Subject: [Tweeters] SAS Sage Grouse trip
Date: Mar 27 18:00:58 2005
From: B & P Bell - bellasoc at isomedia.com


Hi Ho Tweets

Seattle Audubon was fortunate to be able to take one of the field trips that were offered at the Yakima Training Center for the Greater Sage Grouse. After braving Snoqualmie Pass yesterday, with a couple of people taking a longer alternate route, we assembled at 5:15 AM to carpool out to the lek site. The Training Center biologist told us that the group the day before has only seen 7 males, and that in better weather that we had early this morning. On the way in we had gone about two miles and were in dense fog. The biologist asked us if we wanted to continue as we would not be able to see three feet in the fog. All agreed that we had to make the effort, and a few miles down the road we broke out of the fog and pretty clear views of the countryside.

When we arrived at the lek site, we were still under the fog/clouds with good visibility and preliminary scanning showed that there were at least 12 males. While distant, about 300 yards, good views were had thru the spotting scopes. Eventually we found at least 17 males displaying. Several were in relatively clear patches of grassland, and three or four were alongside a distant gravel road giving unobstructed views. During the two hours we observed the birds there was much displaying and some confrontations between males. According to the biologist, most of the females were either out of sight or on the nest ( they had some major displays in late February).

While we were watching the grouse, we were also treated to courtship displays by at least two male Northern Harriers - spectacular with their roller coaster flight and acrobatic twists and turns at the bottom of the dives. One accompanying female did a few smaller displays also.

A Prairie Falcon flew overhead on a mission someplace else. We had Horned Larks on the way in and while at the site, a few Vesper Sparrows were present, and a possible Brewer's Sparrow popped up briefly. Many Common Ravens around.

On the way back we had several Western Meadowlarks, a nice singing Sage Thrasher on a wire alongside the road, a perched Prairie Falcon (much better view than the flyby), a Red-tailed Hawk, and the usual Morning Doves and House Sparrows.

After the early start, most folks made an early start back to Seattle. Four of us continued up thru Yakima Canyon with a look at a Prairie Falcon overhead, great looks at the Golden Eagle nest (bird on the nest and a second bird visited for a minute), real genuine in-the-wild Rock Pigeons, Violet-green Swallows, a Belted Kingfisher perched alongside the road nowhere near water. We walked a ways up Umtanum Canyon and had a Cooper's Hawk visiting an old nest, and a Prairie Falcon at the nest site (with young showing briefly).

The Great Blue Herons are at the heronry to the west of I-82 on the way into Yakima after the Training Center turnoff.

A great day with nice looks at some stunning birds!

Brian H. Bell
Woodinville WA
bellasoc at isomedia.com