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Rocky Coulee Recreation Area, Vantage
Whiskey Dick Unit (day hike), LT Murray Wildlife Area
May 2022

In an attempt to find some spring weather and to escape the very long and cool winter-spring of the Puget Sound, we headed east toward the Wild Horse Wind Farm in hopes of wildflowers, sage birds, and sunshine. Unfortnately when we got there a massive dark cloud hung over the ridge, seemingly unwilling to budge. After much assessment and reevaluation, we decided to try for sunshine at lower grounds at the nearby Rocky Coulee Recreation Area adjacent to the Ginko Petrified Forest State Park on the Columbia River. Decending from the ridge, we managed to escape the rainclouds and arrived at the campground in sunshine and a few breezes, but over all pleasant.
We stayed at the campground with friends over the weekend. The rainclouds continued to dump and hail on top of the ridge and the windfarm, but by the time it reached us at the campground, the weather remained mild and even warm at times.

The campground's riparian habitat hosted a good variety of spring migrants. Bullock's Orioles, Western Tanagers, and Black-headed Grosbeak sang from the willows. Small warbler flocks gleaned on the leaves and a pair of Yellow-breasted Chats squawked and chattered from the dense brush. At the river, Caspaian Terns hunted over the water, a single Western Grebe called for a mate, and a large raft of Greater Scaup drifted. Rock Wrens constantly chattered from the surrounding basalt. And many families of Yellow-bellied Marmots basked in the sun on rocks.

Rocky Coulee Recreation Area was also only a 30 minute drive to the Whisky Dick unit. We hiked there after the storms had passed and soaked in the warmth and sunshine. The wildflowers were in full force. The late spring rains boosted plant growth and compressed blooms into a smaller window, which we seemed to hit perfectly. Fields of narrowleaf goldenweed, spreading phlox, thyme buckwheat, and lupine bloomed along side arrowleaf and Hooker's balsamroot. The Simpson's Hedgehog cactus was still blooming below the ridge and bitterroot began blooming in the desert cement. It was truly a spectacular showing of wildflowers. Birds were also active - Brewer's, Lark, and Sagebrush Sparrows were particularly randy. After a long wet spring, a weekend in the sun and sage was the perfect way to recharge the internal batteries.


Pictures (click on thumbnail to enlarge)

Bird List
Canada Goose RC,WD
Wood Duck RC
Cinnamon Teal RC
American Wigeon RC
Mallard RC
Greater Scaup RC
Common Merganser RC
California Quail RC
Eared Grebe RC
Western Grebe RC
Mourning Dove RC,WD
Common Poorwill RC
Vaux's Swift RC
California Gull RC
Caspian Tern RC
Turkey Vulture RC
Osprey RC
Bald Eagle RC
Red-tailed Hawk RC
American Kestrel WD
Prairie Falcon RC
Western Wood-Pewee RC
Dusky Flycatcher RC,WD
Say's Phoebe RC,WD
Warbling Vireo RC
Loggerhead Shrike RC,WD
Common Raven RC,WD
Horned Lark RC,WD
Tree Swallow RC
Violet-green Swallow RC
Barn Swallow RC,WD
Cliff Swallow RC
Ruby-crowned Kinglet RC
Rock Wren RC
European Starling RC
Mountain Bluebird WD
American Robin RC
House Finch RC
American Goldfinch RC
Chipping Sparrow WD
Brewer's Sparrow WD
Lark Sparrow RC,WD
White-crowned Sparrow RC
Golden-crowned Sparrow RC
Sagebrush Sparrow WD
Vesper Sparrow WD
Yellow-breasted Chat RC
Western Meadowlark RC,WD
Bullock's Oriole RC
Brown-headed Cowbird RC,WD
Orange-crowned Warbler RC
Yellow Warbler RC
Yellow-rumped Warbler RC
Townsend's Warbler RC
Wilson's Warbler RC
Western Tanager RC,WD
Black-headed Grosbeak RC,WD
Lazuli Bunting RC
Nuttall's Cottontail RC
Least Chipmunk RC
Elk WD
Yellow-bellied Marmot RC
Great Basin Pocket Mouse RC
Coyote RC
Side-blotch Lizard RC
Northern Scorpion RC
Bat sp. RC
Flowers in bloom
arrowleaf balsamroot
Hooker's balsamroot
Desert Parsley
Douglas Brodiaea
Prairie lupine
Simpson's hedgehog cactus
Yellow Fiddleneck
Narrowleaf goldweed
Bearded hawksbeard
Thyme buckwheat
Western groundsel
Gairdner's beardtongue
Thompson's paintbrush
death camas
Threadleaf phacelia
Spreading phlox
Kittitas fleabane
Silvery blue
Juba skipper
Checkerspot sp
Anise swallowtail

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page updated: 5/27/22