Sunday 28 June 2015

Washington State - Day 6

Day 6 – Sagebrush and Potholes, return to Vancouver

The start of Swakane Canyon
Starting almost in the dark to be able to fit more in, I had another quick sortie up Swakayne Canyon, and although it was glorious once again ,I didn't pick up anything new and the Canyon Wren continued to defy me! Impossible bird! I returned to Wenatchee to get some breakfast, and ate it at a rest stop on the I-28 towards Quincy.

Quincy Wildlife Area, reached by exiting the freeway on stop before Quincy and heading south to connect Road T NW, was a disappointment really with massive lakes containing very little bird life. I did find a few Eastern Kingbirds, a first for the trip, and of course the fantastic Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the reeds, but I did not linger here as it just didn't seem worth it. Instead I aimed for Potholes Reservoir where I hoped to find proper numbers of waterbirds. However this too was a disappointment, with absurd numbers of recreational activities going on, mostly involving speedboats. There were a few Great Egrets, and some distant Grebes that were too far away to assign to species.. I checked out the Gull colony briefly, but my heart wasn't in it - seemed mostly Californian.

Western Kingbird on a wire
Yellow-headed Blackbird

The day was not going too well at this point, but I saved it at Warden Lake, a little way east, where I found a fantastic little area that held a large number of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and a Virginia Rail almost at my feet peering up at my stupid clucking noises. Along the track to the southern end of the lake I found an unexpected Horned Lark, and Sage Thrashers and Western Meadowlark were common. Up at Moses Lake I finally found some much closer Grebes, and to my delight what I had taken at range to be a pair turned out to be a Western and Clark's side by side, which gave breathtaking scope views for extended study of the differences between them. I also found my first Ring-billed Gull here even though there had probably been quite a few on Goose Island.

With time pressing, and as far east as I had been all trip, I pointed the car towards the mountains. I needed to be in Vancouver in the evening and the satnav suggested it was over five hours away! So back on the I-90 I got, with a couple brief stops along the way, including a fabulous viewpoint just before it crosses the Columbia River, and then a detour up Umtanum Canyon road looking for Sage Sparrow which was a complete waste of time - the number of unsuccessful hours I spent looking for this species is one of the big regrets of the trip, but if you don't try.....

I crossed the mountains at about 9.30pm, reached the border just after midnight, and made it to my hotel by half past one in the morning. I had to drive through the centre of town which was absolutely buzzing and full of young people out having a great time. Much as the thought of a nice cold beer appealed, I was totally done in so I went to bed immediately. Yet another early start was surely out of the question.

Does Snuffi come everywhere? Yes.

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