Last weekend Jacob and I met up with Audrey in eastern Washington to track down some owls. We stocked up on snacks at a gas station in Burbank, then Audrey led us to our first owl stop, a rocky wall with a few small holes filled with Barn Owls.
Next we headed out to the area where a Snowy Owl had been seen all winter. Jacob and Audrey had both tried for this bird before and dipped, so the pressure was on.
We finally drove far enough down a side road and crested a small hill when it appeared below us perched on some farm equipment, as it was supposed to be.
Lifer for both Jacob and Audrey!
We decided not to push our luck and get any closer and we left the bird in the same spot we found it in. With the most important bird under our belt we decided to go for the next hardest one, the Long-eared Owl. There is a well-known road in the area where piles of Long-eareds roost, though they are notoriously difficult to see through branches and such.
It continued to get darker with clouds as we drove up and down the road, scanning every nook and cranny inside those trees in the above photo. Eventually Audrey picked out the silhouette of one behind a bunch of branches. She was in fact looking at it when another car appeared carrying a fellow whose license plate declared he would rather be birding. Audrey decided she did not trust the fellow just yet and did not tell him she was staring at a Long-eared, and instead told him she was "looking for Long-eareds." He kindly offered to help. I found this hilarious.
Eventually we all got onto about four or five Long-eareds and even managed a few photos.
With the most challenging species taken care of we decided to head to a park on the Snake River for a good dog walk and some more well-known owls.
We found two Northern Saw-whet Owls roosting in one area, one angrier than the other.
Not far from the saw-whets we stumbled across a Great Horned Owl pair.
All the owls! We walked the dogs around the park for awhile checking out the other birds and things.
The weather had gone from sunny to cloudy to chilly rain and wind and then back to sunny and warm. With the dogs tired we headed back to Kennewick to check into our hotel, then caught the sunset as we toasted to owls at Ice Harbor Brewery.
The next morning the wind was howling as we packed the car and met up with Audrey at Little Randy's Diner. After breakfast we drove back out to the Snowy Owl spot where the Snowy Owl was not hanging out. Finally Jacob spotted it flying across a field in the distance and we drove over to the area. It sat in one field for a long time, then flew to another field where it attracted the attention of a Northern Harrier.
We left it to it's battle and headed to Nine Mile Canyon where some redpolls and other birds had been seen. We didn't see much besides tumbleweeds and goldfinches.
After that we parted ways with Audrey and stopped at McNary Wildlife Area to walk the dogs a bit. I had been here once before and remembered a big Black-crowned Night-Heron roost along the trail and sure enough it was going strong.
On the river there were some big white birds I had forgotten existed in the winter: pelicans!
In the shrubs were packs of sparrows including this bright Song Sparrow:
I thought it was an eastern type, but after consulting Sibley I think it has more southwest traits. Not sure. Cool to see one that's not PNW-style.
After that we slowly made our way back home along Highway 14, with several stops at random parks along the way. This is Jacob and the mutts at Sundale Park in Klickitat County where I picked up two county birds making this my second WA county over 100.
Overall it was great little trip with tons of neat birds and gorgeous scenery! Oh and the company was pretty good too! Good times!!