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

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