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Tag Archives: Okanogan County

It’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season. Last week, I joined three other birders and one dog to count the birds in southern Okanogan County. Winter came early and it seems that many birds left for places where they can find food more easily. I’ve done this count many times before and have never seen so much snow. One of our counters broke trail with snowshoes but it was still a slog. Lucky for us, it was not too cold with the temperature hovering around freezing and endless blue skies! While we did not see a lot of bird life, we did enjoy studying tracks in the snow and wondering about the tales those tracks told. We saw lots of beaver sign and watched one across the river. There were many bobcat tracks too. Our favorite unexpected bird species was a small group of Chukars!

At the end of the day we had 38 bird species for our section of the count. Last year, with just two of us counting, we had 56 species in the same area.

Sky and I got away for three days last week. The weather continues to be fairly cool, well cold, most days. The dog water froze outside each night and I was grateful for a working heater in the camper. We walked and walked and walked and saw a fair number of deer. There was one otter that entertained me for an afternoon. We also saw a skunk on one of our rambles in the hills. Luckily, I saw it before it saw us! I identified 64 bird species and am sure I missed some whose songs I didn’t recognize. We had a fine campsite overlooking a small lake with a variety of waterfowl and one lone swan. There were numerous buttercups in bloom and one Astragulus and some tiny lomatiums. The snow had just finished melting and while we were there, we had one impressive snow squall that left the hills white til the sun came out again. Mountain Bluebirds were everywhere! Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robins and Canada Geese woke us each morning with their songs and calls.

Here is my bird list for the three days:

Canada Goose 

Tundra Swan 

Wood Duck 

American Wigeon 

Mallard 

Green-winged Teal 

Ring-necked Duck 

Greater Scaup 

Bufflehead 

Barrow’s Goldeneye 

Hooded Merganser 

Common Merganser 

California Quail 

Ruffed Grouse 

Dusky Grouse 

Pied-billed Grebe 

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 

Eurasian Collared-Dove 

Mourning Dove 

Virginia Rail 

American Coot 

Turkey Vulture 

Osprey 

Northern Harrier 

Red-tailed Hawk 

Great Horned Owl 

Belted Kingfisher 

Red-naped Sapsucker 

Downy Woodpecker 

Pileated Woodpecker 

Northern Flicker 

American Kestrel 

Say’s Phoebe 

Black-billed Magpie 

American Crow 

Common Raven 

Black-capped Chickadee 

Mountain Chickadee 

Northern Rough-winged Swallow 

Tree Swallow 

Violet-green Swallow 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 

Red-breasted Nuthatch 

Pygmy Nuthatch 

Brown Creeper 

Bewick’s Wren 

American Dipper 

European Starling 

Western Bluebird 

Mountain Bluebird 

American Robin 

House Finch 

Cassin’s Finch 

Pine Siskin 

Chipping Sparrow 

Fox Sparrow 

Dark-eyed Junco 

White-crowned Sparrow 

Song Sparrow 

Spotted Towhee 

Western Meadowlark 

Red-winged Blackbird 

Brewer’s Blackbird 

Yellow-rumped Warbler 

Common Loons need lots of water surface to get airborne and then, at a small lake like this one, they need to circle it two or three times to get high enough to clear the tall trees. It’s all pretty dramatic.

I have found that birds are easier to view when I am in my kayak than when I am walking around. The birds don’t perceive a person in a boat to be as big a threat as a person on the ground. The kayak provides a good point of view for some of the smaller songbirds which often elude me, leaving me to guess their species by a call or a song. I struggle with birding by ear, especially the warblers and Empidonax flycatchers. Except Willow Flycatchers. They have a distinctive call that sounds like ‘fitzbuuu’.

The Pileated Woodpecker was seen from our campsite. The Yellow-rumped Warbler darted back and forth catching bugs above the water. There were baby Song Sparrows along the lakeshore and adults singing and calling from the shrubs above. Red-winged Blackbirds NEVER perch still for me to get a photo. Never. An Empidonax flycatcher waited for insects in between its frequent ‘fitzbuuu’ calls. See the crack in that snag? In the next photo, look carefully for the departing Tree Swallow. They are fast. I waited and waited to get that one image. I have several of the bird’s tail feathers flying away. The Yellow Warbler was lovely in the green alder leaves. Coots were elusive in the marshy area of the lake, quickly gathering their bright orange chicks and moving them into cover. An Eastern Kingbird gracefully hurled a pellet while I was making its photo. I came across the Killdeer family while on a drive about.

Of course, there were loons. And another highlight, not photographed, was a Sora with babies!

I chose my campsite for its potential to have very dark skies without artificial lighting. I was right. It was terrific for seeing the stars. These were made during two different nights, shot around 2:30 to 4:00 am. They are single shots. I am always amazed at the colors of the night sky.

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