Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Big ol' Trip: Day Four

Morning in Metaline Falls

Woke up this morning in a real bed - not bad!  I showered again just because I could, and got out the door before 6.  I think I slept all the way until 5:30 this morning, because I was inside, so I was rested up to make a run at the last 25 birds to get me to 100 in Pend Oreille before leaving the county.  I got my coffee and oatmeal fired up and hit the road.

I wish I had gotten a better picture of this giant rock that
looks over Metaline and Metaline Falls.

The biologist at the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station had recommended the Mill Pond Trail, and it would have been a good place to pick up MacGillivray's Warbler and American Redstart, but I'd had it with warblers - their songs were getting mixed up in my head, and so few had come into view for me during this whole trip.  Instead, I made my way towards Cusick, and Meadow Road.

On the way there, I passed the Amazon Creek Marsh from the day before.  I pulled out and found a Pied-billed Grebe (76);  Another stop at a marsh north of Cusick gave me Common Yellowthroat (77), Hooded Merganser (78), and a Ring-necked Pheasant (79) calling from the fields!  Strangely, I didn't pick up a Marsh Wren here, or at any stops prior to this.  Don't the Marsh Wrens here like marshes? 

Lake Calispell area

Meadow Road heads east from Cusick, and was a very good stop for me.  Stopping to look over the farmland, I listened to Western Meadowlarks (80), distant Yellow-headed Blackbirds (81), and watched a Northern Harrier (82) gliding over the fields of grain.  At the T with Lake Calispell Road, I turned right, parked, and walked along the forest edge.  It was full of birds, many of which I had seen, some of which were certainly warblers that I had not seen, and that I could not pish out.  After 15-20 minutes, I finally followed some flycatcher calls to a Dusky Flycatcher (83), and took off south on the road.

Lake Calispell Road - fields with Bobolinks
I found a good spot on Lake Calispell Road, and pulled out.  The chatter of Black-billed Magpies (84) was pretty loud, but there were other noises in the fields that sounded different.  I figured it might be some of the Bobolinks that had been seen alllll along this road, so I waited.  While I was waiting for the Bobolinks, a Great Blue Heron (85) flew to the top of a 100 foot pole and perched up there.  This has always cracked me up with these birds - in my head, I yelled at it "You're not a raptor, you know!" - loudly enough to scare up a Bobolink (86).

An Eastern Kingbird (87) on a wire gave me a lot of hope that the day was going to go smoothly.  It was about 9:00 at this point, and I was approaching Lake Calispell with a long list of ducks that I hadn't seen yet.  Things did not go smoothly for a while!  Lake Calispell comes closest to the road in a stretch where large rows of trees obscure the view.  In addition to this, the shoulder on the side close to the lake is kind of narrow, so it was a challenge to get my spotting scope level, and safely off of the road.  Ducks would dodge in and out of view with the trees in front of me, and in the end, I picked up... American Coot (88).  Before joining up with the highway, I made a few more stops, and found a field with a few Killdeer (89), and heard a Pileated Woodpecker (90) calling loudly in the woods to the west.

 What now?

Looking over the map, it seemed like there were a couple of options.  I could head back over the river and north to hit the Dry Creek area, but someone had told me the road was pretty rough there, and there weren't a lot of birds that could help me in that habitat.  Looking at Mappy, my gazetteer, I could see there were a handful of lakes further down the road (Davis, Sacheen).  I pulled it up on the GPS, and found that I could actually poke the lake and make it a destination.  Mappy was offended that I would ask Jill the GPS girl to get me there when he had just shown me that these lakes were right on the highway.  His frustration was justified when Jill took me around the back side of a lake and told me to navigate off road into the lake.  I was developing trust issues with Jill... serious trust issues.

Black Tern
Before getting to Davis Lake, I had a pullout at a marshy area that gave me two really nice birds.  Sora (91) were calling loudly, and a half dozen Black Terns (92) were cruising over the marsh.   These birds are just lovely, and I'd only seen them once before, earlier in the year in Lincoln County.  Better picture this time.  Not a great picture, but better. 

