- We appear to have a somewhat resident Merlin in my Terrace Heights
neighborhood. My wife saw it crash into our fence Saturday in the morning
and I saw it later in the day in a neighbors tree. I saw it again today in
the same tree. It doesn't seem to be bothering our resident pair of Kestrels
which have been hanging around the nest box since around the first of the
month. We've also had a flock of Cedar Waxwings working on the berries of
the neighbors mountain ash tree.
- Dear Friends,
Ken and I have been out and about, and here are our stories.
I am back on my Forest Service trail crew summer job on the Cle Elum Ranger
District. Yesterday I was hiking up the Waptus River trail (north of Cle
Elum Lake) and heard my first Olive-Sided Flycatcher of the year. I rarely
see these guys unless they are perched in the dead top of a tree, but their
call is a sign of summer to me. And all the frogs out there were in full
song. It was a real soundfest.
Here's Ken: Driving along the Centerville road just south and west of
Goldendale last Monday, I saw a harrier being dive bombed by a large, fast
bird. At first I thought, prairie falcon? So I stopped in the middle of
the county road (no traffic), and watched a long-billed curlew swoop down
again and again on the hapless harrier. It would fly above the hawk, and
zoom down to hit it with that long long bill. pretty cool.
Interesting non-birds: Saw a marten up in the middle fork of the Ahtanum
on Thursday, out in a talus slope. It was hunting about in the rocks. And
an old-growth rattlesnake on Oak Creek yesterday. It was light olive in
the front 2/3 and dark striped on the last 1/3, with a bunch of rattles.
biggest one I've ever seen around here. We chased it off of the road.
People should be careful when driving and watch out for snakes on the road
ways. If you can, stop and chase them off of the road. I think in many
areas road kills have extirpated these animals; cars and snakes don't get
along very well.
Deb and Ken
> From: Denny Granstrand <osprey@...>send
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: [BirdYak] Flycatcher poll
> Date: Wednesday, May 22, 2002 8:53 PM
> Hi Yakkers,
> For those of you who have not registered with Yahoo, you will have to
> an e-mail to BirdYak to vote for your flycatcher choice. It is notpossible
> to open the poll to non-registered people.
> Sorry for the inconvenience,
> * * * * * * * * * * *
> * Denny Granstrand *
> * Yakima, WA *
> * osprey@... *
> * * * * * * * * * * *
> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
I managed to get involved with birding three times in the past week. Last
Tuesday, I monitored the bluebird nest boxes in Hardy Canyon. I thought I
made an early start but it was pushing 10:00 when I arrived at the Ponderosa
Pine/Blue-gray Gnatcatcher location. I spent a half hour or so casing the
area without a sign of the little guy but an Ash-throated Flycatcher found
me...flying towards me and then executing a hovering maneuver at close range
to check me out. Or perhaps he perceived my poor ID skills and wanted to
make sure I got a load of his rufous tail by fanning it in my face, if you
will. He then took an exposed perch and raised his eyebrows to draw my
attention to his bushy brown head to emphasize that he wasn't just another
Western Kingbird. From what I have learned about the history of the Hardy
Canyon nest boxes, Ash-throated Flycatchers have attempted nests at least
twice in this area. There is an empty box near...will this be the year of
I was happy to read later in the day that Ellen and Andy had located the
gnatcatcher earlier that day. Andy described him as "singing feebly." The
few recent sightings that I am aware of were pretty much short in duration
with little fanfare or song. A far cry from the robust blue darter who
seemed willing to entertain all who ventured close to his now missing nest on
a 24-7 basis.
On Saturday, I went on the Nile Valley Bird Walk that Doris and Larry host
every year for YVAS. It proved to be a pleasant walk in the woods yielding a
fair number of good birds. Early on, the group flushed a brood of grouse
with a couple of the juvenile crossing in front of the group and the hen
taking refuge under a bush below us. One of the youngsters landed in a low
branch close to the trail and assumed a frozen pose it maintained for several
minutes. I volunteered that it most resembled a Ruffed Grouse and no one
argued so it was duefully recorded as such on the official list. A wild
guess is now part of a historical record.
As the walk continued, it became clear that the Black-headed Grosbeaks were
in charge of the audio, the Western Tanagers furnished the color,
Hummingbirds provided the action, and flycatchers lent the mystery. I was
walking at the back of the group to lessen my chances of whirling to see a
bird and flattening someone with my tripod in the process. As the main group
pressed forward, a perched bird caught the eye of Bill D. and we paused to
look. Although we didn't notice an eye-ring, we thought it didn't fit the
Western Wood Pewee mold. The bird seemed content to pose on its perch
pausing to preen a little and occasionally flying off to nab a tempting bug.
I cajoled Bill into agreeing that the bird was to light to be olive, it had
to be gray. And isn't that head to round and to small in proportion to be a
Peewee? Seconds became minutes. Field guides came out. We traded scope
views and field mark quotes. Although we knew the dangers, we were seduced.
