Monday, July 02, 2007


Sorry this post is so late, I finally ran out of excuses so here's the last installment of my series on Adam's visit.

We awoke bright and early--well actually it wasn’t very bright, it was 4:40 a.m.--on Thursday to head out to the Yakima area in eastern WA, and I have to say that was my favorite experience of the week. Obviously we had to drive a ways to get past the Cascades, so we took 205 into OR and then headed out east on I-84 through the Gorge. It was fascinating how quickly the terrain changed from damp pine forests covering rocky cliffs to dry, rolling hills. We crossed back into WA, went through Goldendale and headed up through Yakima.

Along the way I observed my first Western Meadowlarks singing from fenceposts and powerlines along the highway.

Western Meadowlark

Once we reached the town of Naches, we found the road that led us to Wenas Lake and the Wenas Valley campground, where the annual WA Audubon campout was held a few days earlier. Too bad we missed it. Anyway, we were treated to views of Black-billed Magpie, more Meadowlarks, a comical Ruffed Grouse that ran across the road in front of us, my first Western and Eastern Kingbirds, Mountain and Western bluebirds, Nashville, MacGillavray’s and Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warblers, a cooperative Yellow Warbler and more.

Yellow Warbler

Ruffed Grouse

Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler

We had heard that the campground hosted Pygmy Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and White-headed Woodpeckers but we hiked quite a ways up into the wooded hills and couldn’t find any, so we returned to the creek which seemed to be much more lively. The time of day and the heat probably had a lot to do with it.

We left the campground and finally got back on a decent paved road, but just as I breathed a sigh of relief we saw a blaring yellow sign that said “Pavement Ends!” This road was definitely an improvement over the last gravel road, even after it said “End of County Road” (which the last time meant “Prepare to be jolted into oblivion”)

As always we drove slow with the windows rolled down, and got some good views of Vesper and Brewer’s Sparrows, Cassin’s Finch, Tree Swallows, and Mountain and Western Bluebirds.

Mountain Bluebird

As we passed a ranch, I noticed an odd looking bird perched atop the entrance arch and then saw that it was a CA quail, a lifer for Adam. We pulled over to photograph him, but soon I noticed that just below him was hung a cow skull with a Western Kingbird calmly perched on it.

California Quail & Western Kingbird

It was sweet to get both species in one photo, and I think it makes great material for a future painting. Finally we exited the gravel road onto a highway near Ellensburg, and decided it was too late to tour the Yakima River Canyon or Mt. Rainier if we wanted to make it home at a reasonable hour. It’s too bad, since I was looking forward to some mountain birding, but it was hard to be disappointed after a day in the Wenas Basin. Adam decided he would want to stop at Multnomah Falls to break up the drive, eat dinner and just see the falls. I’ve been there quite a few times, but this time was special because the evening light was just beautiful as it hit the cliff face around the falls, and I saw my first American Dipper feeding below the falls and nesting in the moss right by them. We got home around 9:20, tired but immensely satisfied.


Adam Nisbett said...

What, we don't get a picture of the Ruffed Grouse running away from the camera? ;-)

Benjamin said...

I just added it. Silly bird, I was only trying to shoot him. :)