Eastward to Walla Walla, part II

Day 2 in Walla Walla I arrived at Bennignton Lake early enough to see the sky full of stars and to hear a Great Horned Owl pair hooting, “Who’s awake? Me toooo.

Bennington Lake

The trail system is fantastic. 20 miles wind through 600 acres of woodlands and meadows surrounding the lake. The lake was set up by the US Army Corps of Engineers for flood control in the 1940s.

One section of trail is referred to as “owl alley” by local Audubon members because of the frequent owl sightings. I was hoping to find one or two. Upon researching, I learned long-eared owls nest in the park and there were recent ebird sightings, “one did not flush and sat nicely for great views!” I could only imagine.

I saw Killdeer on the lake shore, and mergansers and geese on the lake. In the hardwood forests Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers were busy collecting insects. Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrow, and Bewick’s Wrens were singing their hearts out. Does this mean it’s spring already?

Dark-eyed Junco

White-crowned Sparrow

Bewick's Wren

I saw the Mountain Chickadee sporting the white eye-stripe!

Mountain Chickadee

And the Northern Harrier hunting, as per usual.

Northern Harrier

I found a row of pines that looked pretty owly. Sure enough, pellets, bones, and whitewash littered the ground.

Pellets

Pellets

But, alas, no owls were home. Or if they were, they were invisible. That’s probably more like it. Still, it felt good to practice tracking skills.

Upon leaving the park, I saw a Townsend’s Solitaire absorbing BTUs from a solar panel.

Townsend's Solitaire

Then I heard a soft, faint hooting. I was all over it and scoured the trees until I found them.

Great Horned Owl

Yeah! Two Great Horned Owls! (One in the lower left). These must be the two I heard earlier near the parking lot when I arrived. Good times at the lake.

Great Horned Owl

On the drive home I got some good looks of my other bird love (and last year’s obsession), the Western Meadowlark.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

And just because, I made a quick stop at Balch Lake, past Lyle, Washington. The lake provides habitat for the protected pond turtle, and is also home to dozens of Lewis’s Woodpeckers!

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker

These fellas are highly entertaining and I’d recommend checking out this site for some great looks. I’ve heard there is also an Acorn Woodpecker granary nearby, but I’ve yet to find it. Yet.

Can’t get enough!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

October-November yard birds

Who’s excited about Downy Woodpeckers in their yard? This gal!

Confirmed male.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

And female.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

 

Downy Woodpecker

Pretty exciting news. I hope they stick around. And I hope they make little downy chicks in the spring for cuteness’ sake.

This week has been all about gobs of Pine Siskins eating gobs of sunflower seeds.

Pine Siskin

(and a House Finch amidst the drama)

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

I still find the Pine Siskin entertaining. They were, after all, one of the first new-to-me birds I identified at home when I put the feeders up in January. It’s neat to realize how far I’ve come since then. A couple of weeks ago, there was an exciting day when I counted 14 bird different species in the yard. Including a Western Tanager (Yellow Warbler).

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Other highlights from that day:

Bewick’s Wren

Bewick's Wren

Bewick's Wren

Black-capped Chickadee.

Black-capped Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

House Finch

House Finch

House Finch

I also saw this Swainson’s Thrush that looks to have a puncture on its side. Though I’ve not heard it from the house, I have a soft spot for these birds because of their beautiful song. I hope this one recovers okay.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush

The Western Scrub-Jays were also nearby.

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

And one of my all time favorite yard friends, the Anna’s Hummingbird in all of its amusing postures. Narwhal or hummingbird?

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

So much personality in a tiny feathered package.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

One surprise in the neighborhood was this Red-tailed Hawk perched and looking around while crows mobbed it.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

I’m curious if this apex predator is just passing through or looking for a more permanent residence. I’ll keep an eye out.

This morning, I walked outside to Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco flocks, a Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and a Varied Thrush! This was the first time I’ve seen a Varied Thrush in the yard. I startled it and it flew away before I could get a photo. Hopefully next time!

It’s a bird-iful day in the neighborhood!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Johnson Road

Regardless of the grey overcast skies over Memorial Day weekend, I set out on an adventure to Johnson Road, hot with warbler fever. Johnson Road is in the middle of nowhere, but it was the center my universe this weekend since Hermit Warblers were sighted there recently. The forest land surrounding the road is owned by Weyerhaeuser who permits public day-use recreation. The road is also not far north from Stub Stewart State park, one of my favorite state parks and also the site of my first birding trip.

I arrived early on the scene.

Johnson Road

It was kind of eerie to be alone in the middle of nowhere…in a place where people leave the remains of…ceramic frogs?

WTH?

WTH?

Weird. But once I heard the birds chirping, I forgot about the remoteness and creepy frog head and it was game on!

Dive-bombing left and right were Rufous Hummingbirds.

Rufous Hummingbird

From the treetops fly-catchers chirped, sang, and chased after insects.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

This one above is an Olive-sided Flycatcher. How do I know that? Because it sang, “Quick, THREE beers.” I’m thankful for my Warblers and Flycatchers class and my birding by ear trips with Audubon. Also note, the bird’s bulky build and dark “vest.”

Here’s another flycatcher:

Willow Flycatcher

This smaller one with two light wing bars ( and sometimes a thin eye-ring- none in this case), sangFitz-bew” so I know it to be a Willow Flycatcher.

Also in the treetops (and more recognizable) were Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and a Bewick’s Wren.

A surprise treat low in the shrubs was a peek at this Swainson’s Thrush (I think it’s a Swainson’s – buffy eye-ring, lack of the rusty-contrasted tail associated with Hermit):

Swainson's Thrush

I also heard warblers, lots of them all around me. I had flash-backs of the Western Meadowlark incident at Coyote Labyrinth hike when I heard birds, but never found them, and I wondered if today would be the same.

Indeed, it was looking to be a repeat story for new warblers until far off I spotted it.

Far away

It never fails to spark that cheesy 1970s Carole King song in my head, “So Far Away”…

A teeny moving spec that my eyes and camera had to work really hard to see, but the payoff was worth it. A MacGillivray’s Warbler! Neat! Oh, you can’t see it? A closer look:

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler

Looks like he’s serenading the Rufous Hummingbird on the higher branch. Such a cool bird! I hope to hear and see more of these little fellas up close on future birding trips.

One last bird I came upon on the drive home was another flycatcher. I will share too many pictures of this one.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

While it did not sing, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m calling this one an Olive-sided Flycatcher based on its bulky build, large bill, and “vest.”. My best flycatcher sighting to date! Cheers to that!

FITZ-bew and more beers!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey