Monday, May 30, 2011

On to State! Davenport to Steptoe via Cheney - 5/27

Davenport Cemetery
I'd made arrangements with the folks at the B&B to have breakfast at 7, so a 5AM sunrise gave me time to hit the Davenport Cemetery and Reardan Ponds before leaving Lincoln County.  I have one picture from this morning - the one above.  Here's the lessons I learned 1) Don't grab batteries from a shelf at home if you don't know whether they're dead or not.  2) Don't buy cheap batteries.  I bought a cheap 2 dollar four pack of batteries for my camera the day before, put them in my camera and got the low battery warning, took one picture, and was asked to change the batteries.  Frightening to think that a whole factory somewhere is producing these 'heavy-duty' batteries and selling them... have they tried to use them?

So, my pictureless report: The cemetery in Davenport is a nice migrant trap - a bunch of trees in the middle of not a lot of trees.  There were quite a few passerines in there - Chipping Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Townsend's Solitaire, Townsend's Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Robins, House Finches and Goldfinches.  In the fields surrounding it were Western Meadowlarks and Horned Larks.

The Reardan Ponds gave me another life bird - Wilson's Phalarope!  A small flock of them darted indecisively back and forth in the water - pretty birds.  A Sora also called from the marsh, and 8 species of ducks, as well as Eared Grebes, were using the ponds that morning.

When I returned, I was asked if I liked Sausage, Eggs, Toast and Hash Browns.  I love easy questions!  Chatted with the owners about birds (they had a hummingbird feeder which wasn't getting any action), had a solid breakfast, and hit the road.

Field of mustard greens - Highway 2, Spokane County

Yellow-bellied Marmot
I wanted to be in Cheney at 10:30 for an 11:30 race, so I wanted to be fairly direct on my way through Spokane County.  I birded a little in Airway Heights, as well as the Medical Lake area, on the way to Cheney.  I didn't find anything too surprising, but still came out the other end with 20-25 species.  The most interesting species I saw was not a bird, but a Yellow-bellied Marmot!  As with nearly every non-bird animal I see on these trips, I had noooo idea what it was, but got a good picture to look at later.

The track meet was great.  I love being at the small schools' meet, because I get to see all of the schools from the towns I've been through - Pe Ell, Rearden, Zillah, Kittitas.  On many a trip to state, I've given the athletes their heat sheets and a map of the state, making them find all of the cities where their competition attends school.  It's great to see how much of the state is covered in these maps! 

What gulls are red underneath....?  ;)
Barely visible in the picture here is the field which is brighter than the brightest red Slurpee I have ever seen.  This led to an interesting effect with the Ring-billed gulls which fly over the field.  I was tempted to post this picture and ask for help in identifying the bird, but couldn't bring myself to do it.  Happy to say the meet started well, with a win in the 3200!  At that point, it was four hours before the next race - athlete and coach went back to the hotel, and I went to Turnbull NWR!

What finch do I have here...?
Turnbull was another great stop for me.  The first few stops before I even got to the headquarters were very productive, with my first-of-year Pygmy Nuthatch, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Partridge, Red Crossbills, House Wren, and Willow flycatcher.  I also think I caught a Pine Grosbeak in this picture!  I am very doubtful, because it would be odd to have one at low elevations at this time of year, but I'll put the picture in here and see what people think.  I can't figure out what else it might be!
Meadow - Turnbull NWR

With over 30 species at Turnbull by the end of my visit, I made my way back to the meet for the prelims of the 800 meters - through to finals! - and then grabbed dinner at Lenny's in Cheney.  This is a great Italian place, and stopping there the last two years has been a very good decision.  Dinner table conversation turned to how hard it would be to live in Cheney, because it appears that there's nothing to do.  One person noted that they knew someone who had come to Eastern Washington University in part because they'd be able to hunt nearby (this reported with horror.) 

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I don't hunt - I'd much rather look at the pretty birdies than shoot them.  That said, some of them do taste pretty good, and it seems to me an honest way to earn your spot in the food chain.

Silo and "Fingers of God" (crepuscular rays)
Whitman County
Dinner got done late, and I was facing a decision.  Should I try to make it down to Kamiak Butte to camp, or Steptoe Butte?  Here again, lack of preparation and information led to unexpected accomodations.  I went to Steptoe Butte (much closer than Kamiak), and found that there is no camping in the park!  Fortunately, there were people shooting photos of sunset from the butte, and one of them was planning to stay the night in his car so that he could shoot stars later that night.  I parked nearby, and made my car the tent for the night.  The stars were amazing, and I was even treated to a shooting star which took 10-20 seconds to cross the sky as it broke into 4-5 pieces before disappearing behind the other side of the butte.

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