Potholes State Park, Columbia NWR, Hanford Reach (White Bluffs) Othello,
Winter still seemed to have its grip on Eastern Washington when we camped in Potholes State Park at the end of March. Going over the pass, we were greeted with the most snow pack we had seen in a while. The snow-capped foothill in Eastern Washington also spoke of the cold.
While camping at Potholes, we saw a large raft of thousands of migrating Snow Goose, who were migrating through the area. It was an impressive display of white and black floating in the choppy waters of the reservior. Also still present was a Greater Yellowlegs at Birder's Corner and the utter lack of summer birds including stilts, Cinnamon Teal and phalaropes. At least the Sandhill Cranes were back in large numbers at the overlook on the Columbia NWR and in the fields outside of Royal City.
We hiked around Upper and Lower Goose Lakes, a great place to do some social-distanced hiking as there are many directions to go and just open grass and sageslands in all directions. Large angry clouds threatened rain, but we remained blissfully dry and warm as it seemed to evaporate before reaching the ground. The calls of Canyon and Rock Wrens and Say's Phoebes echoed off the mesa walls and Horned Larks gave their tinkering songs in the open grasses. Formations of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Goose could be seen flying in the distance overhead. And Red-tailed Hawks circled above.
During this trip we also hiked the White Bluffs trail on the Hanford Reach, which we had apparently visited 20 years ago. Something I had completely forgotten about until reviewing old pictures when I got back home. We parked at the south end trailhead, but the area is easily accessible from the northern end as well. A short ~2 mile section of the road was closed off to vehicle traffic and makes an easy to walk along, though walking along the bluff above or the rolling hills along the Columbia River below also make the area nice to walk along. Rock Wrens called from the small bluffs, and Western Meadowlarks sang from the few remaining sagebrushes. Most of the sage had been burnt away during a wildfire years ago. A small pack of coyotes gave their mournful howls and a single coyote yiped and barked at us as we had likely inadvertantely wandered to close to its den. It was a peaceful and beautiful area with an interesting backdrop of reactors in the distance.
On the way home, we stopped at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest, where spring was more showy among the blooming Arrowleaf and Hookers Balsamroot. Milk-vetch and Tufted Phlox also added to the blooming colors.