Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Where are you Red-breasted Sapsucker?

After successfully seeing the Emperor Geese, me and Tim knocked off the following birds in quick succession; Anna's Hummingbird, California Quail, Pacific Wren, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Marbled Murrelet, Rhinocerous Aucklet, Black Turnstone, Pelagic Cormorant and Northwestern Crow. With exhaustion competing with excitement, we left the coast and headed through the Cascade Mountains. Our target birds were Varied Thrush, American Dipper and Red-breasted Sapsucker. We had already tried numerous times that day for the sapsucker and we were starting to wonder if it actually existed. At one stop called silver forks, instead of birds, we were greeted by a Washington State Trooper. Thankfully, he was nice and let us off with a warning! To be fair we were only going 60 km/h but it was a 40 zone unbeknownst to the driver Tim! The day continued without the birds though driving into the Cascades was quite spectacular. The peaks were still snow capped and one could not help but feel at peace up in the mountains.

With the afternoon waning, we pulled down a mountain road which would be our last chance for the sapsuckers. As we were driving down the road I see two geese in a small pond and tell Tim to pull over. They were only Canada Geese, but as is often the case when birding, when you stop for one thing, you're rewarded with another. Sure enough, out of nowhere a male Red-breasted Sapsucker flies across the road and lands on a favorite tree of his to drink sap to his heart's content, and leaves me to enjoy its beauty to my heart's content.

 With our spirits raised we drive to the end of the road to turn around but spy a pristine mountain stream and think perhaps a dipper could be about. Sure enough we were not mistaken, as Tim quickly spies an American Dipper up the stream. For those of you who do not know what a dipper is, I'll explain. They are passerine birds (small feathered types) which dive in the water like a duck or seabird. In the case of the American Dipper, they eat aquatic larvae and salmon eggs in the rushing mountain streams with ease and grace. This particular individual did not disappoint.  With daylight going and a spectacular day behind us we made our way into the Mountains north of Cle Elum to attempt some owling (and no not that weak sauce trend of perching on man-made structures and taking a picture of yourself). Our primary target was the endangered Spotted Owl but any owl would do. To sum up our evening and early morning in the words of Tim, "It was an abysmal failure!".

Beautiful male California Quail

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