The cutest and littlest hawks are American Kestrels. While I was searching for the Snowy Owl this week (see previous blog post), I happened to see an American Kestrel, but didn't get any photos of it, so I posted one from my archives. Well today I went back up to Mt. Spokane High School to see if I could see the owl again and get some more pictures since I really only got one close up. The owl wasn't there, so again I continued on towards Mt. Spokane thinking perhaps I would see the Red-tailed hawks that were out that day and could try and get some pictures of them. But no, the Red-tails weren't out either. I did see some American Kestrels though, and since I only have two pics of a Kestrel, I was going to get me some more! This time, I had my sunroof opened, camera ready, no cars behind me as I was traveling down the road. When I got close enough, I zoomed in, and off it would fly. Usually not very far though so I would followed it the short distance, and again try to snap a photo, but by the time I would get zoomed and focused, it would take off again. I managed to get a few shots, but not as close, or sharp, or as many as I would have liked. As I was loading the Kestrel pics to my computer when I got home, I looked more closely at them and noticed that the little hawk I was chasing had a poor little rodent that it was trying to eat in peace. It is in every picture I took of the bird! I love seeing things like that when you finally get the time to look at the pictures in detail on the big screen.
Here is the first picture I got, a silhouette of the American Kestrel, that made me think, what's he got there?
The next one clearly shows that the little hawk has a rodent for a snack, and I am interrupting the feast. No wonder he kept flying off.
This pic below is a little clearer and shows how pretty these tiny hawks really are.
I decided that trying to take photos from the road was probably not the best or safest way to do this. So I turned off on a graveled road that I vaguely remembered from the other day, but this time I read the sign better. It was called Feryn Ranch Conservation Area and I drove over 1/2 a mile on the gravel road to the parking area to investigate. I was surprised to see a sign that said it was part of Audubon Washington's The Great Washington State Birding Trail. Palouse to Pines Loop.
Recently, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Leavenworth and while we were there we did some walking along the Wenatchee River and I remember it being part of the Cascade Loop. Now I'm seeing the Palouse to Pines Loop. I thought to myself, I'll have to do some research about these Loops when I get home, see if they are related and what they are all about.
Come to find out there are 7 'loops' in The Great Washington State Birding Trail. There are 51 birding trails that make up the Palouse to Pines Loop. Feryn Ranch Conservation Area is number 5 in the loop. The last trail listed just happened to be 51 Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, near Cheney, WA which I have visited twice with a friend of mine. Last time we were there in Spring of 2010, we saw two baby Great Horned Owlets with their mamma in an abandoned Osprey nest. Great sighting!
The walk my husband and I took along the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, WA I found out was part of the Cascade Loop, 15 Waterfront Park. This bear warning was posted at the start of trail.
The autumn colors were at their peak at this time of year (the end of October), so the entire trip was full of the beautiful seasonal colors, and was one of the main reasons we went on this getaway. I had hoped to get in more birding, but the weekend was rather rainy, and even here in these pictures, we are walking in the rain.
I also discovered that another park we stopped by on the way home from Leavenworth, Wenatchee Confluence State Park, was the 17th destination trail on the Cascade Loop.
So already I have visited four of these birding trails, without realizing it at the time, with the exception of Turnbull, which I visited specifically to go birding and knew it was a recognized birding trail. I'm off to a good start!
Now that I know about the Great Washington State Birding Trail, I have decided to start a new project. I plan to start visiting these birding hotspots, and tracking all the birds I can find. I recently signed up for eBird, and plan to also start recording my sightings through that at the beginning of the year. After 20+ years of birding, I have only recorded about 90 or so different species of birds here in Washington, where there are 346 annually recorded bird species. So my goal this year will be to get as many new species as I can and going out of my comfort zone and explore as many of these birding trails as I can. For those of you who aren't familiar with the movie The Big Year, Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Owen Wilson are bird enthusiasts who compete to try and become the world record-holder in a year-long bird-spotting competition. 2013 is gonna be my "Big Year"!