Still striking out on ducks, I turned back towards Cusick and Usk.  I gassed up, and grabbed a snack, and had a Turkey Vulture (93) pass over head.  As 10:00 passed, I made my way over the Pend Oreille to the Kalispel Indian Reservation.  Pete Fahey had said that this area was worth a stop, and it sounded like I might finally get some ducks!

I finally get some ducks
Cinnamon Teal

Pale Tiger Swallowtails
Whew!  At the first stop (a big parking lot overlooking the marsh and ponds) I saw a pair of Cinnamon Teal (94), and a pair of Redheads (95).  Still listening for Marsh Wrens... still looking for Wood Ducks... nothing.  Pulling up to the Dike Road (totally flooded out, but I walked it up as far as I could) it got no better.  At close to 11:00, it was getting a little warm, and birds were starting to retreat, it seemed.  Finally got some butterflies to stay still long enough for a picture though.

Heading South

Heading south at this point worried me.  I didn't want to get stuck at the border with Spokane County sitting with 98 species.  I knew there was a report of a Clay-colored Sparrow on a road down there, but I couldn't go with 5 species left to go.  Shouldn't I be able to find a Rock Pigeon somewhere?  I mean... a Rock Pigeon??  As odd as it sounds, it was this part of the trip that made the goal worthwhile.  I couldn't just zip through a county, hit the 'good' spots and see all of the 'normal' birds.  It would take a little bit of exploring to find these last five.

Passing Davis Lake again, I pulled off farther down on the south end of the lake.  Marsh Wren (96) - Finally!  I also tried Lake Sacheen, which appeared to be duckless, but swinging around the back side of the lake, there were Western Tanagers (97) calling from the trees, and eventually grabbing branches where I could see their bright red and yellow colors. 

Kirkpatrick Road

I got to Kirkpatrick Road, nearly at the southern end of the county, and it felt more like I was in the Spokane area.  Broken areas of Ponderosa Pine, up against some farm land.  I followed the directions to the area where I thought the sparrow had been reported, and realized that I was here again in the heat of the day (nearly 2:00) hoping for birds to come out and sing.  Whoops. 

I found a small stand of pines and started pishing, trying to pull up anything.  I thought I heard Pygmy Nuthatches... but wasn't sure.  Then a Cassin's Finch (98) came out to a branch to investigate the noises I was making.  It was quiet for a bit, so I drove up the road to a house with a hummingbird feeder.  A very dead hummingbird feeder at this time of day.  Add or subtract 6 hours, and I might have had my Black-chinned Hummingbird.  Then a California Quail (99) staggered into the yard and started clucking away.  I waited a little longer, then started back down the road. 

A stretch of road had some sparrowy noises coming from it, so I tried one more time, pishing and hoping.  It was a song that I didn't quite have down, so I was hopeful that it might be a new one, but it didn't sound like the description of the Clay-colored song (oh for an iPod right now...).  Behind me a sparrow hopped up onto a fence post - Vesper Sparrow (100)!  It disappeared, and I listened to the Vesper Sparrows continue to sing from the grass.  Mission accomplished.

Just trying to get a bed

The Screaming Yak - Spokane
Plan A:  Take the freeway down to Whitman County, right across the border from Garfield County, and camp at Central Ferry State Park.

Oh, drat... Plan B.  Ask Jill the GPS girl where the nearest camping/lodging is.

Jill thought she was taking me to the Tucannon RV Park, but the deserted road in Columbia County had no sign of any people, let alone an RV park!

Grrr... Plan C.  Garfield County!   But the one motel in Pomeroy had no vacancy.

Plan D.  Asotin County!  It was after 9:00 when I rolled into the Motel 6 in Clarkston.  I stopped on the way to get pictures of the mix of sun and storms that were all around me.  It's a lot of pictures, but I couldn't choose out of the beautiful panorama surrounding me.

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