24 Dec White Christmas on the Waterville
Posted from Seattle WA on December 24, 2021
It’s green and wet down here in Seattle (thankfully–my biggest fear is always drought) but Delia and I plus Brian Pendleton and Darchelle Worley are recently back from the Okanogan and the Waterville Plateau, where things had a whiter caste to them, also thankfully.
Delia and I saw the first Ermine of our lives at the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area. (Darchelle and Brian had seen and photographed an Ermine before in Northern WA, ironically in snowless conditions.)
None of us are Mustelid experts and I welcome feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org but we surmised this critter was a female Long-tailed Weasel. Long-tailed because of her enormously long tail, which had a big black tip, and female in my opinion because she appeared so tiny, much smaller than some Long-tailed males I have seen which can remind you of a Mink they are so long. As I understand it, Ermine is the name for all the following: Short-tailed and Long-tailed Weasel in North America and Stoat and Weasel in Eurasia if they are in their winter-white pelage..
We were on our way back from a cul-de-sac on the Waterville Plateau when Darchelle caught sight of a bump on a rock maybe a half-mile away. It turned out to be Snowy Owl that somehow decided to forsake the richness of Queen Anne Hill in favor of the Waterville.
Unlike Brian or Darchelle, I always worry in North-central Washington about our physical security and comfort. We almost had a close call when a rear tire blew dramatically out on the Plateau just before dark. We had the tire changed ok but were –what is the word for shocked but with a positive connotation? to have a guy come out of nowhere and see if we needed any kind of help. It turned out to be Thomas Tupling, from a five-generation homesteader-family on the Waterville. This was a guy who could pull off wearing a vest (you’ll never see me in one), this photo doesn’t do him justice. It turned out he was an Iraq War Veteran who had turned down surgery for a combat injury and opted instead for cold-plunging: He swims in Lake Chelan every day of the year. Yikes. He says, in a pleasantly non-judgmental tone of voice, that Americans are killing themselves with comfort. Now count me as agreeing with him while still planning to pass on swimming past the third week in September in warm Andrews Bay. I didn’t have the mental bravery to even picture Chelan in December. We still needed a full set of tires, that’s the way the tire-world is these days, you can’t buy just one, and Thomas took us to Craig’s Auto Repair in Mansfield. Now, Mansfield is a quite small town, we expected a normal auto repair shop when we stepped into Craig’s Auto Repair. However, it was more like stepping onto a Hollywood movie set. There were immaculate bright red 50s vintage cars up on jacks (“These are broken,” said Craig) bright lights, white walls and a very high ceiling and the place was immaculately clean, cleaner than our living room, and 50’s jazz was going strong on the sound system: “That won’t ever change,” said Craig reassuringly–(I love 50’s jazz). I wish I had toted my camera in and gotten permission for a shot (You never get to read that last sentence in a National Geographic article)..
After a diversion down to Wenatchee for four new tires. We resumed our foray onto the Okanagon Plateau. We found Sharp-tailed Grouse eating Birch buds at Scotch Creek. This is a very rare bird now in Washington state. The bag limit on them used to be 20-a-day.
This Red-tailed Hawk was hunting in the town of Conconully.
My personal reverie was broken when I finally checked my cell-phone in Omak, something I hate to do in the worst of times (and mostly up there we were out of cell-phone coverage anyway)–and discovered that the store visa machine had gone kaput just as the last sales weekend before Christmas began. I should have held my mood–Sunday sales manager Todd Putnam got it back up and running before we arrived at the Mercer Island lid. Stop by the store everyone, at 1st & Pike, and meet my wonderful sales managers Debbie Tonia and Todd.. The photo is of the Scotch Creek Basin.
We found Bohemian Waxwings at Brewster–Darchelle got spectacular shots. We didn’t find any Redpolls, so this shot is from yesterday at Marymoor Park where there was a big flock that had been located by other birders.
Brian and Darchelle never stop charging. They set a blistering pace with no need for down time, and this is despite Brian’s advanced condition which he shares with another hard-charging guy, a one-time Yankee first-baseman. They are out in Sequim now recording their 359th and perhaps 360th Washington state bird of the year, an incredible achievement even if you don’t look at the things they are prevented from doing and must do because of Brian’s limitations, which are especially galling thinking that in his life Brian has run over 230 marathons (Darchelle ran many also) and in the old days, would be in another state five minutes after you opened the door at a new birding location.