Saturday, July 18, 2009

Little Butte area, eastern Whitman Co., WA, 7/17/09

images of Little Butte - more at

On Friday morning I beat the heat and took a short hike up to Little Butte from Woods Rd. (off Snow Rd.) just across the ID/WA border in eastern Whitman Co. and about 5 miles south of Moscow. Back in early June I got to the access point at the end of Woods Rd. but was unable to get very far up on the butte (w/ Iris in tow). This time I hiked w/ Sam Hunter about ~1.5 miles up onto Little Butte and then south and west to within about .5 miles of Bald Butte. Around Little Butte is extensive, varied, and interesting habitat interspersed within a matrix of cropland. Habitat present includes cropland (in various states, mostly un-planted on top), disturbed weedy grassland, remnant Palouse prairie (bunch grass/forb mixture), lights to extensive shrub cover, scattered Ponderosa Pine, and some impressive looking Aspen clones. Native habitat types were well represented. Several shrubby north and east aspect draws have extensive and dense cover and were busy with a lot of bird activity. There are some exposed rocky areas on the south side (hence the Rock Wren). The habitat is very similar to what is found on western Paradise Ridge but much more extensive especially in terms of undisturbed areas.

There was still (at this date) plenty of bird vocalization evident especially among the most common species: Lazuli Buntings, House Wrens, and Spotted Towhees. Several weedy long grass areas had Grasshopper Sparrows including at least 4 singing males. This is pretty interesting and based on other recent reports it seems that territorial Grasshopper Sparrows are fairly easy to find well into summer. Also of interest were several Vesper Sparrows (still singing), several Dusky Flycatchers in the shrubby area, a Rock Wren (fairly local up on the Palouse compared to in the canyons), and several small flocks of Chipping Sparrows which were presumably migrants. With regard to the latter there is evidence (from Colorado) that Chipping Sparrows undergo a molt migration after nesting and before their usual southbound fall migration. I also detected at least half a dozen hummingbirds which I assume were migrating but was unable to identify any of them as they zipped by. My complete eBird list is below.

This was a fairly quick hike and we only just scratched the surface in terms of exploring the area. I can't wait to get back up there next spring and do a more extensive exploration. As well explorations at other times of the year may be fairly rewarding. I suspect Clay-colored and Brewer's Sparrows may well be here and there are historical records for both. The homestead area at the south end of Woods Rd. which we used to access Little Butte remains un-posted at this time.

complete bird list, approximately 3 miles round trip hike

Ring-necked Pheasant 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 1
Great Horned Owl 1
Northern Flicker 2
Western Wood-Pewee 3
Dusky Flycatcher 3
Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher (Western) 1
Eastern Kingbird 1
Black-billed Magpie 4
Common Raven 2
Horned Lark 5
Barn Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Rock Wren 1
House Wren 10
American Robin 8
Gray Catbird 3
Cedar Waxwing 5
Yellow Warbler 3
Western Tanager 1
Spotted Towhee 15
Chipping Sparrow 15
Vesper Sparrow 4
Grasshopper Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 1
Black-headed Grosbeak 4
Lazuli Bunting 20
Western Meadowlark 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 3
Bullock's Oriole 2
House Finch 3
American Goldfinch 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Monday, July 13, 2009

Palouse River - Eden Valley to Elberton (by canoe), Whitman Co., WA, 5/29/09

Hi All -

I'm finally getting around to finishing and posting this report.

In late May I canoed an 8 mile stretch of the Palouse R. in eastern Whitman Co., WA with my daughter Iris and a friend. We floated from Altergott Rd. (a few miles west of the town of Palouse) to Elberton Rd. This stretch is a real gem and as it is surrounded by farm land (mostly wheat fields) is accessible only by boat except for 3 road crossings (the put-in, take-out, and Lange Rd.) . Along the river is a variable strip of riparian vegetation and (mostly) Ponderosa Pine forest. The shrub cover is quite good in places and basalt outcrops are readily visible including several impressive cliffs. The river corridor creates a greenbelt or linear oasis in the midst of the extensive Palouse wheat fields in eastern Whitman Co.

