Archive for Washington
Usk, Washington, has never meant more to me than an amusing roadsign, but this noon, following the hint in the Lane/ABA bird-finding guide, I checked out a spot along the Pend Oreille River there, finding it every bit as pleasant and as birdful as promised.
Kings Lake Road (called, inscrutably, “Fifth” in the bfg) leads across the river and onto the Kalispell Indian Reservation; an immediate turn north takes you to the reservation’s powwow grounds, whence there is access to a good-quality gravel road leading north a mile or so along the river. Ospreys and their nests line the road, and the stands at the arena harbor an impressively large colony of Cliff Swallows. The road starts in grassy flowered fields, making for a delightful combination of Wood Ducks and Double-crested Cormorants on the river side, Savannah Sparrows and Bobolinks on the land side.
Soon the landscape changes, swampy woods replacing the hayfields and Tree Swallows replacing the cliffies; Yellow Warblers and Song Sparrows sing from the willow thickets. The potential for migrants looks good, with a single male Western Tanager perhaps still on his way to the ponderosa-clad slopes above the floodplain.
Just where the road turns uphill and away from the river, a fine set of little oxbow marshes harbored a few waterfowl, among them a pair of Ring-necked Ducks and a pair of Redheads. An Eastern Kingbird fussed and fluttered over the water, too, and I’m sure that a morning visit would turn up other “east slope” species.
Best of all, though, were the Black-billed Magpies, a dozen or so adults scattered all along the road. It’s not easy being a magpie, I think. Like their larger relatives the American Crows and Common Ravens, the lovely black-and-whites are drawn to the area by the abundance of eggs and chicks, no doubt, but their milk is spoiled and their honey embittered by the vigilance of passerine parents: everything, and I mean everything, was mobbing them, from Eastern Kingbirds to Yellow Warblers. Can’t a pie enjoy a meal in peace?