Gray-crowned Rosy Finches in the Yakima Canyon
- Yakkers and Tweeters,
Yesterday (24 Feb), at about 4 pm, a Yakima Valley Audubon Society fieldtrip
located ~ 35 Gray-crowned Rosy Finches on Baldy Mtn. in the Yakima Canyon in
southern Kittitas Canyon. This roving flock was on the north side cliffs.
Initially, they were not far above the road. As we watched, they moved
higher to cliffs more than 1,000' above SR821. It was really quite a thrill
to view these beautiful birds through the scope atop lichen-encrusted cliffs
bathed in afternoon sunlight! Hues of dark rosy, silver, and dark chestnut.
A young couple from Ellensburg stopped by, inquiring what we were looking
at. "Birds! Rosy Finches," we answered. Surprisingly, they were birders, not
the usual passerbys seemingly interested only in viewing Mule Deer, Elk, or
Bighorn Sheep. It was a pleasure to share this beautiful bird for them, a
lifer (~220 for him, I dunno if she was counting), and most participants on
This winter roost site is seemingly quite dependable; this is my 3rd try
here in late afternoon in winter, each time the finches are about.
Today Ellen, Peggy, and I hiked up the west ridge of Baldy Mtn. in
absolutely beautiful weather (warm and mostly windless, with stunning views
of Hood, Adams, Rainier, and the Stuarts). Birds were few. We flushed
Chukar on three or four occasions, and heard them
"rucka...rucka...rucka...rucking" frequently. Ravens were conspicuous and
Horned Lark were heard calling (but none singing). We peered down onto the
north face escarpment and cliffs from above at every opportunity and neither
saw nor heard any rosy finches. I did see one flying about high over
mid-canyon once. It's evident the finches do scatter widely over the
surrounding ridges during the day, only returning to these cliffs for the
night. This is the conventional wisdom, but I'm still a bit skeptical that
these birds aren't actually foraging about the cliffs all day.