Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back from Othello: Saturday Afternoon 3/26

Sadly, my best Sandhill Crane picture of the day.
Okay, when there's a bazillion of something nearby, you're supposed to get the pictures.  I'm not sure that the doorstop here stacks up well against the real thing, but there was pressure to come back with pictures ("Just come back with good pictures", Bre has usually added each time as I set off on these trips.)  I was close enough to Othello, though, so I thought it would be wrong not to at least pop in, and see what a festival looks like.

The Othello High School Gym - home base for the Sandhill Crane Festival

Okay, worth pointing out that the Washington/Oregon Potato Conference was also underway.  I had to get a picture of the French Fry Man - my daughter is looking over my shoulder and laughing at him right now.  Personally...can't stomach the costumes - Disneyland... keep away Eeyore;  Mariner's game...the Moose is fine from a distance.  I was too late to sign up for most of the tours that went out on buses (Burrowing Owl tours, boat tours, crane viewing tours), but it was still interesting to see what groups were set up, including WSU's raptor center.   They had some raptors that couldn't be rereleased to the wild - amazing to see a Golden Eagle up close.  They really are huge.  Haven't seen one in the wild before, and it was just amazing how big they are (and how small a Sharp-shinned Hawk is!)

Bob and I scan the fields for signs of his brethren...

One thing I grabbed in the exhibits was a map of Burrowing Owl sites.  If my daughter would have enjoyed any picture, it would have been one of a Burrowing Owl.  I even brought Bob, our stuffed Burrowing Owl along for the ride.  I swung by three different active nesting spots, and struck out.  The only encounter I've had with these owls is still the one that inexplicably showed up at the Downtown Renton Post Office!  It stayed for the better part of a week before moving on to places where the burrow building is easier.  

I was only in Adams county for a short bit, but picked up 16 species before I was out.  I missed Sandhill Cranes, but got all of my doves (Rock, Mourning and Eurasian Collared-Dove), a lot of blackbirds (no Yellow-headed yet though), and before I left - some White-crowned Sparrows, which were singing with a distinct accent.  These were the Gambelii subspecies, rather than the Pugetensis that I'm used to - a little grayer on the breast, and an orange-ish bill, rather than yellow.  Little things, but when you see enough of a bird, you know when something's different!  One of them posed for me:

White-crowned Sparrow - Gambelii subspecies

Off from the county line, I moved on to I-90 and the area south of Ephrata.  I totally drove around the Potholes area and Moses Lake, but will hit them in the summer!  After checking out some more possible Burrowing Owl sites, I moved on to HWY 28 which goes east to Quincy.  Here I found one of the birds I'd hoped to find on this trip - Long-billed Curlews!  A dozen of them were feeding in the field south of the highway.  Wouldn't have noticed them, perhaps, but a Northern Harrier (the 80th of the day) caught my eye.  These curlews are some funny birds.  It's like a little sandpiper was given some goose DNA, and then given bill erectile dysfunction.  Giant shorebirds with droopy bills.  They were far away, but I had to get what photos I could:
Long-Billed Curlews - East of Quincy

a closer look
I finished the day on Monument Hill in the Beezley Hills. While I was hoping for a Sage Sparrow up here, once I took in the view from the top, it didn't matter that the only sounds around me were the meadowlarks.  I could probably see to Moses Lake in one direction, to the Columbia in another, and off into Douglas County to the north.  I'll finish this post with parts of the panorama.

Doesn't half do it justice here.  I was just stunned by how beautiful this was.  It was so big.  We don't get that in the Seattle area all that often, where you can just see forever...

Driving back with the light of the afternoon (all of this, and I was done by 3), I was struck again and again by these trees with orange - bright orange branches. I don't know what they were, but there were many of them lining the west bank of the Columbia, and I had my breath taken from me again. 

And I made it back in time for dinner! 

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