Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Fall migration brings birds

Charles Lindbergh once said, “I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” Noble of him, considering his claim to fame was taking the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1927, and if it weren’t for airplanes he’d probably have died in total obscurity.Fall migration brings birds | Illustration by Tyler Calkin

He also probably never supposed that 80 years after he made that statement, airplanes would be a far commoner sight in many American cities than most species of birds. Last June, the Audubon Society released a report detailing a major decline of several kinds of common sparrow, the Northern bobwhite, the Eastern meadowlark, the common grackle and the common tern. The average decline of these birds, according to the report, is 68 percent.

The cause for the decrease is entirely human: Population growth and urban sprawl have created an environment not conducive to the livelihood of even the birds we consider most robust.

In a New York Times editorial on these new statistics environmental journalist Verlyn Klinkenbord wrote, “We look around us, expecting the rest of the world’s occupants to adapt to the changes that we have caused, when, in fact, we have the right to expect adaptation only from ourselves.”

Despite this unfortunate decline, though, Walla Walla remains a haven for bird-watchers, mostly due to efforts by the Blue Mountain Audubon Society, whose goal is “to appreciate, preserve and enjoy birds and wildlife and the natural environment in the local area and beyond,” according to their Web site.

The group has been involved in educational and conservation efforts throughout the Walla Walla and Umatilla Counties.
Now is a particularly good time to get interested in the bird population of the Northwest, too, as fall bird migration is in full swing, especially near the Walla Walla River delta. Shorebirds like the sabines gull, parasitic jaeger and even the common tern have been sighted there within the last two weeks.


• Coppei Creek: This is one of the only places in the entire country where you can see American redstarts: a tiny-but-beautiful warbler (the males are breathtakingly jet black with orange, red and yellow on their wings and tails). It is absolutely the spot to find rare wrens and even a flycatcher or two, as well as the always-gorgeous towhee.
GET THERE: Take Highway 12 east to Dixie. Turn right at the top of Minnick Hill and then turn left after crossing the railroad tracks. Follow the road to Coppei Creek.

• Mill Creek: Go up the bike paths toward Bennington Lake. The lake is a really beautiful place to see swallows, hummingbirds, flycatchers and any number of waterfowl depending on the season. Go at night and keep your eyes peeled for owls: Screech owl sightings are common.
GET THERE: Go to the end of Cambridge street off of Wilbur Avenue and follow it down to the lake.

• Blue Mountain backroads: This is the time of year to find hawks anywhere. If you’re lucky, you’ll even see one catching a mouse in the wheat stalks near the snow. There are plenty of red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and I’ve heard there are even prairie falcons up there. Go early: Breakfast time is good for hawks.

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