Friday, June 29, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012 Eastern WA cont.

Woke up to a beautiful day and after a McD breakfast and Starbucks stop we headed out of Pasco to the Big Flat Habitat Management Unit. It's about 13 miles east of Pasco on the Pasco-Kahlotus road. It's a unique area in that it has a freshwater lake just next to the Snake River. It was mainly fishermen and families out there but we did run in to a couple of other birders. It was quite windy but I think this area always has some good winds. We headed out on the dike that crosses between the lake and the river and then goes into a couple miles of trails in Russian olives, cottonwoods, birches, shrubs and grassland. The first thing we saw was a group of white pelicans (#122) flying in formation overhead. It is a vision so awsomely beautiful that until you see it I don't know how you could appreciate it. These huge soaring white birds just going in a line and copying everything the leader was doing. One goes up, they all go up, he serpentines , they serpentine, down and around, down and around. It is mesmerizing. How could you not be a birder forever after you've seen that? Lucky for us we got to see them a number of times throughout the day. Also sharing the sky were gobs of swallows that we soon realized were bank swallows (#123). They were oddly enough, living in a bank next to the river. The fun thing about these birds is the sound they make. It is kind of a buzzing totally akin to the sound you hear when you walk under high tension power lines. We continued on the trail that took us away from the water and more into the grass/tree section of the park always hopeful for one of those birds we had always heard about but never seen--like a bullock's oriole (#124), oh yes we did seen them. Another amazingly beautiful bird, the color is so bright orange it looks like a bit of fire dancing in the trees.We also saw a western wood pewee (#125) and then...wait for it....a lazuli bunting (#126)!!! There he was singing away in a bush, just happy to pose for us while we excitedly watched and listened. Oh man, I love eastern Washington.

Bullock's Oriole

lazuli bunting

We finally pulled ourselves away from there and headed back to Pasco and checked out Sacajawea State Park. We had past it so many times when we use to go to Walla Walla to see Flynn at college but we had never stopped. It's a very nice park with lots of history but the main feature is it is located at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. We didn't see any new birds but we ate a snack.

Our next stop was McNary NWR located just south of Pasco. It's actually a big area but we first checked out the headquarters as there is a nice trail that goes around the McNary Slough. It was Sunday so the Education Center was closed but there was access to the trail so we headed out and the first bird we saw....another huge moment...a yellow-headed blackbird (#127)! I had so wanted to see one and we saw many on that trail. I could hardly contain myself. What a day of birding we were having. That ended up being the only new bird we saw along the trail but it was a great little hike and I would love to go back at another time of year to see the difference in the birds that travel through.

yellow-headed blackbird

By this time it was getting late and we had to start thinking of where to spend the night. It looked like Walla Walla so I got on the phone and set up a night at La Quinta. This way we didn't have to rush into town to find a place to stay,we could stop at a couple more places and bird. Which is what we did. We stopped at the Walula Unit of the NWR. We walked some of the trail and drove to an overlook but didn't see anything new. We continued out Hwy 12 toward Walla Walla but Rudy found one last turn out to look over the tidal area. We could see some birds feeding in the pool areas, binocs up, American avocet's (#128). A very cool looking, long legged water bird that uses his beak to swish the water to stir it up for feeding. We got some nice shots of them. A perfect ending to a perfect birding day.

American avocet
We drove into Walla Walla and had dinner at El Sombero Restaurant--been there before with Flynn. Took a little time to be nostalgic about that season in our lives and then crawled into bed in anticipation of another day of birding.

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