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We spent last week at Lost Lake in the Okanogan Highlands in eastern Okanogan County. If you’ve followed this blog for long, you know we go there just about every year. What is it about this place that we find so inviting? Let’s see: old growth western larch forest, Common Loons, wildflowers, historic CCC structures, peace and quiet, wildflowers, perfect small lake for paddling and relaxing, brook trout in that lake, good birding and much, much more.

Weather was kind of chilly and we enjoyed our campfires each night. Fishing was off from other years but Ken was able to bring in enough for two meals. A friend joined us for a couple of days. We did some serious birding and she got to paddle Ken’s fishing kayak. The dogs were happy and busy and they slept like rocks each night. I think we all slept well with the frogs in the background. We woke to singing Swainson’s Thrushes and Ruby-crowned Kinglets each morning.

Last week Ken and I and the dogs got away from home for a few days. Whidbey Island was our destination. Whidbey is over 50 miles long and lies at the north end of Puget Sound, otherwise known as the Salish Sea. You get there by taking a ferry or by bridge across Deception Pass at the island’s north end. We took the bridge. It’s a good place for beach walking, exploring small towns and history and eating good food. We did all that and I got to take my kayak out in Penn Cove (where they grow the wonderful mussels) with Ken’s brother.

We camped at Fort Ebey State Park in a beautiful forested setting. It was a short walk to a bluff trail that provided wonderful views of the strait and good birding opportunities. It’s part of a large system of trails for walkers and mountain bikers. Fort Ebey is one of a series of forts that were constructed for coastal defense beginning in the 1900’s. Several of these installations were converted to state parks in the 1960’s.

The dogs had a great time on the beaches and the sunsets were marvelous. Driving across the pass we enjoyed the first dusting of snow in the North Cascades and a walk in the big cedar trees along the Skagit River at Newhalem.

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.

 

We got away with our camper for a week or so at the end of May. Last summer there was no time for camping between work and wildfires so we just decided to block out some time early and do it. With a little luck, maybe we can go again later in the summer.

The Lost Lake Campground was created by the CCC. Signs indicated the work was done in 1940 and ’41. There is a cabin and shops and also some buildings at the adjacent Kiwanis camp all built by the CCC workers. The cabin is badly in need of repair. I do hope the US Forest Service can find the resources to preserve this historic building.

Western larch is the predominant tree around the campground. These are tall stately conifers with needles that turn golden yellow in the fall before dropping. In the spring they grow vibrant green foliage. Apparently the area was logged in 1963, taking many of the big old trees. There are at least two remaining and a nature walk will guide you to them. The area was thinned/logged again around fifteen years ago, I think. This thinning has produced a healthy and attractive stand that is also more fire resistant than it was prior to that.

We were joined by Ken’s brother and the two of them enjoyed fishing for brook trout from the short kayaks. We had two good meals of fresh fish cooked over the fire. I enjoyed birding from my kayak. Ken and Carl saw a moose swim across the lake while they were fishing. Of course, I missed it! We all enjoyed listening to the loons calling to each other.

It was nice to get away from home and the ever-present electronic world.

Here is our bird list from Lost Lake.

Canada Goose

Wood Duck

Mallard

Green-winged Teal

Ring-necked Duck

Common Loon

Turkey Vulture

Bald Eagle

Red-tailed Hawk

Virginia Rail

Sora

American Coot

Spotted Sandpiper

Great Horned Owl

Barred Owl

Common Poorwill

hummingbird sp.

Williamson’s Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Hammond’s Flycatcher

Empidonax sp.

Gray Jay

Steller’s Jay

Common Raven

Tree Swallow

Violet-green Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Marsh Wren

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Western Bluebird

Townsend’s Solitaire

Swainson’s Thrush

American Robin

Orange-crowned Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Chipping Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Song Sparrow

Red-winged Blackbird

Red Crossbill

Pine Siskin

Evening Grosbeak

 

It had been a long time since I had my boat out on the water. Last year I suffered from moderate to severe back pain for months on end and I was unable to load and unload the boat on my own so it gathered dust in the garage for over a year and a half. This year I am feeling much better and yesterday I took it out to Patterson Lake and enjoyed the beauty and solitude of an April morning. Two weeks ago the lake was covered in ice.

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