Spring in the Washington Cascades: A Relaxed & Easy Tour Jun 04—10, 2017
Posted by Bob Sundstrom
The morning of the fourth day of our 2017 Spring in the Washington Cascades tour found us at the foot of a canyon in the Entiat Mountains, just where the canyon opens to the massive Columbia River. At the canyon’s mouth, basalt cliffs tower several hundred feet above steep slopes of grass and sagebrush. Boldly marked White-throated Swifts zipped across the high rim of the cliffs, alongside Violet-green Swallows. A Canyon Wren sang its whistled, descending phrases. Soon a Yellow-breasted Chat sang its way to the top of a bare twig, where spotting scope views enhanced the bold yellow of its breast. The jumbled notes of a Lazuli Bunting now reached our ears, a species we had enjoyed at length the previous morning in the Wenatchee Mountains, its iridescent turquoise sparkling in the morning light. Farther up the canyon, a flash of orange and a guttural call drew our attention to a brilliantly colored Bullock’s Oriole, and several Black-headed Grosbeaks flitted from shrub to shrub nearby. Black-billed Magpies flew lazily back and forth, vividly patterned in black and white. California Quail posed on fence posts.
The canyon road ascends more than eight miles, with a narrow creek at its low point near the road, a creek that leads uphill through landscapes gradually changing from sage to pines to fir forest and aspen groves surrounding beaver ponds—an ideal formula for habitat variety and, with it, diversity of bird life. We drove slowly up the canyon, stopping along the way in different zones. Just where the Ponderosa Pines began to fill in along the canyon, we watched a couple of Lewis’s Woodpeckers flying out from a tree along the canyon rim—at the same moment a Clark’s Nutcracker passed by. It’s not too often that birds named for the two famed explorers show up in the same view! Nearby, a Golden Eagle posed for one spotting scope while a Chukar posed for views in a second scope. A female Ruffed Grouse stepped very slowly across the road; then her small chicks tumbled across the rocky road. Western Tanagers showed nicely, as did Cassin’s Finches, Mountain Chickadees, Nashville Warblers, and Western Wood-Pewees.
Read Bob’s full report in his Field List.