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Birding Washington

Us on the Port Angeles ferry

In June 2007 Lori Lynch and I went on our first birding trip together. We travelled 3000 kilometres in eight days. Our basic route was south along the west coast of Washington, across Astoria Bridge into Oregon. We then travelled down through Portland and back across into Washington and followed the Columbia River across the Cascades and up into Moses Lake. From here, we headed north into the U.S. Okanogan, then across the border and into Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. The diversity of habitats was amazing and the birds were fantastic. We tallied 205 species of birds, 16 of which were lifers for me and 55 for Lori.

22nd June 2007 (day 1)
            After spending a night with friends in Victoria, we took the Port Angeles ferry at 6:10 a.m. and by 7:40 a.m. we were on the road to Ocean Shores. After many stops and my first ever speeding ticket, we arrived at Ocean Shores, about 3:30 p.m. Though windy and cold we did get out on the beach and Lori got her first two lifers: Heermann's Gull and Brown Pelican. We arrived in Westport at 5:30 p.m. and had some dinner at the hotel restaurant. We checked the docks to make sure we new where to go for the Pelagic trip in the morning, then headed back to our room. That was when I discovered I had forgotten my pants and boots!
            Sheepishly, I told Lori and we went back out on the road to Walmart, which was 20 miles away in Aberdeen. Luckily, we were back in time to hit the hay at a reasonable hour.

The old bill get some birders...
23rd June 2007 (day2)
            After a good night sleep we awoke to a 4:15 a.m. alarm call. With ear patches in place; for motion sickness, we headed for the boat. We departed Westport on our first pelagic at 5:45 a.m. It was an amazing day, and we got to see so many great birds and marine mammals: Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwake, Tufted Puffin, Leach's Storm-Petrel, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, Pomarine Jaeger, South Polar Skua and Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Dall's Porpoise, Harbour Porpoise and Northern Fur Seal! The seas were calm and our hosts were knowlegeable, welcoming and made sure eveyone was seeing all the birds. Thanks to all at Westport Pelagic:Phil Anderson (captain), Bruce La Bar, Gene Revelas and Bill Shelmerdine. We had an incedible day, and can't wait to go again! After a coffee back on dry land we headed across the Astoria Bridge into Oregon, where we stayed at the Sea Ranch RV Park in Cannon Beach.

Hmmm..This is what I looked like before the pelagic. See, you don't need weed. Just put on a frickin ear patch!
Westport Seabirds..they are awesome!

Black-footed Albatross
24th June 2007 (day 3)
            The 24th was one of the most memorable days on the trip for Lori and I. A wet start did not dampen our spirits as we searched for Tufted Puffin from Cannon Beach. Haystack Rock dominates the skyline here and is the third largest free-standing rock in the world-235 ft. This huge monolith is home to many pairs of Tufted Puffin and with a break in the weather, we were afforded good looks at these unique birds. En-route to Forest Grove, Portland, we stopped at Saddle Mountain for one of my most sought after birds: The Hermit Warbler! With lots of effort and some luck, we got nice long looks at one individual that investigated my mimic pygmy-owl tooting. Back on the road brought another lifer for both of us: Western Scrub Jay. We continued on to the Pacific University in Forest Grove where there is a known granary for Acorn Woodpecker. After 20 minutes of searching at the university, we finally tracked down the call, the bird and the nest of an Acorn Woodpecker!
Lori checking out the Tufted Puffin on Haystack Rock, Oregon

Acorn Woodpecker
            We travelled over the bridge in Portland onto the Washington side of the Columbia River and straight east to Lyle. Here we added many more species including Western Bluebird, Bullock's Oriole, Golden Eagle, White-breasted Nuthatch and Ash-throated Flycatcher! We camped in the chilly Simcoe Mountains at Brooks Memorial, just north of Goldendale.

