Casey Cunningham and I headed over to the Okanogan over July 4th. It was one of my slowest summer trips up there and the first time ever that I missed Three-toed Woodpecker in summer. Pine Grosbeak is also a bird that I typically get. Birding at higher elevation which is normally slow already was particularly miserable this year.
It felt like this trip over July 4th is simply 1-2 weeks too late. Birds are not singing much any more. Lowland birding is done by about 10am. This year the situation was probably accelerated by the hot temperatures. Night time lows were higher than I’ve ever seen them. Near Sun Lakes resort in the Grand Coulee, we woke up to 82F at 5am.
Maybe the birdiest spot of our trip was Nespelem Friday morning. We were treated to nice looks at an American Redstart, heard a Northern Waterthrush and at least 2 Red-eyed Vireos. Veeries were also very vocal and perching up. A smallish bear was crossing the road nearby. Near the intersection Park City Loop Rd and 155 we found a singing Grasshopper Sparrow, a new spot for the species for me.
Along Conconully Rd we flushed a Gray Partridge from the side of the road affording excellent looks at its “fanned” tail.
We then headed up to Salmon Meadows and completed the loop via Lone Frank Pass, Freezeout Pass, Roger Lake and Baldy Pass and back to Conconully. We found none of our targets, maybe with exception of several singing Lincoln’s Sparrows and a Sora ar Roger Lake. Conconully Reservoir had 2 Barrow’s Goldeneyes and a pair of Red-necked Grebes.
On Saturday morning, we briefly saw a Least Flycatcher at the Ellisforde bridge, a traditional location for this species. The bird seemed to be loitering about an active Willow Flycatcher nest.
Along Nine Mile Rd east of Oroville, we found lots of really good birds: At the rosehip cluster at MP1.9 we found many calling Gray Partridges (!) and several Lewis’s Woodpeckers. A more-heard-than-seen Clay-colored Sparrow was at MP4, as well as a Black-chinned Hummingbird (hmmm …) on the wire there. Near the Circle Rd intersection on the way back out were 2-3 Sage Thrashers and 2 calling Gray Flycatchers, both really nice birds this close to the BC border.
A Turkey mom with 3 little chicks was along Eastside-Oroville Rd.
The Siwash Creek/Fancher Dam/Havilah Rd Bobolinks continue east of Tonasket.
We then headed up to Cold Springs CG off Toats Coulee Rd. There were no birds of any kind really, except for a flushed Dusky Grouse at the open picnic area at the end of the road. A fresh, large pile of bear scat on the way down C1000 caused some excitement.
At Iron Gate we fared no better until our way out when we found a pair of calling Boreal Chicadees close to the midpoint of the slow drive out (about MP3.5 starting from Toats Coulee Rd). A little later we enjoyed a Dusky Grouse in a short conifer in more open habitat (about 2.3mi from Touts Coulee Rd). The bird was very calm and we were able to watch it for several minutes until it lost interest.
3 family units of Chukar were on the road at the Lewis’s Woodpecker site at the base of Toats Coulee Rd just outside Loomis. The Lewis’s Woodpeckers are of course still present in good numbers.
Finally, on Sunday, we made our way up Harts Pass. The most interesting sighting were 2 Snowshoe Hares, an unidentified swift and singing Fox Sparrows, but we got none of our harder targets. Another highlight were the pastries at the Mazama Store. Not even the White-throated Swifts at Chelan Falls showed up for us on our drive back.