Monday, June 22, 2009

Lower Granite Dam & vicinity, Whitman/Garfield Counties, WA., 6/21/09

We wandered over to L. Granite Dam on the Snake R. in the rain yesterday afternoon to see what was happening. This is an area we haven't been to in quite some time but is not that far from Moscow/Pullman. Most notable were American White Pelicans, California Gulls, and several Caspian Terns with the 3 species seen in both counties (although it's not entirely clear from the map where the county line runs along the Snake R., it's mostly a trivial matter as these birds wander back and forth and up and down the river.)

American White Pelican - total of ~70 with most loafing on an island just downstream of Boyer Park, there were as many as 10 or 15 near or just downstream of the dam and a few scattered elsewhere along the river from Almota to the dam.
California Gull - total of ~40-50 with most loafing w/ pelicans on island, and a few others at the base of the dam
Caspian Tern - 2 flew upstream right over the middle of the dam and later a single calling bird flew high above the river near Boyer Park

They are firing a propane canon at the base of the dam presumably to haze the White Pelicans (and other piscavores) away from the area. It didn't seem to have too much effect on the pelicans. Interestingly there were no cormorants in the area although they could be elsewhere up or down stream, perhaps closer to their breeding colonies wherever those are (does anybody know??). The area above the dam and immediately below the dam is not visible or accessible from the Whitman Co. side as there are no dam crossings allowed on Sundays.

Despite the time and perhaps because of the rain and cool temps there was a fair amount of other bird activity. There were lots of swallows over the river with all species except Tree observed. Boyer Park had mostly A. Robins but also Western Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Bullock's Oriole among others. Boyer Pk. is irrigated w/ tall trees and looks like it could be a decent migrant trap but is fairly manicured w/o much undergrowth. The bottom of the grade from Almota up to the hairpin turn has a pretty nice strip of riparian habitat. Birding it requires stopping in the emergency pullouts which didn't seem a big problem w/ very little traffic. This area had among others Western Wood-Pewee, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lazuli Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock's Oriole.

Union Flat Creek could also be checked out on a trip here which is an interesting area and is mentioned frequently in Larrison and Weber's, "Birds of Southeastern WA" including a possible location for breeding Veery. The little bit one passes on the way to Lower Granite looks pretty good.

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