Monday, February 14, 2011

Chelan and Douglas counties: Post #2

Beebe Bridge back over the Columbia to Chelan
Two pretty happy people
Finished up with Douglas County, (for now...) and we made our way down to Chelan to enjoy Wine and Chocolate weekend.  We came across the Columbia after dropping down on McNeil Canyon Road - thanking God that it wasn't icy!  Chelan was beautiful, the wineries had great wine, great chocolate, and also all seemed to have something for the kiddos.  I was amazed at how many times there happened to be a playset outside the winery, or a dog wanting someone to play fetch.  It made for a very tolerable day visiting wineries with kids!

Vineyard - Chelan County
 Lake Chelan just recently earned AVA status as a distinct wine region, with 20+ wineries around the south end of the lake.  We've got a few that have become favorites - Karma Vineyards, Wapato Point Cellars and Tildio Winery, among others.  Many of them are closed during the winter, but open for Wine and Chocolate weekend.  As with other trips I've made this year, I was amazed at the small world we're living in - ran into people that lived a mile from us in Renton, and two others that were track coaches for a team my school competes against.  Also found a fair number of people working at the wineries who had grown up in Chelan, moved away and returned.  Nice to spend a good part of the day chatting with people while enjoying some good wine!

Merlin at Tildio Winery
Wasn't really birding in the afternoon, but... it's hard not to notice some things.  For example, when I was going to the car at Tildio Winery, I heard a Great Horned Owl calling in the middle of the day from a  copse of trees!  As I watched, I suddenly saw a Red-Tailed Hawk circle by the trees.  Looking up on a telephone pole in the parking lot, I saw a Merlin watching this with me, and as I started to get the picture, an American Kestrel flew by!  By the time I got the picture, I had another raptor fly by - a Cooper's Hawk!  Four raptors and an owl packed into one spot!

I think Declan missed the split here.
Followed this up with a little time for the kids.  Went to Chelan Lanes for a couple of games of bowling.  This and the Cider Works have been part of the visit every time we come out.  One of the first places I ever saw the programmable bumpers that go up and down as bowlers change.  I will brag and say I bowled a 162 for the first game.  I will brag for my son and say that he beat me in the second game.  First time he's done it that I can remember... time to take the bumpers down? :)  Finished the day with pizza from Local Myth.

White-crowned Sparrow
Sunday morning, the kids were up, and I felt like giving Bre a little sleep.  I asked the kids if they wanted to hear the owl I'd heard the other morning at Lake Chelan State Park, and they were game.  We got dressed (swimsuits underneath so we'd be ready for the pool once we got back and were done with breakfast), and drove up.  No luck with the owl, but there was a playset that the kids couldn't be pulled away from, so I listened as the birds woke up - Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pacific Wren, Hairy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker.  Also some Douglas Squirrels that had me thinking they were birds for a bit.  Seems like I spent a looooot of time following squirrel sounds when I first started birding... guess I'm not done with that yet!  On the drive back, I added a White-crowned Sparrow, and my first California Quail of the year.

After getting back to the hotel, having breakfast, and hitting the swimming pool, we hit the back of the Best Western.  More slides and swings, and best of all, rocks!  Spent some time tossing them into the water, skipping them (excellent skipping rocks here).  While we enjoyed the shore, I watched the birds flying and swimming by and found Ring-necked Ducks, American Goldfinch and a Tundra Swan!  At this point, I was adding things up in my head.  35 birds? hmmm... might be able to get 39 in one of the counties with my family along!

Columbia from Rio Vista Winery
Bre and I had 3 wineries that we had wanted to visit before heading out of town, so we made our way down to the Columbia for lunch at Chelan FallsState Park on the way to Rio Vista Winery.  No sign of any falls - hmmm... but the river was lovely.  Full of Scaup, Goldeneye, and Bufflehead.  The brush in the park gave me another new bird - Dark-eyed Junco, and I was at 38 for the year in Chelan.  At this point Bre and the kids were looking too.  A few of the birds I still needed were ones they would recognize, like Great Blue Heron, so they kept their eyes open!  Rio Vista was on the Columbia, and had a beautiful view of the river, as well as a shuffleboard table!  It also has a dock, so people with boats have the option of pulling up to the winery via the river.

On the run through Manson on the way out of town, I did end up finding bird number 39 - American Coots!  Not too fancy, but glad to have noticed them out on the water. Actually found two more (Common Merganser, and the aforementioned Great Blue Heron) on the way out of town.  As we wound our way along the Columbia down 97, the sun began to set, but we made it over Blewett Pass with enough light for me to catch one more GBH - this one in Kittitas County.  Just one bird, but another county that I've got a start on!

Saying goodbye to Chelan - the Columbia River

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