|Bridge over the Columbia - from Pasco|
As I did back in April, I stayed at my brother's home in Yakima, so I would have a nice reasonable drive after conferences were done on Friday afternoon. I pulled in to Yakima around 8:00 and passed several sets of Friday Night Lights on the way, as football teams were working through early rounds of playoffs.
|Columbia Drive early morning|
|A frosty morning!|
It was c-c-c-cold on this November morning and just starting to get towards civil twilight as I parked and walked. I wasn't sure exactly which area to try for the owls, so I walked along the trees in the parking lot (no luck), and then to an archery range past the end of the parking lot. I tried a Great Horned Owl call, which at first just stirred up some Killdeer, but I did eventually get a low response from what was probably a male.
|Yakima River Delta|
Unsure of where to proceed from there for other owls, I hopped back in the car to try one more spot before crossing the Columbia. The Yakima River Delta is a very birdy spot, and I'd seen a report for a Black-crowned Night-Heron, so I made this my destination as the sun got closer to rising. I had several sparrows on the way in: Song and White-crowned, as well as Spotted Towhee and Dark-eyed Junco.
|Fog rising from the pink river - Yakima Delta|
|Backlit ducks on a beautiful morning - Pasco|
|Did they use the hill to design the bridge?|
|Great Egret - Pasco|
|Black-crowned Night Heron!|
|Leaves at Sacagawea State Park|
The meet was wonderful - kids ran hard, and some from our school made the podium, as well as the girls' team. I had a chance to talk with some parents, and saw that there was a lot of excitement for track in the spring, with some of the new athletes joining the school this year.
Without some of this time this year just to get out and think, I don't know if I would have been able to hear that without second-guessing my decision to stop coaching track. As it was, I just came away excited to see these kids running track in the spring, and quite content with my role as Advanced Fan in the approaching spring.
|Highway 124 - Walla Walla County|
|Lyons Ferry Road - Walla Walla County|
Most of the drive was a long series of magpies, red-tails and kestrels, but as I approached Columbia County, I slowed for a bird on a wire. Nothern Shrike! I went to get my camera to get a shot of this beautiful bird, when it flew off to the southeast. I watched it go, and said 'drat', but upon checking my map, realized that it was perched in Walla Walla County, and had flown into Columbia County - I laughed, knowing that this is one of the strange celebrations that are inevitable once a person gets interested in county bird lists!
With my better understanding of county lines in Southeastern Washington, I continued a short ways up the road and actually got my whole car into Columbia County, ready to find some ducks before the sun went down. The Northern Shrike (2:45) was my 40th bird in the county for the year, and it became a bit of a challenge to get the next ten, so in my field notebook, I jotted a time next to the new birds as I found them.
|Lyons Ferry KOA - Columbia County|
|Tucannon River - Columbia County|
|Snake River Canyon - Little Goose Dam Road|
The rest of the way up to the dam was beautiful, but the cliff walls were getting pretty dark - a few more birds showed up:
|Mallards (47) at 3:51|
|California Gulls (48) at Little Goose Dam at 4:01|
|Western Grebes (49) above the dam - 4:10|
|End of the road?|
|A little light left...|
At this point, the closest gas was not in the direction I wanted to go! I wanted to get to Palouse Falls before dark, and Dayton was the closest gas, according to Jill. Heading through Starbuck (no, I didn't get a mug there... not yet, but anyone looking for birthday ideas...) I thought I saw Eurasian Collared Doves, but wasn't sure. I pulled over, got out of the car, and had a White-crowned Sparrow staring at me from a fence post. Number 50 at 4:45! The Collared-doves emerged immediately thereafter and made it 51.
I'd had a lot of goals for the day, but it appeared that getting a nice shot of Palouse Falls was not to be. I gassed up, and got dinner (chicken strips and jojos... with some Odwalla fruit/vegetable juice concoction... to make it healthy), then turned back around for the falls. It got darker and darker as I drove, but I considered camping so that I could see the falls in the morning... Got to the turn off, and made the familiar drive to the park. I don't think I'll ever believe that I'm on my way to a waterfall during this drive. It just feels like you're driving through a bunch of scrub on your way to nowhere. As I drove, I stirred up a dozen Gray Partridges that had come out into the road at dusk to gather up gravel to grind up their meals. Didn't realize at the time that these were the 50th bird for me in Franklin!
I got to the falls, and saw we were in astronomical twilight. Sundown starts civil twilight, when there's still enough light to go about your business. When civil twilight ends, and you start running into things, but there are still some lingering signs of light in the sky, it is astronomical twilight. That's what allowed me to get the moon (top right), Jupiter (a little lower in the sky on the left), and Palouse Falls (bottom) all in one shot.
|Palouse Falls, with Jupiter and the Moon.|