucker a little ways down from the Iron Gate turnoff (FR500). 2 Three-toed Woodpeckers were at the first cattle guard along FR500 en route to Iron Gate. On a hike out of the Iron Lake trailhead, I learned that the Horseshoe Basin has also been devastated by the Tripod Fire. I only went about 0.8mi to the first burnt area where there were only sticks left. There were a pair of Three-toed and a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers. I was surprised to find a loudly calling male Black-backed Woodpeckers in this burn as well. No Boreal Chickadees on this hike though.
Lewis’s Woodpeckers can still be easily found in the snag row as you descend from FR39 into Loomis (I even had a soaring bird!).
Mike’s Bobolink field at 3.8mi up Havillah Rd from Tonasket had 2 males late afternoon.
7/5: Conconully area, Cameron Lake Rd
Mike and I joined forces again at Salmon Meadows early in the morning. We immediately had a pair of Three-toed Woodpeckers at the yellow gate/cattle guard 3.8mi up from Salmon Meadows CG. After finding the first Boreal Chickadee about 0.4mi further up the road, we again split. I found several more Boreal Chickadees (up to 12 total) within the 1.5mi from the gate to a particularly rough part of FR38/3820 where I parked. You definitely will need high clearance to make it over this spot towards Lone Frank Pass. I hiked up the road for another mile or so and had several flocks of Red Crossbill and a single singing male Pine Grosbeak. This area has a large number of Nashville Warblers, which aren’t really to be expected in the boreal at around 6000ft.
On the way down, about 2mi up from Salmon Meadows CG, 2 Northern Goshawks were soaring for about 2 minutes. The smaller one, the male, was an adult and calling excitedly.
Since the birding had been so good and I didn’t want to go home yet, I decided to do Cameron Lake Rd. Just before you reach the first pine there is a little spot with rosehip bushes driving up from the town of Okanogan. There were a few Brewer’s Sparrows around, but one little Spizella type sparrow got away from me. Uphill was a calling Gray Flycatcher. At exactly where the pine woods really start (i.e. where the single trees give way to continuous Ponderosa woods) was a pair of White-headed Woodpecker. The first pond had several ducks (including a displaying Ruddy) and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. 3 Sage Thrashers were further south along Cameron Lake Rd within the first 2-3miles as you come out of the pines again.
Ahhh. The Okanogan …