Sue and I left Seattle on October 29, and took a leisurely drive east to Monroe, WA.
There is a old chimney that is the evening roosting site for up to 20 thousand swifts on any given night. The old heating chimney (no longer used by humans) is at Frank Wagner Elementary School in downtown Monroe.
A few years back there was some question about the chimney’s safety in the cast of an earthquake. After a successful campaign the people of Monroe raised enough money to have the chimney made safe for humans and swifts alike.
They have a webcam looking in the top of the chimney and a camera inside. This is the link to their website:
We spent an hour in the area hoping to see Vaux’s Swifts hawking for bugs over the river but it was just too late in the season, the swifts had all left and their were none to be found that day.
On we went down highway 2, through Stevens Pass. Things started to look familiar but I was sure I’d never been this way. Sue then reminded me that we’d come from the other direction from Leavenworth, on our way to Vancouver Airport.
We stopped at Deception Falls and had a small stroll around the boardwalk to the falls. I managed to see a Varied Thrush and Steller’s Jay but the light was bad for photos.
A couple was also viewing the falls so it was a great time for a photo op.
After a short drive, we arrived in Leavenworth.
We met Dave and Pat as they were just coming out the door, of our hotel.
We checked in, put our gear in the room and off we went in search of a White-headed Woodpecker. I had been here before without any luck but we headed straight to the Sleeping Lady Resort. http://www.sleepinglady.com
White-headed Woodpeckers have been found here in small numbers year round. We stopped at the office and asked for permission to walk the grounds. The lady at the desk said their was a pair in the area and gave us free rein to walk wherever.
First thing I found was a pair of Ravens, even managed a few close-up images.
Being familiar with the area didn’t help much, same old place, same old results nothing but Junco’s and Chickadee’s. Not a Woodpecker or Sapsucker in sight. We decided to wander over to the horse corral, we could see starlings, maybe there was a blackbird in the bunch.
Hearing a strange bird call as I got closer to the corral (Dave and I, can’t really pinpoint the direction of bird calls) it got my attention. All the birds turned out to be starling’s and we decided it was time to go check out the hatchery a short distance away.
Thanks goodness for the ladies, they both saw the bird first it had flown in behind us and we had great looks at a lovely female White-headed Woodpecker, followed seconds later by a male. ABA Lifebird #670 – White-headed Woodpecker
Next morning we headed to the intersection of Mission Creek Road and Sand Lake Road. At the end of Sand lake Road is the entrance to hiking and biking trails in the Okanogan-Wanachee National Forest. According to the guide this was a good spot to search for Red-Breasted Sapsucker.
We hiked up trail 221, searching for grouse, sapsuckers, pygmy-owls but just enjoying the hike and birding with good friends. Well we climbed and after a few hours it was apparent that if here was anything to be found in this forest. They were avoiding us like the plague. When I say we saw only a few junco’s, I mean nothing only a few juncos. I had that sinking feeling this day was going to be a bust.
Arriving back at the car we had a few sips of water and were preparing to leave when again I heard something but my spidy senses were again looking in the wrong direction. Sue saw it first, in a tree beside the car here was the bird we’d been searching for. ABA Lifebird #671 – Red-breasted Sapsucker.
The sun was at the birds back which really didn’t show how bright the red is. It seemed to like this spot but finally move into the sun and I squeezed off one more image in full sun. Can you see the difference?
It feels so good when you see a bird you’ve been searching for, on any occasion I’d be happy with one but two tough birds in one 24 hour period – priceless.
We headed back to Leavenworth and left Sue and Pat to shop and headed to the Fish Hatchery, there are great trails along the river and you never know what you’ll find. Dave and I ran into a flock of migrating Western Bluebirds. They put on quite a show for us. Allowing me to take one of my best photos to date.
I will be returning to this part of the country again, I missed one of the birds a Northern Pygmy-Owl. Fairly common but I just couldn’t find one. Dave went back a few days later an wouldn’t you know it……I think he sent this photo to me, knowing first chance I got I’d be on a plane west.
Maybe next time, I am thinking about going a January pelagic out of Westport.
Ciao for now.