Friday, October 8th
Left Florida for a vacation in America's Great Northwest, flying into Spokane, Washington late last Thursday. Spokane was chosen because it was closest airport to the actual reason for flying some 3000 miles. It was to participate in my daughter Melissa' s wedding in nearby Moscow, Idaho on Saturday. Melissa and her fiancee Robbie elected to come back to Moscow for there wedding as they loved the area. Robbie was a former student at the University of Idaho in Moscow, were the ceremony was held. But this trip offered me a great birding opportunity. One were I could find any number of lifers that would never be seen in Florida. So I planned birding trips in the area for Friday, Sunday and Monday. Eastern Washington and the Idaho panhandle offered several habitats for birding. Most of the area is rolling hills covered in wheat fields. The area is known as the Palouse. My targeted birding locations included Turnbull NWR in Cheney, Wa; Mann Lake in Lewiston, Id; and Mt Spokane State park in Washington.
At this point I would like to acknowledge the help and support of four great local birders. They were extremely helpful in where to look and what was realistic in seeking local specialities. The second weekend of October is not the best time as so many seasonal species have already left for warmer climates.
Robert Mortensen, of Idaho, whom I got to know through his blog BIRDING IS FUN.
Terry Gray, President of the Palouse Audubon Society of Moscow, Idaho
Charles Swift, also of Moscow, Idaho and the University of Idaho and
Jon Isacoff of the Spokane Audubon Society and a professor at Gonzaga University
As we flew in late Thursday night to stay in Spokane, my first birds of Washington waited till dawn Friday. Of course they were your usual urban birds - House Sparrow, European Starling and American Crows. But I soon hit my first lifer of the day with a pair of Black-Billed Magpies flying over the parking lot. After picking up my rental car and heading south to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge found a couple of the very common Red-Tailed Hawks, more magpies and a Great Blue Heron.
|A portion of the Headquarters Trail - Cheever Lake lies below the trail and meadows rises above|
Arrived at Turnbull Refuge about 9:45am. The refuge is a unique geological sight called a Channeled Scablands. The brochure describes the varying habitats to include wetlands, rock, ponderosa pine and aspen forests, grasslands and steppe. The weather for the day was chilly and overcast with a potential for some rain.
|All seven of 'Solo's' Trumpeter Swan family|
The refuge is home to a noted male Trumpter Swan named Solo who was head of a family of seven swans living here at Turnbull. I got the privilege getting a scoped viewing of the entire family from a refuge volunteer at the Pines Loop Trail head. Was fortunate to get a couple more viewings. One were the whole flock noisily flew overhead in a v-formation and later as they rested on a lake.
|Found these American Red Squirrels to be very noisy|
Hiked portions of the Pines Loop and Headquarters Trails. The wetlands offered a single Canada Goose, many Mallards and Coots. A few American Wigeons, a lone male Wood Duck and a couple of Ruddy Ducks. Saw about three each of Double-crested Cormorants and Pied-billed Grebes. A great many Red-winged Blackbirds worked the cattails and several Marsh Wrens could be heard and was finally lucky to observe a couple of wrens as my second LIFER of the day. Chipping Sparrows were busy in nearby grasses. Other birds found along the trails included LIFERS of several Western Bluebirds and Red-breasted Nuthatchs, plus Black-capped Chickadees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Goldfinch, White-crowned Sparrows, and Northern flickers. Higher up in more grassy or steppe terrain I was able to find a pair of American Kestral and LIFERS in a Western Meadowlark and a Northern Shrike. Was able to added a LIFER of a Common Raven that flew overhead as I was returning to my car at the conclusion of the walk.
Wrapped up my visit here with the 5.5 mile auto tour trail. Was able to add Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Ring-Necked Duck and a lone Great Blue Heron. Found a pair Greater Yellowlegs working a muddy shoreline and a Hairy Woodpecker in the company of a flock of LIFER Pygmy Nuthatches. Spent about three and half hours here and I could see that a springtime or September would yield a far greater variety of birdlife. I did miss on a few species on my list, but it was a good day especially the impressive swans.
While passing through Cheney on the way back to Spokane, noted a flock of Wild Turkeys in a backyard. Understand that wild turkeys are becoming very numerous in the area.
|Wild Turkey outside of Cheney, Washington|
|The rest of the flock|
My Day List - (37, 8 lifers ) Canada Goose, Trumpeter Swan, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Wild Turkey, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, American Coot, Greater Yellowlegs, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Rock Pigeon, Northern Shrike, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, European Starling, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Marsh Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow