Pine grosbeaks-- strange behaviour
- Hi Yakkers--We jeeped up Parke Creek then north on the Beacon Ridge Rd yesterday and down to the little Brushy in the WDF&Ws Quilomene WRA. Although from our house to where we built a cozy fire for lunch we drove only 20 miles it took almost 3 hours. Of course that included photographing elk and deer,looking at tracks in the occasional snow (cougar, bobcat, deer, elk, coyote etc) and picking our way through the rocks, ruts, and occasional snow banks. On the Beacon Ridge road we stopped to have some tea in a sheltered spot out of the wind (it was 6 degrees f with a 25 mph wind--haven't figured out the wind chill factor). Anyway, looking back at where we had just crossed a very large ice patch I could see a flock of about 10 birds flying from the trees down to the ice. I watched with my binocs, but they were in a shady spot under some pine trees, so I had to hike back (on the exposed open ridge top-brrr) to try and ID them. They seemed totally unconcerned about my less than stealthy approach, and when I got close enough I could clearly see they were pine grosbeaks. It was comical to watch them fly down and slide across the ice. They seemed to be picking something off the ice, and I can only surmise (somebody help me with this) that they were picking up little pieces of ice that came off our tires when we crossed. There was plenty of grit available as most of the ridge was bare. I've never seen this behaviour before.
Other birds that day included a golden eagle, several bald eagles (adult and immature), ravens, bb magpies, rt hawks, A kestrel, northen shrike, mtn chickadees and one solitary Townsend's solitaire which was sitting in an alder halfway down the Little Brushy canyon (not a juniper in sight).
Calving is starting in the valley, and on the way to E'burg this morning there were 6 bald eagles sitting in the cottonwoods on the west side of Number 81 Rd just north of the Vantage Hwy waiting for afterbirth, yumm.
Deborah on the Brick Mill Road north of Kittitas