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(

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