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Category Archives: spring

Two days ago, the girls and I took a road trip to visit Spring. And a little bit of Winter. Our, well my, main goal was to see a Snowy Owl and I managed to do that after one hundred miles of driving. The girls’ main goal was to walk on dirt instead of ice. They managed to do quite a bit of that and enjoyed all the smells of wet dirt and early spring. The snow had just melted in parts of Douglas County and left moist ground, sometime just plain mud, and water all over the place. Water was laying in wheat fields, crossing roads, pouring over coulee walls. Oh, and it was cold enough that much of it was ice-covered.

Sadly, much of what we saw was burned down to dirt in last Labor Day’s Pearl Hill wildfire. Much of the ash has already blown away or been washed away. The vast landscapes look barren with little sagebrush remaining. I had hoped for a few Spring birds but there was nowhere for them to perch or take cover.

The skies were incredibly blue. The snow-covered mountains on the horizons were lovely. Sunshine warmed us. The coulee walls were lit up with lichens. We enjoyed walking on dirt and getting away from our ice and snow-covered world at home.

I saw 54 bird species scattered over numerous habitats. Nothing rare. They were:

Canada Goose

Tundra Swan

American Wigeon

Mallard

Canvasback

Redhead

Ring-necked Duck

Greater Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Bufflehead

Common Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser

Common Merganser

Wild Turkey

California Quail

Pied-billed Grebe

Eared Grebe

Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Mourning Dove

American Coot

Common Loon

Great Blue Heron

Golden Eagle

Northern Harrier

Bald Eagle

Red-tailed Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Snowy Owl

Belted Kingfisher

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

American Kestrel

Northern Shrike

Steller’s Jay

Black-billed Magpie

American Crow

Common Raven

Horned Lark

Black-capped Chickadee

Pygmy Nuthatch

American Dipper

Varied Thrush

European Starling

House Sparrow

House Finch

Pine Siskin

American Goldfinch

Song Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Western Meadowlark

Red-winged Blackbird

What do you want for your birthday? I always hope to see something wonderful or have a wonderful time doing something I enjoy. Yesterday, the first day or Spring, was my birthday.

The girls and I headed over to the Okanogan in hopes of finding enough bare, snow-free ground for a good hike. Well good luck with that. Winter continues to linger on most of the hills unless they are steep and south-facing. We did manage to do some rambling and scrambling but the rotten snow was a challenge for a good walk and the open hillsides that were snow-free are so badly damaged by intensive grazing and wildfire that there are few native plants and lots of weeds. Since the big fires of 2014 many fences have been built in hopes of keeping livestock out of the creeks and this is a good thing. However, I crossed, over and under, numerous strings of barbed wire during our little outing.

Giving up on that, we headed across the Okanogan to the Timentwa Flats in search of Sandhill Cranes. But once again, winter’s grip is slow to let go and all the little lakes were frozen and the ground was snow-covered. I did see several Rough-legged Hawks and some Snow Buntings, both winter birds in our area, along with some vibrant Mountain Bluebirds and a pair of Killdeer walking on ice. It was a mixed bag. The road got progressively worse and I didn’t want to take a chance of getting caught in the mud so we turned around and gave up on that route.

We headed down to the Big River and Washburn Island. I knew it was snow-free and warm. We were able to walk all the way around it. At one point a Red-tailed Hawk circled above, screeching at us. Maybe there is a nest nearby? We were surprised when a small group of Sandhill Cranes lifted from the unseen cattails behind a row of Russian olive trees and flew around us landing somewhere behind where we had already walked. Sky enjoyed jumping in the Columbia and at the end we observed a Great Horned Owl in a nest.

All in all a pretty good birthday adventure and a beautiful day!

Everyday there is something to observe. With the melting snow, we can see where the dogs relieved themselves all winter. New wildflowers pop up overnight. Birds return from their winter haunts and declare their territories with loud calls and repeated banging. It rains. The mud returns. The sun shines. We go out and work furiously. And then it snowed.

March has brought us all sort of winter-like weather but I think that spring is finally settling in. Most of the snow is melted. For the first time in four months, there are deer walking around on our hill. It was a hard winter to be a deer in the valley. Wild Turkeys seem to be wandering around here too. Birds are selecting nest boxes and building nests. Tiny wildflowers are growing and blooming.

Finally, the snow is retreating, leaving enough bare ground that a person can safely walk without getting her feet wet. Muddy, but not wet. Little patches of green grass are everywhere (except in our yard which is a whole other topic best left alone). Tiny forbs are sending out small shoots and I was even able to find one tiny flower. Sky found her own treasure.

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