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Category Archives: birding

Yesterday was a perfect day for bird watching. Many hummers visited the feeder including Calliope and Rufus Hummingbirds. A House Wren sat on the deck railing chattering continually. An American Goldfinch glowed yellow under the warm sun. I saw a male Calliope Hummingbird on my walk. Also on my walk I watched a Lewis’ Woodpecker confront a European Starling over a potential nest hole in a dead tree. And a Spotted Towhee called from a high perch.

Ken’s mother used to sit and watch the hummingbirds for hours. My mother would have enjoyed them too.

The western larch trees, sometimes called tamarack, provide homes for Williamson’s Sapsuckers and other birds. The male and female appear quite different and there was a time when they were classified as two separate species. I found a nest just below our campsite and was able to photograph the two birds coming and going as they fed their young. It was a long ways up in the tree and I had to sit down and lean back to get these images and wait patiently while they foraged for insects in between feedings. If you scroll through the photos you will get a good idea of the two different plumages of the male and female. And at the end are a few other birds.

There were lots of loons and they will get a separate post.

On the weekend of June 1, I visited my friend Betty for a long weekend of birding. North Central Washington Audubon Society hosted a big day on June 1, in hopes of counting all or many of the birds in our four-county (Chelan, Douglas, Ferry and Okanogan) area. It’s a HUGE geographic area. And much of it is remote and lightly populated with people.

Betty lives in Ferry County, the area with the fewest people and lots of really nice bird habitats. I birded my way over there on Thursday; Friday we scouted our area and visited a friend in the next area; Saturday we marathon birded from early in the morning til well into the evening and Sunday I worked my way home slowly til it got too hot to be any fun. We had some rain and once it came down in such a downpour we were concerned for our safety and decided to make a hasty departure. There was hail and lots of sunshine too. Somehow I managed to only photograph birds and not Betty or the dogs or the horses or chickens. Looking forward to next time!

My birthday is the first day of Spring – the Equinox – and I like to celebrate it out in nature. This year the snow lingers most everywhere in our region making hikes or even long walks pretty challenging. So we went down to the big river – the Columbia – where the temperature is more moderate and the snow melts more quickly. Still, there was snow on the ground. Not everywhere so we all were happy to walk or in the dogs’ case, run on ground for a change. And Sky got to jump in the river so all of her wishes came true.

Ken and I watched birds and enjoyed the diversity of species we got to see. Sometimes in winter there are just not many birds around. Spring and migration change all that. We saw over fifty species in a few hours of birding. That includes the birds at home. One of those was a Great Horned Owl that woke me up before dawn, hooting from a snag in our yard. I had hoped to maybe see Sandhill Cranes but it seems that they are put off by all the remaining snow. I imagine when they do head north, they won’t stop here very long since they need to get to their nesting grounds. We did see lots of ducks and geese and swans too.

I’ve been visiting Lost Lake for nearly twenty years now. From the first time, I remember the loons. It was news to me that there were Common Loons in Washington. And then I realized that they were nesting here too!

Lost Lake is a small lake so it only hosts one nesting pair. There are a few other lakes in eastern Okanogan County and also in Ferry County that support a small population of nesting loons. Loons face many obstacles to raising their babies. Both parents take turns on the nest so the eggs (often there are two) are never left exposed. Predators that could take them include Bald Eagles, Common Ravens and otters. After they hatch and the young birds are on the water, the parents are constantly wary of attacks from the air and the water. An eagle can easily take a young loon from the water’s surface.

Loons aren’t the only birds at Lost Lake but they might be the most charismatic. Lots of people fish there in non-motorized boats so the birds are accustomed to boats and will approach fairly close. They are especially interested in the anglers. I find that if I sit quietly in my kayak, the birds will come close and offer great looks. Not that close though. These photos were mostly made with a 600 mm lens. The forest bird photos were made with a much shorter lens.

Spotted Sandpipers are a real joy to watch. They trot along logs and sticks on the water, bobbing their tails up and down and issuing their calls when they fly to the next lot. There are lots of swallows around the lake, taking advantage of many of the cavities in the trees for nesting sites.

 

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