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.

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