Vantage Field Trip -- Waterbirds and More!General ·
On Sunday November 12th, four Yakima Audubon members joined me for a trip to Vantage to view the fall migrant waterfowl spectacle along the Columbia River. A quick stop at the Tjossem Pond in Ellensburg yielded two surprises; 2 female Red-breasted Merganers among the more expected Common Mergansers and two leucistic Canada Geese hanging out with a flock of Canada Geese. Along the old Vantage Highway en route to Vantage we had our first of the winter Northern Shrikes as well as one Roughlegged Hawk.
Upon arriving in Vantage, waterbirds dominated the rest of the day. The first uncommon bird was an immature male White-winged Scoter noted just north of the I-90 Bridge. Abundant numbers of other ducks, grebes and especially American Coots were noted. A stop at Wanapum State Park south of I- 90 along Huntzinger Road notched a few notable nonwaterbird species; a Mountain Chickadee, an unusual migrant from more mountainous habitats was seen as was an immature Northern Goshawk (also from the mountains). In addition to these mountain birds, a flyby of five Common Redpolls, a northern finch that appears in some winters in central Washington, was observed. Based on early sightings this month of Common Redpolls throughout the state, this may be a notable winter for them. As this species targets the seed catkins of alder and birch trees, watch those trees for a possible rare delight.
South of Wanapum State Park, a few more unusual waterbirds were noted including two more White-winged Scoters, an adult male and an immature female. In the waters below Wanapum Dam a large grouping of Barrow’s Goldeneye were a treat and three more Red-breasted Mergansers were tallied. The weather was dry, calm and in the mid-40s, which for mid-November at Vantage is considered a nice day! For the day, the group tallied 68 species, a nice collage for late fall in the Columbia Basin.