Tag: birds

One indicator OHA uses to measure change over time at our restoration sites is the migratory songbird population, using a timed point-count method.

We conduct a point-count bird survey at our Myers Creek mitigation site near Chesaw for one morning in late May or early June. We visit several stations and record which bird species we observe at each — near and far, during two different timeframes. Some interesting species we have seen in past years include the Black-headed Grosbeak, Gray Catbird, Eastern Kingbird, and Clay-colored Sparrow, among many others.

Pre-registration is required, and event details are provided to those who sign up. The survey route covers just under two miles of very uneven terrain with some sidehill hiking and no established trail; please ensure that this kind of activity suits your fitness level and stamina if you wish to participate. There are no restroom facilities onsite, but there is an outdoor toilet available in the town of Chesaw (bring your own TP).

If you bird by ear and/or sight and would like to share your skills, please contact madeline@okanoganhighlands.org. Let us know if you’d like to be invited to other bird surveys in the future, and we’ll be sure you are on our email list!

See below for photos from the annual event at Myers Creek over the years. Thank you to all the volunteers who have contributed to this important effort since 2011! We hope that as the habitat improves, it will be capable of supporting an increasing diversity of bird species! In our 2019 survey, we observed 30 different species!

Community involvement is also needed to protect nesting waterbird populations. Of particular interest is the Common Loon (Gavia immer), a rare breeder in Washington and a sensitive species ranked as imperiled in the state. More Common Loon chicks have been produced on record at Lost Lake than any other lake in Washington. While Lost Lake has historically been a successful nesting place for Common Loons, the loon population is in jeopardy.

Beginning in the 1980’s, lifelong area resident Roy Visser began observing nesting loons and recording their behavior. For fifteen years, Ginger Gumm and Daniel Poleschook, Jr. of the Loon Lake Loon Association (LLLA), with the help of Patti Baumgardner from the USFS, have conducted a study of Eastern WA loons, which has confirmed lead toxicosis as a cause of loon death at Lost Lake and as the cause of 39% of all loon deaths in WA State.

Click here for the 2011 WA Common Loon data compiled by Daniel and Ginger Poleschook (Excel Spreadsheet)

According to the LLLA, loons most commonly take in lead by ingesting fish on an active or broken fishing line. Additionally, when loons scoop up pebbles from the bottom of the lake to help grind their food, they can swallow lead fishing sinkers. Terns, geese, dabbling ducks, swans, mergansers as well as small mammals can also be poisoned, and the lead moves through the food chain, affecting eagles and other predators. A bird with lead poisoning cannot keep balance, breathe or fly properly, adequately eat or care for young, and often dies within two to three weeks. Just one lead sinker is enough to kill a loon.

In December, 2010, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved restrictions on the use of lead fishing tackle at 13 lakes with nesting common loons, including Lost Lake. Please help spread the word that lead-free tackle must now be used at Lost Lake, and help others understand how important this is to wildlife. Lead is also toxic to humans; a piece of lead as small as a grain of sand is enough to poison a child (Centers for Disease Control, 1991).

On Friday, November 2nd, 2018, Dan and Ginger Poleschook returned to the Highland Wonders education series to update our community on how our local loons have fared in the seven years since the Poleschook’s last presentation in Tonasket. They shared stories of our local loons — where they hatched, adventures they have experienced, obstacles they have overcome, and which loons at which lakes are related to each other. Some stories reflected loons as being highly intelligent, beyond their basic survival skills and genetic influences, and provided examples of loons having long-term memories of places and people. We learned ways in which people have helped loons survive, and what we can do to increase and protect future populations of the common loon.

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On Friday, January 6th, 2017, award-winning photographer Paul Bannick returned to Highland Wonders with a presentation based on his new book, Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls. In Owl, Paul uses his intimate yet dramatic images to follow North American owls through the course of one year and in their distinct habitats.

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Crows are mischievous, playful, social, and passionate. They have brains that are huge for their body size and exhibit an avian kind of eloquence. They mate for life and associate with relatives and neighbors for years. And because they often live near people, they are also keenly aware of our peculiarities, quickly learning to recognize and approach those who care for them, even giving numerous, oddly touching gifts in return. The characteristics of crows that allow this symbiotic relationship are language, delinquency, frolic, passion, wrath, risk-taking, and awareness—seven traits that humans find strangely familiar.

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The Highland Wonders educational series kicked off 2016 with an opportunity to learn about the world of grouse breeding behavior, with an inside perspective on grouse mating systems Dr. Michael Schroeder. Mike has a Ph.D. in wildlife biology and is the upland bird research scientist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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Renowned biologist, birder, and author Dick Cannings brought his vast knowledge of birds to Highland Wonders on Friday, February 6, 2015. In his inspiring presentation, “The World Needs More Birders,” Cannings demonstrated how going out to enjoy and watch birds can also generate valuable information about the abundance and distribution of bird species in our region. Drawing on a long career as a professional biologist, Cannings conveyed anecdotes, stories, and experiences that underscore the need for citizen science programs. Through coordinated efforts, the public can be actively involved in turning bird watching into a collective database of bird breeding, bird behavior, and migration.

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Not only are Great Gray Owls the largest owl in North America with the largest wingspan, their stature and countenance spark a sense of wonder. With alternate names such as “Great Grey Ghost” and “Phantom of the North,” they inspire awe and pique our curiosity. From unique adaptations for locating prey, to behaviors for defending their nests, to strategies for successful breeding, these masters of silent flight capture our interest.

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Ken at Lost Lake (Photo by Teri Pieper)

On February 7th, 2014, wildlife biologist Ken Bevis, who is also a singer/songwriter, provided an entertaining evening of stories, photos, songs and science, aiming for a closer understanding of some of Washington’s fish and wildlife… sometimes from the viewpoint of the critters themselves! This family-friendly program was fun for all ages! Species featured in the “Saga of Washington’s Fish and Wildlife” presentation included: sandhill crane, bull trout, chinook salmon, hummingbirds, black bear, and more…

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