Okay, I just couldn't decide on another title for the first of these entries, so this is what they're going to be: Day One, Day Two, etc. For the most part, too much went on every day to sum it up with one title, and the idea of listing all of the counties I visited (King, Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, Chelan and Okanogan on this particular day) would drive me up a wall, so it's just Day One. Hopefully the contents will be more interesting than the title, and you'll be tricked into reading Day Two, etc.
I'ts Saturday the 25th of June; My wife, Bre, has given me this huge gift - eight days (Saturday to Saturday) to go on a trip through the state that I've been imagining for about a year now. I've always been sucked in by maps, and in the state of Washington, the corners are especially interesting to me. How far can you go into the Northeast corner of the state? What's it like in Anatone? The interest in birding magnified this. There are birds that just barely reach into our state from the North (Boreal Chickadee), from the East (Clay-colored Sparrow), from the Blue Mountains in the Southeast (Green-tailed Towhee) and from the Oregon Cascades (Lesser Goldfinch). Giving the state a big 'hug' in one big swing could give me a chance to really explore these corners, look for some birds, and really clear the head. I teach, so the time is there, but it still meant leaving Bre solo with our two kids for eight days, and I wanted to start off by saying thank you, and I love you.
What to pack?
Clothes - too many, because something will happen, and I'm bound to get wet. I couldn't find my rubber boots the night before the trip, so I'd have to forego tromping through the wet stuff up at Bunchgrass Meadow... (Note, I will only use the ellipses when I'm doing some foreshadowing. I normally overuse them, and I still may here, but usually in this series of posts, it means there is more to come. No explanations will be given, but you've really got to read on, even if it's several posts in.) The adventure hat is important - a gift from my Dad from his time in Chile; raincoat, windbreakers, and t-shirts galore. The weather for the first few days looked like it would be good, but I thought I was ready for anything.
Lists - all of the county checklists for the counties I was visiting, and my year list. The goal is 39 birds in every county in the state this year, and it would be a bummer to fall short in a county just because I didn't know what birds I'd seen there earlier in the year... Lists of birds that people had seen on recent trips and where, including some GPS coordinates on a few! That would make it easy...
Food - I figured most meals would be done on the cheap. I packed my camp stove for boiling water every morning... (...all right I'll close those ellipses right now. I neeevver boiled water in the mornings. It was too easy to hit a gas station at 7AM after a few hours of birding to fill the water bottle with ice water, and to fill the thermos with boiling water) some oatmeal, and instant coffee, fruit, and PB and J for sandwiches. I'd have to support the local economies a little and hit some diners too, though! Last minute, when Bre was making a shopping run, I decided a summer sausage and some cheese would be great to pack in the cooler too...
Equipment - camera, binocs (plus an extra pair of binoculars, I didn't want to have it end up like last trip, where I had none after I ran over a pair!), and spotting scope. Field guides and journal, and pens. Just any old pens... We also got fancy and bought a GPS unit for the trip. The old one a friend of ours had loaned us developed a short in the cord, so it wasn't working. It was old enough that the folks at Frye's were shocked to see it. No replacement cords in the store. We got a Garmin, and got it all set up with Jill ready to tell me where to go... I also brought my big Washington gazetteer, just in case... (I swear, the ellipses will end soon, but there was too much early on that was funny in retrospect).
Camping supplies - most of my trip would be camping, although I knew that showering would be nice now and then! I had planned one night in a motel in Metaline Falls, with the rest of the nights camping... Nothing fancy, but a sturdy tent, tarp, sleeping pad and bag.
Fascinating, but can we get going now?
|Fobes Road - Snohomish County|
Said my goodbyes to Bre, kissed the kids on the forehead, and got going. Traffic was pretty light, and I arrived at Fobes Road near the city of Snohomish at 5:30 AM. This is farm country, and there is a field way down below the road where Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal had been seen. It turned out that the light at this hour was not going to allow me to see these birds! Still, there were others that were singing, and in 10 minutes I had pulled it up to 99 with Rufous Hummingbird, Warbling Vireo, and a Pied-billed Grebe (visible as a sillhouette, and calling quite loudly).
|Down a small trail from Fortson Mine Road|
|Thimbleberry - as familiar to me as the call of a |
|Eastern Kingbird - Rockport, Skagit County|
|Lazuli Bunting - Rockport|
|Newhalem Aggregate Ponds - Whatcom County|
I'll keep going with the analogies - this would be like meeting twins, working hard to tell them apart, then finding out that they are actually quintuplets at the family reunion. Clarice, Clarissa, Carissa, Larissa and Clara are all there, and they're hiding their name tags. And I'm out there solo, so there's nobody to help introduce me. Also, I don't have an iPod. With an iPod, it's like having a recording that calls out "Clarice!", and then Clarice responds, says hello - warblers will respond to recordings of their songs, coming out where you can see them.
So I'm writing down careful notes on the songs that I'm hearing - writing down my take on them, and the timing, and the cadence, the quality of the sounds. With some work... way too much work for a bird I never got to see... I got my first life bird of the trip - an American Redstart. They're more common as you go farther east, so I decide I'll get my life look at them later. Many warblers on this visit get left as warbler sp? This was really a shame, as warblers are beautiful birds, but I had a long day ahead, so I moved on.
It got easier to see beautiful things as I climbed into the North Cascades on Highway 20. They are so much more dramatic here than farther south, where individual mountains dominate the scnery. Here are some pics, including ones of huge lakes made by dams for hydroelectric projects.
|North Cascades - Whatcom County |
(Yes, the same county I visited in January!)
|Cascade Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel|
Chelan County? really?
|Gray Jay - Washington Pass|
Okanogan County... just a quick stop...
I know, the day's getting along, and I was hoping to rest my head in Ferry County! But I couldn't not stop in Winthrop. It's a cowboy, western, salloon-y kind of town that also happens to have a good ice cream place, which happens to have my favorite ice cream flavor (licorice). I looked at this picture just now, and realized that I got a souvenir mug for Three-fingered Jack's Saloon for a buck in Ephrata (I'm trying to also get a mug from each county; No need to tell me how odd that is.)
|A delicious cone, but would it cost me a Great Gray|
Owl this year??
Cameron Lake Road
|Cedar Waxwing - Cameron Lake Road|
Cameron Lake Road in Okanogan County runs through some great sage-steppe habitat, and is great for Brewer's Sparrow, and Sage Thrasher (both of which I found here), and Lark Sparrow (a lifer which I did not find). Matt Bartels had made a run through here recently and found several birds that I was looking for for my life list (White-headed Woodpecker, Gray Flycatcher) or my year list (Least Flycatcher). None of them! Now, to be fair, I had come in the late afternoon when the birds hunker down and get quiet. It's too hot to be out! On future days, I vowed that I would get to the sage before it got too late in the day...
|Swainson's Hawk ready to go for dinner|
|Bobolink - Aeneas Valley Road|
I pulled in to the campground, and was so happy for this turn of events. On Lyman Lake, I watched 50 or more Common Nighthawks circling low over the lake. Others ventured out from the lake, including a few that buzzed within feet of me with their 'peent' calls. Never in my life had I seen them better. It was a great way to end the day as I set up my tent. What would I hear as I woke up in a strange place tomorrow morning!? I wondered this as I looked over lists and maps, considering tomorrow's trip through Ferry and Stevens counties.
|Near Lyman Lake, and yes it's a morning shot, not evening. I thought of passing it off as an evening shot, |
but I teach astronomy, and I'm looking at a waning crescent moon: this must be facing east in the morning.