We were in Epidonax quicksand and sinking. The bird remained calm and so
accessible we could not help ourselves...we struggled. I became the Gray
Flycatcher's advocate. It was all there. Gray above and whitish below. The
small round appearing head. The inconspicuous eye-ring. Inconspicuous hell,
I couldn't even find it. The long tail with the whitish edge...clear on
several views. But...even in the good light, the needed flesh colored base
of the lower mandible eluded us. We sank deeper. If the bird called, Bill
never mentioned it and I, of course, never heard it. We were oblivious to the
cold hard fact that the call/song of an Empid is best (only??) way to
separate them. We looked harder, dug deeper. The National Geo mentioned
that a perched Gray Flycatcher drops its tail down slowly but this bird would
not do so when I was consciously looking for it and I only remembered to look
for it when he would void...which happened at least three times. And at such
times, I imagine most birds do indeed lift and then lower their tails. Bill
finally concurred that it was indeed a Gray and notched it off in his book
though it is possible that he did so because he realized were not only AWOL
but genuine deserters as far the field trip was concerned. After we rejoined
the group and rounded a turn, we looked back to find the bird still posed
above the river giving us a sly smile. I met Bill's eyes. We also smiled but
our heads snapped straight ahead and we marched boldly forward. We would not
be tempted by the wily Empids again. At least not today.
At the conclusion of the official field trip, Bill and I did venture back up
FR 1600 to the burn area. Bill found a White-headed Woodpecker feeding young
at the nest hole rather quickly. After a little searching, we had views of
both male and female Black-backed Woodpeckers. A Western Bluebird
momentarily foiled our efforts when it drove off the male we were watching
working on a tree. A pair of Hairy Woodpeckers diverted our attention up
into the large tree we were standing under with their loud tapping and
entertained us for a short while. A number of Yellow-rumped Warblers were
active in the area also.
On Sunday, my sister and I paid a morning visit to the Cowiche Canyon Trail.
She was a little down about missing the Nile trip so I thought it would cheer
her up to do a little birding. Funny how I am always ready to do a good deed
when it involves a couple hours of bird watching. Although the heat and
dryness of summer is taking its toll on the wildflowers, there is still
enough in bloom to distract the flower buffs.
The first stretch was dominated by tons of Robins still feeding full grown
fledglings and the swirling swallows. Tough to identify on the wing for me,
but the ones swinging the closest were Cliff and Violet-green. Go in far
enough to the areas where the railroad was forced to blast a narrow channel
for the tracks and you will see the Violet-green entering crevasses to access
their nests. The Cliff Swallows nests are evident high up on the rocky
As for birds, it was a magnificent day. Yellow-breasted Chats were numerous
and very vocal easily drowning out the few singing Black-headed Grosbeaks.
When we encountered an especially raucous Chat, a few minutes search would
usually be rewarded with a scope view. The canyon wall's acoustics really
amp this guy's repertoire. Although they can be difficult to locate
visually, once you find them you wonder why it takes so long as their yellow
breast practically blinds you. Bullock's Orioles were visible all along the
trail also affording us with several perfect scope views. We also had Cedar
Waxwings, Western Kingbirds, Song Sparrows and a couple dreaded flycatchers.
In the middle of the canyon, we observed a Red-tailed Hawk show. One hawk
was flying with it's legs fully extended grasping a rather large branch. A
slightly smaller Red-tail flew above it in close formation for short
distances while a pair of low soaring Turkey Vultures circled through the
display at the same altitude. The larger Red-tail landed for a short period
before launching back into flight still grasping the branch. I don't know if
this was a mating or pair bonding ritual or if an adult was teaching nest
building technique to a juvenal. Would raptors be attempting a nest this
late even if they had suffered a failure earlier?
The highlight of the walk (and always on my hidden agenda for this canyon)
was two views of Rock Wrens. I was hoping to nail down the "lock" Canyon
Wren also but my record of missing this guy is still intact. I guess it is a
lock only if you are on site at daybreak with freshly swapped ears. Being a
visual guy, I keep my hopes (and eyes) up every time I enter the canyon.
We turned around after bridge seven as it was warming up and I had promised
my sister we wouldn't tax her ailing hip. We turned with remorse as the day
was still yielding great results. I would have loved to have made it to the
cherry orchards at the east end. On the way back we encountered the second
group of birders from the west side that were in the canyon. The first group
was a younger group who were visiting friends in Yakima. The second was a
more experienced group who stated they were learning (and enjoying) the east
side of the state. They had camped up Oak Creek Saturday and when I
mentioned Black-backed Woodpecker above the Nile, two sets of notepads were
drawn quick enough to startle the Lone Ranger himself. They jotted down
directions and gleefully made plans for an evening repast amongst the
My sister mentioned that it was her first foray into the canyon and I was
somewhat taken aback. I will admit that when I have birded this canyon late
September to late March time frame, I thought it was over rated as a birding
area. A trip last year when the cherries were ripe really spiked my interest
in the area. If you have never been there, go soon as I think we are moving
out of "prime time."
I was reading my previous post (it could well be that I am the only one still
reading my stuff) and I noticed that in my discussion of the Canyon Wren I
used the word "swapped" where I intended to use "swabbed." Spell check can
only keep me out of so much trouble it appears. But then again if anyone is
willing to "swap" ears, I'll listen to all offers as my hearing is somewhat
suspect at best. Heck, I can throw in a heck of a nose to sweeten the deal.
The rhymes by Denny and John really tempted me but I held back. It could
have gotten ugly...real ugly.
- At 10:15 PM 6/24/2002 EDT, you wrote:
>As the walk continued, it became clear that the Black-headed Grosbeaks wereRichard,
>in charge of the audio, the Western Tanagers furnished the color,
>Hummingbirds provided the action, and flycatchers lent the mystery.
This is perhaps the best and greatest sentence I have read about a field
trip. If you keep this up, you will be writing the Bird Alert as well as
the bird sightings for the Audubon newsletter.
* * * * * * * * * * *
* Denny Granstrand *
* Yakima, WA *
* osprey@... *
* * * * * * * * * * *
I tried a different slant on the sightings column. Eventually, I may get
fired or force someone to volunteer!
**************New year...new news. Be the first to know what is making
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