Not long after birding Vancouver Lake, Tomas and I packed up the car for a return trip to southeastern Washington. I felt like there was more to be seen along the Snake River than the weekend before. I was right.
On the drive there (and back) we saw Bighorn Sheep! A first for both of us. My best photo taken from the car going 60 mph along I-84 on the Oregon side.
The weather was cold, rainy, and windy, so unfortunately camping was out. Instead, we stayed at Clover Island Inn, which is situated on an island on the Columbia River. I thought it might get me closer to birds on the river, but I’m not sure I would recommend staying there, it’s kind of dumpy. And rather creepy.
The only birds I saw from the hotel were Horned Grebes, American Coots, Canada Geese, Song Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and gulls. The hotel’s most redeeming quality is that it’s within walking distance to Ice Harbor Brewery.
We saw Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Killdeer.
And I met the angriest owl ever.
I’m pretty sure this one’s responsible for several deaths. Including that of at least one Barn Owl. So pretty, so sad. R.I.P. Mr Owl.
We also met an owl that I’m sure wouldn’t hurt a fly. Maybe a small mouse, but not a fly.
My first Northern Saw-whet Owl!!! So cute!
Once the owl high wore off, I came to and noticed a few other birds. Including a new finch!
These are tough. They are either Purple or Cassin’s Finch (I am open to suggestions). Even Whatbird couldn’t agree. Female/juvenile Purple Finch have a distinctive face pattern, strong/blurry streaking on sides and chest, and a shorter bill. Cassin’s streaks are crisper, their beaks are longer with straighter sides, and they have a thin white eye ring. Male CAFI are raspberry red on top, PUFI can be rosy below the crown.
To make matters more interesting, in some parts of Washington both species will flock together. And House Finch will join in the fun too.
The more I see them the more I know what to look for. One unmistakable species we came across was a flock of California Quail.
Too bad I couldn’t get better pictures, they’re so pretty! There were at least 20 of them scurrying in the underbrush calling, clucking, and “pit-pit“-ing alarm calls. These birds have some fantastic sounds.
At McNary NWR, we stopped for a reported Black-crowned Night-Heron and American White Pelican. No luck on the night-heron, but while Tomas sat in the warm, comfy car he spotted the pelican sitting below a Great Blue Heron rookery! Great find!
Meanwhile, I fought the wind and shrubs and came up with a Marsh Wren. Not bad either.
What an awesome trip. On the drive home we even made time for a quick hike at Coyote Wall, the land of sunshine, waterfalls, and rainbows.
Yep, afterwards we were that content.
Tweets and chirps,