Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sept. 29-30, 2012-Weekend Trip East of the Mountains

Finding out you have cancer does a number of things to you. One is that time means more to you. With that in mind I felt like we needed to get in one more trip across the mountains before the snows came. Available weekend time was getting severely limited between my trip to Nashville, Rudy's work trip to North Carolina with stopover in Nashville and then my surgery and subsequent recovery. So carpe diem or at least carpe weekend. Early start over I-90 to Ellensburg. Our first birding stop was a short trail at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park. The weather was very nice-much better than it would have been at home, but not much bird activity. We did see an active hairy woodpecker boring and chipping a large hole on a dead tree trunk and then some nice butterflies sipping sap from a live tree trunk.  Continuing on Umptanum Road out of Ellensberg we had our first sighting of a western bluebird (#151). Not uncommon for this area but the first for us this year. We took a short hike in the Wenas Wildlife Area at Umtanum Falls and saw some kinglets and warblers in the thickets. We also got a nice view of a chipping sparrow (#152).
Back out on the road we saw a sage thrasher (#153) in the sage alongside the road. By this time the road was gravel and not very used. We continued on and then out to Wenas Creek where we got a very brief sighting of a sooty grouse (#154). Would have liked to see more of that but they are pretty quick. There really weren't many birds anywhere around the creek so back on the road. After Wenas Creek the road was paved again and headed down into the Yakima Valley where we saw some kestrels and a gorgeous Swainson's hawk (#155) on the telephone poles/wires.
We had some lunch once we got into Yakima and then went out to the Yakima Greenway and took the Poppoff Trail around a small lake. What did we see on the lake??? Wood ducks (#156)--finally, we saw them together so we could add them to our count. There were a bunch of them too. We also saw a merlin, quail and kestrel. We left at twilight with a lovely full moon guiding our path. 

We needed to find a hotel. This proved a bit harder than I had anticipated as the fair was in full swing along with some sort of convention. Finally found a good deal at the Red Lion.
Next morning we went back to the same place and took the hiking/biking trail for a short ways along the river. Lots of yellow-rumped warblers, peewees and flycatchers, robins, a very cool kingfisher chattering along the river and a quick look at a Cooper's Hawk (#157). We decided to go back home via the Yakima Canyon Road-one of our favorite drives. We saw what looked like a flock of swifts flying over the river in the canyon but I couldn't identify what kind so I can't list them. We ate lunch/dinner at a taqueria in Ellensburg and then headed home. It was a nice weekend, the weather was so perfect and warm. Even though we didn't see gobs of birds we took some nice hikes and getting away was just what the doctor ordered-so to speak.

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