Mt Rainier ptarmigan (06/27-28/2015)

ptarmigan1 ptarmigan2


These beauties were near the confluence of the Golden Gate and Skyline trail uphill from Paradise June 27. First time I even looked for them this early. A fly-by Gray-crowned Rosy-finch was also noted.


Dickcissel, Long-eared Owls, a bear, a rattler and many Grasshopper Sparrows
















I ran over to the Yakima area for the Dickcissel last Friday evening. Camping over at Black Canyon, there were a Yellow-breasted Chat, a couple of booming Common Nighthawk and calling Common Poorwill, but the highlight was a family of Long-eared Owls including 2 incessantly calling fledglings.

The Dickcissel at Hardy Canyon performed marvelously in the new light early next morning.

Along Lateral C in Toppenish I failed to Bobolinks and Grasshopper Sparrows, but it was getting hot.

I took a brief nap near Satus Pass and saw a very large Black Bear shortly after waking up. Nice!

Here my report from Gilliam Co in OR that I posted to Tweeters:

I spent 2 half days in Gilliam Co this weekend. Yesterday afternoon was a struggle in the heat, today I got out of there just as it was heating up.

Yesterday at Willow Creek WA early afternoon there were 5 White Pelicans, 4 Long-billed Curlews (presumably the birds often seen in the agg fields along the access road), 18 Caspian Terns, a pair of Blue-winged Teal, 2 Eastern Kingbirds and a Black-crowned Night-heron. An elk was a surprise. A Yellow-breasted Chat was singing mid-afternoon at the south access through the Heppner Hwy (somewhere around 45.744211, -120.021445); another Eastern Kingbird was also present. I saw a second Black-crowned Night-heron another 1/2mi further south, the bird was following Willow Creek.

A not-too-skittish pair of Gray Partridge was along Hwy 19 between MP21 and 22.

At the Condon STP 4 pairs of Wilson’s Phalaropes and a Redhead were in attendance. Lots of shovelers and mallards too.

Trail Fork Rd southeast of Condon is one of my favorite roads in Gilliam Co. Within the first 3mi, there were a Yellow-breasted Chat, a Chukar and 4 White-throated Swifts. When the road turns southeast, it will start climbing out of the canyon and end up at its high point in lush meadows at around 3800ft. I camped at a large pullout up there with an otherworldly view of 4 high peaks to my west and had my own private pair of Grasshopper Sparrows, several Vesper Sparrows and a Long-billed Curlew. I found 2 more Grasshoppers just a little further up the road early this morning.




From 6-8am I birded the wooded portion of Lost Valley Rd. The highlight there was probably an unexpected Hammond’s Flycatcher mixed in with the Duskies. A Mountain Quail was calling. Lots of the more common woodland birds, but nothing rare. On the way back to Condon at the high point of Lost Valley Rd, I found 2 more Grasshopper Sparrows (for an amazing 6 total for the trip!). A Western Rattlesnake was sunning itself on the road and afforded nice looks.

I briefly stopped at Cottonwood Canyon SP at 10am, but it was already around 90F, and dead. 3 White-throated Swifts were good, within 1/4mi into the Pinnacles Trail (Sherman side). On the Gilliam side at Burres SP was yet another Yellow-breasted Chat.

Now in Sherman Co, I stopped at the Wasco sewage ponds and had a drake Blue-winged Teal.
At the marina in The Dalles, I relocated the large sea lion that I saw there several weeks ago. Maybe it is somebody’s pet by now. You would need pretty deep pockets to feed that guy …

Stefan Schlick, Hillsboro, OR

A milestone has been reached! 100 species/county for WA state

I posted the following trip report to Tweeters a couple of days ago (see below). It is a milestone for me to reach 100 for each county in OR and WA. Only the great Pacific Northwest birders John Gatchet and Wayne Weber have reached this milestone to my knowledge. There may be other folks out there who have done it. [I recently boasted to Portland birder David Leal that I may be only birder to have Brambling for CA, OR, WA and BC. He calmly responded “That’s all pretty good, but I’ve got them too for these states/provinces, AND I also got several for AK. That shut me up rather quickly.]

My next goal is to complete CA. Since I’ve lived there for a while, I got a good head start and have only 25 or so to go. It will take several years …

This last weekend’s trip lead me from Whitman to Ferry County, via Lincoln and Stevens. Temperatures were warm and there were no crowds. I was concerned that it would be too early in the year and that some of the breeders would still be in transit. They were all there. In good numbers too. Boy, was it fun!

Whitman Co:
I started at Sheep Lake south of Sprague Saturday morning just after 5am. 2 friendly horses had kept me company all night. Wilson’s Phalarope, American Avocet, Yellow-headed Blackbird and a few Grasshopper Sparrows were all easy to get within 5min. A breeding-plumaged BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER was a surprise.
At Rock Lake I found 2 Caspian Terns, a breeding-plumaged Common Loon (right by the boat launch), a Western and a CLARK’S GREBE.
Lincoln Co:
I briefly looked for the Clay-colored Sparrow along Seven Mile Rd east of Davenport, but couldn’t find it. The habitat looks good for it, but it may have moved slightly. Grasshopper, Vesper and Brewer’s Sparrows were there though.
Stevens Co:
One of my favorite spots in the area is the Chamokane Creek wetland along Martha Boardman Rd, barely within Stevens Co coming from Reardan (SR 231). A curious horse with no master was roaming around the trail on the west side of the creek. Highlights here were a few Yellow-breasted Chats, many Veery and Hammond’s, Pacific-slope and Gray Flycatcher, but that doesn’t reflect how active the area was.
2 male Bobolinks were just east of Valley along Waitts Lake Rd.
I dipped on the Black Terns at the Colville STP, but got Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal, Wilson’s Phalarope and many Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
A che-becking LEAST FLYCATCHER was about 0.5mi east of Rice in the aspen-patch on the north side of Orin-Rice Rd.
Ferry Co: 
Entering Ferry Co from its east coast with the Gifford-Inchelium ferry, I lucked out on 2 pairs of Wood Ducks in the Inchelium STP. I then took Bridge Ck Rd towards the Sanpoil. A cute snowshoe hare didn’t care about me slowly driving by it along the high elevations of Bridge Ck Rd. When I reached the intersection with SR21, it was 6:30pm. Nevertheless, I found no less then 5 American Redstarts and Ruffed Grouse seemed to be drumming continuously. I noted my first Common Nighthawk of the season at around 7:30pm. What a great place!
Early Sunday morning, I worked the Sanpoil and found a singing Northern Waterthrush at MP 150.5. 
I then raced up Sherman Pass. Birding was active, but I didn’t find anything unusual up there.
A Eurasian Collared Dove was on the wire along Klondike Rd. At Mudd Lake, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Cinnamon Teal, a female Barrow’s Goldeneye and finally a couple of singing Marsh Wrens.
Along the Sanpoil again later in the day, I discovered several White-throated Swifts up the cliff face at MP153. Red-eyed Vireos were singing everywhere. What a treasure the Sanpoil is!!!
Finally, just before boarding the Keller ferry, I watched 7 snoozing Western Grebes near where the Sanpoil Arm spills out into the Columbia (still Ferry Co though). A few Gray Flycatchers were chaloop’ing in the area of the Swawilla Basin Rd turn-off.
Yesterday, just after entering Ferry Co, I finally reached 100 species in every WA county. I completed this feat for OR a few years ago and will now be able to focus on CA where I’m close to 2/3 done. Some folks never stop …
Stefan Schlick
Hillsboro, OR