This past weekend, or friends Tiffany and Tor , who are big-time birders, invited us out to see the Sandhill Cranes migrating through central Washington.

We haven't spent much time in this part of the state, so we had a good time exploring. The landscapes are crazy, and so much different than the Seattle side of the state. It's strange to think that this desert exists only about 2.5 hours from our rainy city.

The forecast was for cold with a possibility for rain, so we drove over Saturday morning. We spent a while hiking around near Upper Goose Lake, marveling at the strange landscapes, checking out the cool plants, and chasing some little birds around the mesas.

We found a few White Crowned Sparrows and some Meadowlarks that didn't let us get very close, but the one we got closest to had a beautiful yellow chest.

There were also some cool plants. I especially like the sage brush and the beautiful lichens that grow on them. It's still a little early, but there were a few wildflowers, including a lone Yellow Bell.

In an effort to find Sandhill Cranes, we drove around the area and found a giant reservoir, the Potholes Reservoir, which looks very strange situated in the middle of a large desert.

But no cranes, so we went in search of marshier areas. We found some ducks, including this pair of American Wigeon, and a flock of American Coot, but no cranes. So we drove back to Upper Goose Lake to look for Tiffany and Tor.

We got back right about sunset, and also right as the Cranes started flying in. There were hundreds of them flocking in to settle down for the night. A few even flew over where we were standing.

Soon, though, it was cold and raining. So we made dinner and called it a night.

Sunday morning was cold and windy, but no longer raining, so we resumed our search for Cranes. We found them! There were hundreds - possibly thousands - of them in a marshy area that was closed to entry, so we couldn't get very close. They seemed to be avoiding the wind, so they were just hanging out in the marsh, and all over the hill in the back.

On our way out we found another little pond that had a trio of Ring-necked Ducks, which are supposedly uncommon in this area, and which we've never seen before.

We made a couple stops on the way home, including at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, right on the banks of the Columbia River. It features several mostly buried pieces of petrified wood kept in large stone and metal cages. It was fairly depressing, and there weren't even any rattlesnakes.

We did find a few more birds on the Columbia river, though, including this pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes and a lone Horned Grebe.

Thanks for looking!

Jim

Posted 4/1/2011

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