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And there was birding!

My friend Tina is a serious commando birder, and took me out birding twice. We went out on Monday with Sandy & Gary, other friends who were in town, and saw a whole plethora of awesome birds. (Ten hours or so, went over the mountains into the sagebrush desert.)

It was seriously awesome. We’d drive along at thirty-some, then somebody would yell “Got a bird!” and Tina would slam on the brakes and throw it in reverse, back up to the bird, and we’d try to get a bead on it. If possible, we’d hop out of the car and set up the scope. It totally does not get better than that.

For Sandy’s reference, we got: Band-tailed Pigeon, Spotted Sandpiper, Western Tanager, Rufous Hummingbird, Evening Grosbeak, Cassin’s Finch, Orange-crowned Warbler, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Wilson’s Snipe, Brewer’s Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Loggerhead Shrike, Black-billed Magpie, Lark Sparrow, Say’s Phoebe, Rock Wren, Mountain Bluebird, Western Bluebird, Raven, Crow, American Robin, Eastern Kingbird, Kestrel, Red-Tailed Hawk, Osprey, Mourning Dove, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Violet-Green Swallow, Mallard, Red-winged Blackbird, Turkey Vulture, Starling, English House Sparrow, Tree Swallow, American Goldfinch and Northern Flicker (red-shafted.)

We also got song-only on Bewick’s Wren, Warbling Vireo, and Black-Headed Grosbreak.

Wednesday we went back over the mountains, to a town called…err…Ellensburg? Ellenstown? Something like that. Way up in the hills over it is awesome birding. It was where we got the mountain bluebird and western bluebird the first day—they have a whole bluebird trail set up there. We went farther up the road this time, got the Dusky Flycatcher (a bird I would never have been able to ID on my own!) Northern Harriers, which are awesome, and a rare-for-the-area Swainson’s Hawk. The best, however, was bird #250 for me—Lewis’s Woodpecker.

Seriously, this bird was PINK. At least on the underside, and it was REALLY pink. Tina knew where they were nesting, and we were able to set up the scope and get some amazing looks at the woodpecker perching, beating a large bee to death, posing, and generally being pink. He had a great red face, too. What a fantastic bird.

We also went out to a bridge that hosts White-Throated Swifts, which really do look like little orcas, caught Common Mergansers on a pond, and I am completely in love with Black-Billed Magpies. (I realize people who live with them are less so, but wow! Those are so spectacular! We drove into a flock of a dozen or so hanging out on the roadway, and just…the colors, man!) Finally got the Evening Grosbeak, too, which had been a nemesis of mine, in the “They were just here a minute ago…” sense for several years.

All in all, I got 28 lifers and better looks at a couple of birds that I’d wanted to see closer. Huge thanks to Tina for taking me out, and to Sandy and Gary for coming along on Monday.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

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28 lifers? damn. nice.
and you had it right the first time - Ellensburg. tiny little place.

Oh that is fantastic! :::cheers:::

If none of the rest, report the rufous hummingbird to ebird! It's outside of it's summer range and should be noted as a rarity.

Oh, this was in Washington! Supposed to be there!

Wait.. unless you're not at home on the east coast this week. :P If you're in washington, you might have seen an Allen's.

The western meadowlark is our state bird. I’ve seldom seen it, but it sure has a pretty song.

If you have an interest in birds, you might find this link well worth clicking:

http://www.kiroastro.com/birds/birdindex.html There is much to offer in the main site, but my interest has lain in this one.

Mr Rogers's latest trip to Texas, where he found 24 new birds to add to his collection of photos, is great (view it on IE as it isn't going right on Firefox right at this moment), but all the bird shots are terrific. If you like Puffins, visit his Grand Manan trip!

ellensberg is the town my father is from. I still have a lot of cousins and so on living in and around there. if you had been a few weeks later you could go to the rodeo.

That sounds like an awesome trip! I always love your birding posts :) Yellow-headed blackbirds are one of my absolute FAVORITES - I was in Wyoming last year and was absolutely floored when I saw them for the first time. Gorgeous, gorgeous birds.

Yes! I had seen them in zoos, but to see a whole flock...dude.

Wow. That is an EXCELLENT day!

That road trip sounds kind of how our quizzes would go in both my Ornithology and Botany classes in college. The Botany quizzes were easier only in that the plant to be id'd didn't, you know, move. :)

That sounds like a most excellent trip!! Thank you for sharing your birding adventures with us!

Off topic, but do you plan on going to Dragon*Con?

Not this year, I'm afraid. Between her deadlines and my work...and the difficulty in getting a table....it's not going to happen again for a long time, it seems.


Eh, well, I'm sure I'll find something to do at D*C. :)

Magpies are very cool.

But you know? Blue Jays are awesome, too. I've been living out of their range since 2003 and I miss them. We have three blue jays here in southwestern CO: Steller's Jay, Pinyon Jay, and Western Scrub-Jay. These are all majorly cool but they're not as _flashy_ as Blue Jays.

Sounds like a pretty good birding outing. Glad you got an ID on the dusky... empids are hard, especially in territory where you don't know exactly what to expect where!

And yes, magpies are gorgeous, at least to us easterners!

1. Commando birder? Is that like a thing, because the picture in my head is actually really scary... then again that leads to my next question.

2. Again, imagining my self as a small bird who wished to remain anonymous - were none of the birds scared off by this braking and reversing technique? Or were they simply stunned?

3. Glad you found the pink bird. The example in the wikipedia entry seems quite proud of his pinkness.

The east side of the mountains is a terrific place for birding (as you found out [g]). A birder friend of mine from Pennsylvania and I went birding over there once, and I was shocked and amazed at how many different species we saw (also at how much easier it is to see the darned things when you're out in the middle of open country instead of surrounded by 100-foot Douglas firs).

"It was seriously awesome. We’d drive along at thirty-some, then somebody would yell “Got a bird!” and Tina would slam on the brakes and throw it in reverse, back up to the bird, and we’d try to get a bead on it. If possible, we’d hop out of the car and set up the scope. It totally does not get better than that."

It's strange, but I keep picturing the bird looking at you and your friends and yelling to his friends: Got a human! Get the guide, I think I never ID this one!

Yes, indeed. Birds birder all the time. That's why those power birders see so many cool birds -- the birds want to see _them_. And it's why cool birds turn up at major migration spots.

I'm so jealous of the woodpecker!!
It was great birding with you guys...so much fun! Thanks for the list too!

I am not a birder, nor do I know anything about birding, but I ran across this birding resource that you might enjoy - http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about

Also, in case you are interested in reading a fun and relaxed gardening/birding blog, let me recommend http://empressofdirt.blogspot.com/

It's Ellensburg by the way :)

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