And there were *lots* of birds along the river, always audible and in view. (Complete eBird list is below.) The most common species were Cliff Swallow (130 - in several large hard to count colonies),  and 3 very common landbird species (never out of hearing range for very long) - Yellow Warbler (64), House Wren (54), and Western Wood-Pewee (28) - and these are most certainly undercounts due to the difficulty of counting birds from a canoe due to stream noise etc. Most birds were detected by ear except for more visible species such as swallows, Spotted Sandpipers, a few waterfowl, and Red-tailed Hawks. Some other interesting species totals were Willow Flycatcher (9),  Western Flycatcher (7),  Gray Catbird (9), Black-headed Grosbeak (15), and Bullock's Oriole (11). Some of  these (Willow & Western Flycatcher, Gray Catbird) are fairly local in Whitman Co. but apparently not uncommon along the river. I also found 1 Veery (very local in Whitman Co.) below Lange Rd. and was actually surprised not to find more as the habitat looked great for them in many places. We did start rather late in the day which may account for missing some birds but there was plenty of bird song and activity all through the afternoon.

Although this may be the best bird habitat along the Palouse R. in Whitman Co., there are many more miles of river to explore upstream to the ID/WA border (and into Idaho for that matter) and down to Colfax and beyond (and there is also the South Fork Palouse to explore). I'm hoping to explore this and other sections in future years. In most years the river is easily runnable only until late May/early June (unless you want to do a lot of boat dragging) so there is a narrow window to survey most of the breeding species.

For eBird  purposes I broke the trip into 5 segments and georeferenced starting points (w/ gps) but still need to plot these on google earth and determine segment lengths. The list below is cumulative for the trip.

Location:     Palouse R. - Eden Valley
Observation date:     5/29/09
Notes:     Palouse R. canoe trip from Altergott Rd. (Eden Valley) to Elberton. About 8 river miles. I have the trip split into 5 segments and will submit those to eBird when I can figure out distances.
Number of species:     40

Canada Goose     4
Wood Duck     1
Mallard     4
Ring-necked Pheasant     1
Osprey     1
Red-tailed Hawk     16
Spotted Sandpiper     17
Mourning Dove     6
Belted Kingfisher     2
Red-naped Sapsucker     1
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Western Wood-Pewee     28
Willow Flycatcher     9
Hammond's Flycatcher     2
Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher (Western)     7
Eastern Kingbird     7
Warbling Vireo     2
Common Raven     4
Violet-green Swallow     4
Northern Rough-winged Swallow     20
Cliff Swallow     130
Barn Swallow     2
Black-capped Chickadee     2
Pygmy Nuthatch     5
Rock Wren     1
House Wren     53
Veery     1
American Robin     23
Gray Catbird     9
European Starling     15
Cedar Waxwing     X
Orange-crowned Warbler     5
Yellow Warbler     64
Western Tanager     2
Spotted Towhee     4
Chipping Sparrow     8
Song Sparrow     10
Black-headed Grosbeak     15
Bullock's Oriole     11
American Goldfinch     10

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Charles Swift
Moscow, ID

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Latah Co. Grasshopper Sparrow, etc., 7/12/09

This afternoon a Grasshopper Sparrow was singing along Foothill Rd. just across the street from the upper foothill pond a bit north of Moscow. Interesting to find one singing mid-afternoon on a warm day. The habitat looks pretty good here for them. I also did a bit of birding earlier at Laird Park east of Potlatch with a good amount of activity of the usual species. Returning we did a quick check of Big Creek/Old River Rd. and Garden Gulch Rd. for Bobolinks with no luck (but noted plenty of good habitat). They could be done nesting or just out of site in the grown up fields on a warm afternoon.

thanks, Charles.

Charles Swift
Moscow, ID