Even though we’re not spending time with extended family and friends, we can still hang out with the birds. During the cold and blustery weather, there are some amazing winter birds to be found right here in our county. Here are suggestions on where to find them. Some are long shots, but if you find them, what a treat!
Blue Jays These noisy, beautiful blue and white Jays have shown up lately in the urban forest within the city of Walla Walla. Neighborhoods where they have been seen include the area between Wallowa Road and Tietan, up to Wauna Vista, as well as along E. Chestnut between Division and Fern. To find them, just walk these neighborhoods and listen for their noisy loud “jeer” call. If you’re feeling lucky, put out some peanuts on a platform feeder and they may come to you.
Rough Legged Hawks, Redpolls Take Nine Mile Canyon road clear to the top.( It’s found by heading west on Hwy 12 and turning right immediately before crossing the WW river) Scan the sky for “Roughys”, beautiful hawks identified by the black patches on their “elbows”. Look carefully through the sagebrush and you’ll be sure to spot dozens of American and Lesser Goldfinch, Juncos, a few Shrikes, and if you’re lucky perhaps Common Redpolls. Redpolls are small with a beautiful rosy blush on their head. They’re found in flocks feeding on weed seeds. Both Roughys and Redpolls spend the summer nesting in the arctic and migrate south for the winter.
Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs. These are also arctic migrants that can be found here the winter. A good spot is in the Clyde area, along Sheffler and Lower Monumental Dam roads. Look carefully along the road and out into the stubble fields. You will undoubtedly find dozens of Horned Larks, and if you’re lucky, Snow Buntings and Longspurs. On the way out, keep your eyes peeled for Roughys, Red tailed Hawks and in the late afternoon, Great Horned owls perched on the power poles.
Snow Geese Literally thousands of these beautiful birds can be found in the ponds and fields around McNary Wildlife refuge just east of Burbank. It’s such a thrill to listen as the sky fills with string after string flying over, all calling to each other. And when they land, acres will turn white; maybe that’s why they’re called snow geese.
Snowy Owls Perhaps the Holy Grail of owls in our area, Snowys can be found here many winters. The best sites have been near the intersection of Dodd and Britton Roads. (Take Hwy 12 to Dodd Rd at Tyson foods, or take a right at the four way intersection at the top of Nine Mile Canyon) Look for them out in the fields, sitting on sagebrush, fenceposts or beehives. They have even been spotted in the fields along Highway 12 near Touchet, as well as in the Burbank area.
So, the weather’s cool, but so are the winter migrants to be found. Keep binoculars in your car and your eyes peeled!