New Years Eve in the Yakima Canyon
Ellen and I spent a very enjoyable hour at Maia's celebrating Charleys life
through conversation and good food with many of his friends. Thanks Maia for
hosting this event; our thoughts are with you at this time.
Afterwards, we made a quick dash into the southern Yakima Canyon and spent
from 3:30 to 4: 30 pm at the pullout at the base of the big cliffs across
the Yakima River 0.25 mile south of the Kittitas County line. Common
Mergansers were flying steadily south in parties of from about five to 25,
perhaps 100 birds in all and all male birds. Questions: where have all these
mergansers been feeding; where are the females and where are these birds
going to spend the night?
At about 4 pm we noticed four or five finch-sized birds flying restlessly
about the northern part of the cliff face about 1,000' above us. Training
our scopes on the basalt turrets across the river, I excitedly called out
"Gray-crowned Rosy Finches." Although the light was only mediocre, I clearly
saw their characteristic finch flight - undulating and very contrasty
flight feathers (due to the transclucence of their primaries and secondaries
contrasting with theirdark underwing coverts). I also watched one bird enter
a small cleft high on the cliff, its roosting site? This was my first
sighting of rosy finches in the Yakima Canyon in Yakima County; most or all
prior sightings that I know of come from the roadsides a few miles north in
As we were about to leave, Ellen caught movement on the ledges across the
river... Bighorn Sheep! There were several adult ewes, two pint-sized
"yearlings," and three adult animals with pretty impressive curls to their
horns. If males, aren't they supposed to keep apart from females and young?
We shifted our scopes to these beautiful creatures, and watched them
effortlessly make their way along grassy ledges fairly high on the lower
half of the cliffs.
Moments later, a Canyon Wren burst into song, again across the river; I
thought this was midwinter, what's he doing singing?
We left, fairly thrilled with our wonderful sightings, however brief, in the
Yakima Canyon, truly an inspiring spot. And...how lucky the people of Yakima
are to have this area only minutes from the city.