Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 in Review, Part IV: June-July in Washington and Idaho

Well, we've been back in Washington for a few days now, and before the end of the year is officially upon us, I need to get through the final phase of the 2013 recap: Summer in the Pacific Northwest.

I find that most people from somewhere other than the northwest are oblivious to the astounding diversity within the state of Washington. "Oh, Washington, doesn't it always rain there?" 

Not quite.

If you live in Seattle, or anywhere west of the Cascdes, then frequent drizzle and cloudy days are your lot in life - as well as breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks many days of the year. But then there's the other 2/3 of the state. The middle portion of the state is actually quite arid, where sage brush, apple farms, and wheat fields dominate the undulating landscape. The northeast part of the state is mountainous as the Selkirks creep across the Idaho panhandle and nestle in there. The rolling hills of the Palouse are just south of Spokane, and further south takes you right down to the impressive canyons along the Snake River.

This diversity is part of what makes driving across the state beautiful and intriguing at any time of the year. Usually our summer trips home are in early to mid July. This year, we were back a couple weeks earlier, and the increase in bird activity was obvious as we caught the tail end of breeding season. I flew into Spokane to pick up my car at my parents' place, and within minutes of being picked up from the airport, I had White-throated Swifts, Violet-green Swallows, and crested 300 for the year. The next day I made the westward drive to the Seattle area. One of my favorite parts of this drive is the dramatic drop (then climb) into the Columbia River valley, announced from the west by the wild horse sculptures dotting the horizon. Upon arriving in Spokane, I was pleased to hear from my dad that a Black-throated Sparrow had acquired my same liking for this portion of the state's topography by taking up residence there - and just two minutes off of I-90 no less! This is a great, though regular, bird for Washington (they breed fairly reliably at Steptoe Butte also), which is the northern extremity of its breeding range. In the same area, a Western Red-tailed Hawk, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, pair of calling Yellow-breasted Chats and host of Rock Wrens reminded me that I was indeed back in my home state.

Black-throated Sparrow
Vantage, Kittitas Co, WA
June 18, 2013

I met up with Jen at her aunt and uncle's place near Mt. Rainier. Aunt Gail and Uncle Scott are active and familiar with all of the nearby trails, so we got to do a lot of hiking over the next day that we spent with them. The forests were alive with the songs of Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Spotted Towhees,  Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, and Pacific Wrens to name a few. One of my main goals for my time home was to get some good looks at a Black-throated Gray Warbler, and we were afforded many! On one of our hikes, Jen spotted a few Elk trekking through a river, making us both very proud.

Black-throated Gray Warbler
O'Grady Natural Area, King Co, WA
June 18, 2013

Pacific Wren
Federation Forest State Park, King Co, WA
June 19, 2013

Elk
Federation Forest State Park, King Co, WA
June 19, 2013

One set of Jen's grandparents have a lake place up at Lake Cavanaugh, where we always love spending time whenever we get the opportunity. Bird highlights were the gorgeous Rufous Hummingbirds that frequented the feeders on their deck, and the best looks I've ever had of Band-tailed Pigeons.

Rufous Hummingbird
Lake Cavanaugh, Skagit Co, WA
June 21, 2013

Wilson's Warbler
Lake Cavanaugh, Skagit Co, WA
June 21, 2013

Band-tailed Pigeons
Lake Cavanaugh, Skagit Co, WA
June 21, 2013

Yeah, always rainy.
Lake Cavanaugh, Skagit Co, WA
June 22, 2013

Once getting back to Coupeville, a quick swing by the Keystone Ferry produced this handsome flock of Harlequins:

Harlequin Ducks
Keystone Ferry Landing, Island Co, WA
June 23, 2013

We headed over to Port Townsend to meet up with Aunt Julie and Uncle Mike to look for sea glass along North Beach at the lowest tide of the year. It was a long but beautiful walk, and there was plenty of sea glass to be had - though I was admittedly more interested in the birds. A beautiful Orange-crowned Warbler, a tussle between a Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle, and some friendly Black Oystercatchers rounded out the sea glass festivities. What a day!

