29 May 2009

Wenas, Part 3 of 4

Sunday: got Very Cold last night. Waking shivering at 4, then again at 5, and finally at 6.30 lead me to believe this might require an arctic sleeping bag next time.

First bird of the day was a Rufous Hummingbird, quickly followed by a Calliope. The Zimmerman camp had their feeders up, and for a while they were quite busy. I believe it was Mr Z who said a Calliope male looks as if he has bright fuschia-coloured FuManchu whiskers, and I have to admit, he does.

And so it became time for my semi-annual hike up the western ridge in search of whatever appears. In years past, there are usually Townsend's Solitaires nesting in the trail bank, but this year I spotted not a one. There were more than a few Turkey Vultures on high thermals, though.

Back at creek level, there was an Olive-sided Flycatcher ("quick! three beers!"), Brown-headed Cowbirds, and a Western Tanager male in such plumage as to make the women cry. Another flycatcher was photographed, but as it wasn't vocalising, I'll leave its ID up to you :)

A walk past the eastern bridge to the Beaver Lodge was undertaken, where several Yellow-pine Chipmunks, Belted Kingfishers, a pair of Spotted Sandpipers, and a host of White-breasted Nuthatches (with nest!) kept me company.

It was incredible to be wandering around the former pond, thinking the felled trees were taken down by foresters or loggers, but too many had the stereotypical gnawed shapes we've come to recognize as beaver lunch. I last walked the pond area a few years back, and most of the dry ground of today was under water then.

About 1330, I decided it was time to very slowly drive back to Ellensburg along the Umptanum Ridge. During the next 2 hours or so, there were more Chipping Sparrows, Brewer's Blackbirds, a few Black-billed Magpies, Turkey Vultures, American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, and one honest-to-goodness Golden Eagle on a high thermal. Western Bluebirds were all over the place, as were Says Phoebes. There was a bluebird nestbox (#42) with WB Nuthatches inside. I have to thank whomever was watching that nestbox for keeping me honest, as I might not have spent the extra moment or two searching for whatever they were seeing, even as slow as I was going.

One of the last photo ops took place near the Umptanum Falls car park, where a flash of orange and black flitting through the sage was a gorgeous Bullock's Oriole. I must have looked interesting photographing sage, because two different cars stopped for a few minutes to ask what I was looking at. For the first, the bird remained hidden, but the second car was patient and rewarded me with "OOOH!"s for each passenger when he was finally spotted.

Among the butterflies seen this weekend: Painted Ladies, Cabbage Whites by the boatload, Western Tiger Swallowtails, and at least one Pale Tiger Swallowtail (in camp, Satyrday).

For those that have stayed with me through this weekend of flying goodies, I'd like to say "Thank You." For those who are better birders than I, those who don't mind an ID challenge, or those who are simply curious, the next Wenas post will be a "what did i see?" sort of thing. I'm guessing there will be a lot of debate as to what some of them are (there usually is), so let your opinions be heard!

This list of birds is hardly definitive, but gives an idea as to what can be found by even novices such as myself with a lot of help from friends and helpful acquaintances.

Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone who helped make this trip more fascinating than normal: The Neil and Carleen Zimmerman clan, Carol Schulz, Rob Sandelin, Brett Wolfe, Yakima Steve, and the family (I'm sorry, but I don't think we exchanged names) who had their own hummer feeder, the family I kept running into while hiking around. Your generosity and humour are appreciated.

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