2001 Columbia Gorge

Conference Summary

By Scott Morrison

Those of us who left western Washington on Friday morning for the WOS conference were greeted by beautiful sunny skies upon our arrival in the Gorge. It certainly lifted people’s spirits after the grayness of the “wet’ side. A short field trip to Dalles Mountain officially started the conference. Later in the evening, John Davis delivered a superb evening presentation on the natural history of the Columbia Gorge. This overview provided a nice framework as field trips forayed into various areas shown in the slides and described in the talk.

Saturday dawned sunny and bright – there’s always a bit of a breeze in the Gorge – and five groups embarked on field trips to areas all throughout the Washington side of the river. The unabridged versions of the trip lists follow this article. The conference list is very impressive. Special thanks to Wilson Cady for organizing the leaders and making the trips a reality.

After the trips returned, conference attendees had a chance to socialize and share stories, as well as buy books from Flora & Fauna’s display table. Field trip accounts were shared just prior to the evening’s keynote speaker, Catherine Flick.

Cathy’s lecture on Nighthawks: Living with Dive-bombers was delightful!. The presentation was truly multimedia – from etymology to visual images to sound recordings to fecal coils – there was something for everyone. Cathy’s knowledge of these birds, their behaviors and life history, was very informative and enlightening.

Sunday was a little breezier than the previous days, but the field trips headed off in search of elusive or restricted-range species and the trip lists reflect what they found. Take a moment to look over the lists and note what was and what wasn’t seen. Particularly comparing similar trips between two different days.

The field trip leaders all did a terrific job. Thanks to all of you.

The conference evaluations were generally very favorable. A couple of the major concerns were the cost of lodging being too high and various comments regarding the food. The conference committee tries to anticipate the overall meeting experience. Sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn’t. All comments and suggestions are welcome and the committee will do its best to organize enjoyable annual conferences for the membership. Thanks for your continued attendance and participation in WOS. Those people who drove on the conference field trips are entitled to monetary compensation for their efforts. We have identified most of the drivers. If you drove on one or more of the field trips and haven’t been reimbursed, contact the WOS treasurer, Rachel Lawson.

Conference Field Trip Notes

Dalles Mountain Road – Wilson Cady

On Friday, June 15th, Wilson Cady led a short trip to the top of the Dalles Mountain in Klickitat County. This was the one low wind day of the conference and even though there were only two hours in which to bird it was an enjoyable outing.

One End To The Other – Wilson Cady & Carol Watrous

The Saturday, June 16th, field trip started at the western end of Skamania County and worked it’s way along Highway 14 to Maryhill State Park in Klickitat County. We found all of our target species except the Acorn Woodpecker and picked up a couple of surprises too. Only a gentle breeze was blowing when we started at Cape Horn under cloudy sky but by the time we reached Klickitat County it was difficult to hold your binoculars steady and using a scope meant you had to hold the tripod to keep it from blowing over.

Potato Hill – Andy Stepniewski

Saturday, June 16th, field trip to Meadows RV Park (1.6 miles west of Trout Lake on SR-141, then 0.9 miles north to the RV park), then north to Takkakah Lake on the northwest shoulder of Mt. Adams, and finally the Potato Hill area on the western boundary of the Yakama Indian Reservation. A significant number of forest songbirds were “heard only”. This May-July dependence on songs and calls was especially driven home to me as a leader, who dearly wished more of these birds would expose themselves to our binos. Without playback tapes, one simply does not see many species readily. We did not use tapes, save for the Hermit Warbler.

Trout Lake/Conboy Refuge – Wilson Cady and Carol Watrous

Our trip on Sunday June 17 was to the Elk Meadows RV Park at Trout Lake then to the Conboy Refuge and back down the Klickitat River to Highway 14. It was tough to pull ourselves away from Elk Meadows where we kept finding birds and had great conditions. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the groups that I birded with and think that the use of FRS radios to keep in touch between the vehicles was a great asset. Our most exciting sighting was when a small dog running loose at the Conboy Refuge flushed a family of Wild Turkeys. Several of the young poults were perching in scope view in a pine tree when a female Cooper’s Hawk made an attempt at one. She missed and was sitting in a nearby tree until one of the young turkeys made a mistake and jumped to the ground where it was quickly snatched up by the hawk.

Columbia Hills to Satus Pass – Andy Stepniewski

Sunday, June 17th, I led a field trip originating in The Dalles that went up over the Columbia Hills on Dalles Mtn Rd, down into the Klickitat Valley to Goldendale, to Brooks Memorial State Park and, finally, Satus Pass. We detoured a bit on the Dalles Mountain Road into the Columbia Hills Natural Area, a substantial DNR site on the crest of the Columbia Hills. Brooks Memorial State Park south of Satus Pass held the most species diversity, with a nice assortment of riparian and forest species. We spent considerable time and effort clambering the steep, brush-grown sidehills at Satus Pass at the site where Green-tailed Towhee was seen 3 years ago, without conclusive results. A variety of habitats were covered: Garry Oak groves, weedy (south-facing) and native (north-facing) grasslands, riparian, rocky wildflower-dappled lithosols on ridge tops, and Ponderosa Pine and mixed-conifer forests.