Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY PAUL KRUPIN Spe­cial to the Her­ald

Elke Davis earned her wings as a birder at Hood Park on Jan. 4, spy­ing a Eurasian wigeon, a rare win­ter vis­i­tor.

Elke Davis may be rel­a­tively new to bird watch­ing, but she earned an­other set of wings this month.

She went bird watch­ing at Hood Park on Jan. 4 and made quite the find for a birder.

She saw a Eurasian wigeon — a red-headed duck that breeds in the north­ern­most parts of Europe and Asia. It mi­grates to south­ern Asia and Africa and is a rare win­ter vis­i­tor to the United States on the midAt­lantic and Pa­cific coasts.

“It was about noon on a gray cloudy day,” she said. “I scanned the wa­ter with my binoc­u­lars and there he was.”

Imag­ine that. A red­headed duck from Rus­sia sur­rounded by a bunch of Amer­i­can wigeons in Kennewick.

It was not Davis’ first time spot­ting an usual bird.

Her ea­gle eyes helped her find an­other one along the Columbia River right in Kennewick’s Columbia Park last March, in bright blue sun­shine.

Davis is some­one who dis­cov­ered bird­ing late in life. She joined the lo­cal Lower Columbia Basin Audubon So­ci­ety three years ago to make her life eas­ier when it came to iden­ti­fy­ing birds.

The lo­cal chap­ter’s Christ­mas bird count iden­ti­fied 94 species.

“It’s a great group of peo­ple,” Davis said. “I love try­ing to find un­usual birds, which makes it so much more ex­cit­ing.”

This time of year, she of­ten totes a heavy pack filled with gear, clothes, food and sup­plies, so she’s ad­e­quately equipped while hang­ing out in cold wet places.

“My motto is, ‘there is no bad weather, only bad cloth­ing,’” Davis said.

Part of that pack in­cludes cam­era equip­ment, as Davis — a long­time pho­tog­ra­pher — takes pho­tos of the birds and flocks she sees.

“I’ve be­come an afi­cionado,” Davis said. “I learned from Paul Ban­nick, a noted Pa­cific North­west birder, to get up early and be in po­si­tion and ready two hours be­fore sun­rise in or­der to get great shots.”

Ivar Husa, an­other birder and so­ci­ety mem­ber, braved freez­ing tem­per­a­tures one late Novem­ber morn­ing on Bate­man Is­land when he saw a Pa­cific loon swim­ming in the wa­ter off shore.

“Loons are big,” Husa said. “They aren’t ducks. By weight, the Pa­cific Loon is close to 10 times the weight of a mal­lard duck.”

As he watched with his cam­era care­fully bal­anced on a tri­pod from a flat old con­crete sur­face, he got a few nice shots from 100 yards. Then the loon dove and stayed down a long time.

Un­be­liev­ably, it sur­faced in front of him, maybe 50 feet out, and he caught some amaz­ing close­ups.

He went back four days later with no ex­pec­ta­tions. Sur­prise: the loon was still in the area.

“I took the same po­si­tion and waited, hop­ing it would come closer,” Husa said.

It did — again, just 50 feet from him.

A glut­ton for pun­ish­ment, Husa ven­tured out once more three days after that.

“This time he dove and sur­faced three times,” Husa said. “And as he came up the third time, I lit­er­ally gasped and snapped the photo of him show­ing off his suc­cess. He had a fish in its mouth.”

“This pic­ture is a trea­sure of mine. Loons are one of the rarer birds to be found here, and I had a spe­cial ad­ven­ture,” Husa said.

The Tri-Cities is one of those places with lots of chances to see birds and other wildlife. There are small ponds that at­tract wa­ter­fowl. There are plenty of flat trails, many with wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble en­tries, that get you to the wa­ter with birds nearby in as­tound­ing num­bers.

Dress for the weather, bring binoc­u­lars, a cam­era or your smart­phone that at­taches to a tri­pod, and a bird iden­ti­fi­ca­tion book or app. If you are go­ing out or a few hours or for the day, bring a day pack with food, wa­ter and ex­tra clothes.

The Audubon So­ci­ety meets monthly and of­fers free morn­ing bird walks on Bate­man Is­land to ob­serve the sur­round­ing Yakima Delta and Columbia River en­vi­rons.

They meet 8 a.m. on the first Satur­day of the month from now through June at the Wye Park on Columbia Park Trail.

The club wel­comes any­one who is in­ter­ested in ex­pand­ing their bird­ing knowl­edge by ac­com­pa­ny­ing ex­pe­ri­enced bird­ers. Av­er­age sight­ings for these walks are 45 to 50 species.

They are also con­duct­ing a na­ture walk 9 a.m., Jan. 19, of the Amon Nat­u­ral Pre­serve with Tapteal Green­way.


Hood Park – Take I-84 east of Pasco over the Snake River. Take first exit head north. 2339 Ice Har­bor Road, Bur­bank.

Columbia Park – from the ca­ble bridge be­tween Pasco and Kennewick all the way to North Rich­land.

W.E. John­son Park – Hall Road off Van Giesen in Rich­land.

Bate­man Is­land – Wye Park on Columbia Park Trail in Kennewick.

McNary Na­tional Wildlife Refuge – just up the road from Hood Park, the bird blind is lo­cated be­hind the Park Head­quar­ters at 64 Maple St., Bur­bank.

Two Rivers County Park – the south side of the Columbia River just south­east of down­town Kennewick.

Sa­ca­jawea Park – east of Pasco at the mouth of the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Madame Do­rian Me­mo­rial Park – 14 miles south­east of Pasco on High­way 12 near Wal­lula, where the Walla Walla River en­ters the Columbia River.

McNary Dam Na­ture Trails — off High­way 730 in Her­mis­ton, on the south shore of Lake Wal­lula be­hind McNary Dam on the Columbia River.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit https://www.lower columbi­abasin­audubon. org/.


Spring is com­ing and the sand­hill cranes are com­ing. For more in­for­ma­tion visit the Othello Sand­hill Crane Fes­ti­val at https://www.oth­el­losand hill­crane­fes­ti­

Paul Krupin is an avid lo­cal out­door en­thu­si­ast and a mem­ber of the In­ter­moun­tain Alpine Club (IMAC). He can be reached at [email protected]


Tens of thou­sands of snow geese can be seen from the bird blind fa­cil­ity in Bur­bank at the McNary Na­tional Wildlife Refuge.


Rain­bow trout can be caught trolling flies on lead­core line along Lake Roo­sevelt’s steep shore­lines.

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