Ash-throated Flycatcher in Lyle
25th June 2007 (day 4)
            We departed Brooks Memorial at 8:45 a.m., after birding the campground. Here, Lori got her first look at a very cooperative Nashville Warbler. Though we made several stops, along the way, we were headed for Toppenish and the Bobolink fields of lateral C Road. There were lots of good birds around including Gray Catbird and Loggerhead Shrike. We dipped out on the Bobolink, mainly due to finding three abandoned puppies! After Lori fed them some milk from our cooler, we took them into Yakima to the Humane Society. It was very upsetting, but at least they stood a chance now. The remainder of the day was spent around the Columbia National Wildlife area, west of Othello, where we added Rock Wren,  Canyon Wren, Clark's Grebe, Swainson's Hawk and American White Pelican, to name a few!

Puppy love

Loggerhead Shrike
26th June 2007 (day 5)
            Our day started at 8:00 a.m. as we made our way out towards Vantage. En-route we stopped at a massive canyon where White-throated Swift were flying at head height! We spent an hour in the Quilomene area searching for sparrows. Our efforts were rewarded with Lark, Brewer's, Vesper and, our first, Sage Sparrow! Along the main road were Mountain Bluebird and American Kestrel. Our next move proved very worthwhile! After referring to Hal Oppermans guide we headed down Huntzinger Road to a natural bowl of shrub steppe. On arrival we heard a Black-throated Sparrow singing; we scanned the scrub and located it perched on top of a bush! This is one of the only known spots for this species, as described in the book, and a real  highlight on our trip. Next, we headed along Lower Crab Creek, which was extremely dry and unbirdy. With the day slipping by, we headed for our final destination of the day: The Potholes Rookery. Here we had lots of time to enjoy seeing Great Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Western Grebe and Cinnamon Teal, at close quarters. Making a quick stop on the grassy slopes off the dirt road into the rookery, gave us our first and only Grasshopper Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

Eastern Kingbird
27th June 2007 (day 6)
            This was our last planned day in the area, so we had our final attempt at finding a Burrowing Owl, and came up blank. We took a very long route to Wilson Creek heading east on Highway 26 until we joined the 395, up to Lind and then west and north on Highway 21. From Odessa to Wilson Creek, we followed Highway 28. We ticked lots of good birds along the way including Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Swainson's Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk and Common Nighthawk. In Wilson Creek we were greeted by Prairie Falcons and Rock Wrens; and down on the marsh there were great numbers of Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, American White Pelican, and another lifer for us both: Tri-colored Blackbird. We continued on highway 28 to Soap Lake where we got to see Eared Grebe in breeding plumage. From here we headed west to Wenatchee then north on I-97 to Omak. The weather was ridiculously hot and we were drained and delirious at the end of the day.

Prairie Falcon
Common Nighthawk

Ferruginous Hawk
28th June 2007 (day 7)
            We departed from Omak at 6:52 a.m. and headed northwest, toward Conconully State Park. We continued along this route toward Loomis, travelling through the Sinlahekin Wildlife area. There were many places to stop along the gravel road including Sugar Loaf Mountain, Blue Lake and Palmer Lake, plus many more. Highlights included: Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Bobolink, Gray Catbird, Clark's Nutcracker, Nashville Warbler, Lewis's Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker and Veery. Lori also spotted a Black Bear on the hillside on the east side of Blue Lake. After setting up camp at Osoyoos State Park, we headed out on an evening road trip. We didn't add any new species but enjoyed the fantastic scenery around the Okanogan highlands. We also found a Great Basin Gopher Snake on the road.

Lewis's Woodpecker
29th June 2007 (day 8)
            After a wet start from the Osoyoos State Park we packed up our wet gear and made our way to the border. We crossed with no line up or delay. From here we drove on the Hope/Princeton Highway and onto Highway 1 through to Departure Bay in Vancouver, to catch our ferry back to Vancouver Island. En-route we got a new species for the trip; Eurasian Collared Dove, in the town of Keremeos and two Black Bear in Manning Park.
Black Bear


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