I have been away from the blog for over a month – great trip to Colorado (posts coming up) – great visit from my daughter and son-in-law (another post to come) and some catch up birding in Washington – posts to come including this one. Then there was a big computer problem (damn you Microsoft and Windows 10). But all is now in order so I will be blogging madly.
Seems like we have been here before – goes birding in Eastern Washington. Has car issues – and it all works out ok. THIS time however, the damage was less; it occurred AFTER the birding; and most importantly it turned out to cost only $1.50. Beats the heck out of the broken starter in Richland that eventually led to the decision to get a new vehicle to avoid such problems in the future.
Three birding buddies from Edmonds (Steve Pink, Fran Caruso and Jon Houghton) and I headed out to nearby Eastern Washington on May 4 to find some new First of Year birds – what we call “FOY’s”. Migration is now in full swing so there were many opportunities – as usual too many birds and too little time. We have all birded together but never all together at the same time so it also promised to be a good trip. We studied up on Ebird, past lists, Tweeters etc. and made a tentative target list and related itinerary that was to at least include Bullfrog Pond, up into the Teanaway Valley and Umptanum Road into Wenas. Steve Pink and Jon Houghton came to my place and left their vehicles and then we picked up Frank Caruso and were off. Leaving at 6:00 a.m. and being a “carpool” we avoided the usually dreadful Seattle traffic woes and took I-5 to I-90 and then were going East. A mandatory stop at an unnamed coffee spot in Issaquah, and then we were in serious birding mode.
Our first stop was the Hyak hummingbird feeders on Snoqualmie Pass. Rufous Hummingbirds were cooperative and we also found some Yellow and Wilson’s Warblers, Juncoes, Violet Green and Barn Swallows, Steller’s Jays and Robins. A half hour later brought us to Bullfrog Road where despite super high water levels in the Cle Elum River, we found the two nesting American Dippers. Then on to Bullfrog Pond – a favorite birding spot along the way to the Suncadia Resort. Around the Pond and then across the road we had about 35 species including these birds that were all FOY’s for at least some in the party: Nashville Warblers, House Wrens, Western Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows, Red Naped Sapsuckers, Pygmy Nuthatch (at nest), and Soras. The Soras were probably the best birds and the biggest surprise. I have had them there before but they can be a challenge. As is usually the case we heard them only – all of their various calls (Weep, Whinny and Ker-wee). We also then heard Virginia Rails so a great combination of often hard to find birds.
Red Naped Sapsucker
Our main targets proceeding through the Teanaway Valley were woodpeckers – White Headed and Williamson’s Sapsuckers – but alas no go on either one – and at least for the White Headed Woodpeckers, a theme that would remain part of my birding for the next several weeks. We made an interesting stop in the old town of Liberty as we headed back down Highway 97. Lots of Hummers at one place with feeders but no Calliopes. We then headed up Umptanum Road to North Wenas Road. A quick check showed the Great Horned Owl nest had a baby and then a visit up Durr road produced both Vesper and Brewer’s Sparrows.
Per the statement above, we failed to find “my” White Headed Woodpeckers at a spot where I have had them the past three years but we had some Western Tanagers, lots of both Mountain and Western Bluebirds and a Cassin’s Vireo singing loudly and posing in the open. The highlight though was probably a Calliope Hummingbird exactly where it had been described in an Ebird report – across from Bluebird Box 7.
After finding a Lewis’s Woodpecker and Western Kingbirds just where Steve suggested it would be, we proceeded to the Wenas campground area. The road in was miserable – even worse than I remembered from last year with some washouts and lots of rocks – some of which we removed from the road. This is a “famous” area – a birder campout on Memorial Day is a tradition and there are always great birds including ALWAYS White Headed Woodpeckers – except of course today. We did have many Gray Flycatchers and “probably” both Hammond’s and Dusky Flycatchers, but they remained distant and unresponsive to calls so not perfect ID’s. We had good warblers as well including some MacGillivray’s and lots of Yellow Warblers. Frank’s always terrific knowledge of the various calls was called upon often for the empids and the warblers. Many Cassin’s Finches were welcome finds since we had missed them earlier at a feeder in South Cle Elum.
Time to go so we renegotiated the rocky road and then headed home via Wenas Lake and then headed north picking up some more Western Kingbirds on the way. And then the tire issue arose… My Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPM) was giving me a warning for low pressure. Checking it showed that the right rear tire was low (20 psi instead over 35 psi). Uh-oh. We stopped at a gas station and collected quarters to pay the $1.50 to put air in but there was no good way to monitor how much was getting in. After our first attempt, the TPM read 65 psi for the suspect tire. We figured that as it heated up and expanded with the freeway drive ahead of us, it might explode so we brought it down to 47 psi and headed off. At some point the TPM was clearly goofy as it then showed 36 psi for the back rear tire but was now reading 47 for the front left. I just kept my fingers crossed and kept going noticing no handling issues.
We made it home safely after dinner in Cle Elum. And the next morning I checked the tire and indeed it was back down to around 20 psi so I headed off to Discount Tire. They had been my go to tire guys since some troubles on Cameron Lake Road a couple of years ago and had always been terrific. I stopped at the closer shop on Hwy 99 but they were backed up and it would be an hour wait until they could look at it and really nowhere to go near there so I had them check with the store on 196th in Lynnwood and they set an appointment with a fellow at the first store doing the “intake” measurements that would save me time at the other store. I went to 196th and dropped off the car and keys and went to Fred Meyers where I could get a new fishing license and also a new Discover Pass as mine had expired the week earlier. Easy and then back to Discount Tire. I was afraid that the rough road into Wenas had destroyed the tire. Turns out that somewhere along the way, I had picked up a razor blade that was still in the tire – deep enough to cause a leak but not deep enough for permanent damage. So they repaired the tire and … are you sitting down? Even though I had never had these tires on the new jeep serviced there and had not purchased them there, since I had been a good customer in the BMW days … NO CHARGE and I was on my way. Where do you think I will go when I next need tires!!
On our trip despite seeing only 4 waterfowl species, 1 shorebird species, no gulls and only 4 raptors, we noted over 70 species. Everyone had some FOYS and everyone contributed to a great day of birding. The Edmonds Guys did good…