Orange-crowned Warbler
North Beach, Jefferson Co, WA
June 24, 2013

Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle
North Beach, Jefferson Co, WA
June 24, 2013

Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle
North Beach, Jefferson Co, WA
June 24, 2013

Black Oystercatcher
North Beach, Jefferson Co, WA
June 24, 2013

Black Oystercatcher
North Beach, Jefferson Co, WA
June 24, 2013

Black Oystercatcher
North Beach, Jefferson Co, WA
June 24, 2013

This gluttonous Rhino was floating alongside the return ferry:

Rhinoceros Auklet
Port Townsend, Jefferson Co, WA
June 24, 2013

Once back to Spokane, my dad and I did quite a bit of birding on the east side of the state. We took one morning and birded from home to the top of Mt. Spokane and back, bagging Townsend's and MacGillivray's Warblers, and finding all eight species of thrushes that occur in the state in a matter of hours - American Robin, Varied Thrush, Townsend's Solitaire, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Western Bluebird, and Mountain Bluebird. A couple common birds posed nicely for photos, too!

Lazuli Bunting
Mt. Spokane, Spokane Co, WA
June 27, 2013

"Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler
Mt. Spokane, Spokane Co, WA
June 27, 2013

American Dipper
Mt. Spokane, Spokane Co, WA
June 27, 2013

The next day we worked our way west to Wilson Creek in Grant County, with all kinds of highlights along the way.

Lewis's Woodpeckers
Telford Road, Lincoln Co, WA
June 28, 2013

Grasshopper Sparrow
Seven Mile, Lincoln Co, WA
June 28, 2013

Sage Thrasher
Mayberry Road, Lincoln Co, WA
June 28, 2013

Gray Flycatcher
Spokane Co, WA
June 28, 2013

Ferruginous Hawk (juvenile)
Lincoln Co, WA
June 28, 2013

Ferruginous Hawk (light morph)
Lincoln Co, WA
June 28, 2013

Ferruginous Hawk (intermediate)
Lincoln Co, WA
June 28, 2013

Rock Wren
Wilson Creek, Grant Co, WA
June 28, 2013

We found this cooperative Sora on a quick trip over to Hauser Lake in Idaho. This was one of my favorite places to bird growing up, mostly because of the great looks of Red-necked Grebes, Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and Common Loons we could get in the Spring. The drumming Ruffed Grouse and chattering Pacific (then Winter) Wrens stand out as fond memories too. This day, the Sora stole the show.

Sora
Hauser Lake, Kootenai Co, ID
June 29, 2013

As the calendar turned to July, we took a day to bird the Idaho panhandle, spending most of our time in Boundary County up along the Canadian border. We wound up with an impressive 114 species by the end of the day! From Saddle Pass to Pend Oreille Lake, here's some of what we saw:

Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Boundary Co, ID
July 2, 2013

Townsend's Warbler
Boundary Co, ID
July 2, 2013

Western Tanager
Boundary Co, ID
July 2, 2013

MacGillivray's Warbler
Boundary Co, ID
July 2, 2013

Least Flycatcher
Boundary Co, ID
July 2, 2013

One of the things I miss about birding in the northwest is the frequent encounters with big game animals. It's hard to make a trip to the Kootenai NWR without finding a Moose, one of my favorite animals.

Moose
Boundary Co, ID
July 2, 2013

The Western Grebes on Lake Pend Oreille put on quite the show for us:

Western Grebes
Denton Slough, Bonner Co, ID
July 2, 2013

Western Grebes with hunting Osprey
Denton Slough, Bonner Co, ID
July 2, 2013

Salmo Mountain in Pend Oreille County, WA is without a doubt my favorite place in the northeastern part of the state. It's secluded, scenic, and loaded with wildlife and good birds. Our trip there this last summer yielded American Three-toed Woodpeckers, White-winged Crossbill, Gray Jay, and a couple of my favorites: Boreal Chickadee and Pine Grosbeak.


Boreal Chickadee
Salmo Mountain, Pend Oreille Co, WA
July 5, 2013

Pine Grosbeak
Salmo Mountain, Pend Oreille Co, WA
July 5, 2013

Some friends from church took us out on a boat along Long Lake to go skiing. We went on July 5th, so the lake was devoid of people and boats, and there were some fun birding moments along the way too. A flyby Forster's Tern was a excellent bird to have cross the Spokane and Steven's county border. Clark's Nutcrackers, Townsend's Solitaires, and Rock Wrens were fun additions. We found a pair of Eastern Kingbirds harassing a Red-tail, pictured below.

Eastern Kingbird riding Red-tailed Hawk
Long Lake, Spokane/Steven's Co, WA
July 5, 2013

Probably the highlight of our time on the boat was the consistently close-up views of beautiful breeding Western Grebes.

Western Grebes
Long Lake, Spokane/Steven's Co, WA
July 5, 2013