Wednesday, March 22, 2017

50 Shades of Gray

During the early and cold hours of the morning, we watched the moon set behind the snow capped mountains of Washington.

The darkness was replaced with overcast skies.  All with various shades of gray......

Bald Eagle
It was the heavy gray that finally got the best of me. Melancholy set in. I watched as the frozen mist took over the land.

I sipped my hot coffee looking out from our SUV window. The roads were rough.  And they were remote.

Rough-legged Hawk
It was all beautiful until we noticed that one of the tires was leaking air.  At that point, the birding trek changed moods.  It was time to get back to a village.  Or be stuck in the ice cold tundra of Washington state.

We acquired our target bird, the White-headed Woodpecker, along the road.  She was a beauty!

Lifer-White-headed Woodpecker, female
Thankfully we made it back to town in one piece.  We had the tire fixed for 10 bucks and we were off again for more adventures. 

Gray-crowned rosy finch

Birding is an incredible journey that takes us to some very remote places.  I'm not sure I could do it alone for some of these birds. 

These journeys do pay off big time though as we are able to observe birds in the wild away from humanity.  

Photo courtesy of Khanh Tran.  I didn't know he took this pic of us but you can get a scope of the lighting conditions and magnitude of the Cliff Swallow nests. 
Sometimes I stand in a remote area and think to myself, What the hell am I doing here?  I could be killed and no one would know.  So, when I'm with friends, I feel safe:)  I'm the guy that always has a Plan B or C.  But on this trek, I had zero plans for back up and it caused a little anxiety. It's the teacher in me. This kind of wild terrain is the stuff I dream of......but as I get older, I'm getting.....cautious??  What is that all about?  

Another lifer, the Gray-crowned rosy finch, was seen in great numbers around old Cliff Swallow nests.  This is only something I've read about in books.  In fact, most birders don't get to observe this behavior.  The fact that we did see this, speaks volumes about how special this observation was for us. 

While I began to miss the Arizonan sun a bit, I was enraptured by these amazing winter birds.  A special "thank you" to friend and guide, Khanh Tran, for sharing with us his knowledge about his local birds. We have now expanded our birder language to include several more species of bird. 

Several more tales to tell from the Pacific Northwest and then we're back in Arizona for spring and wildflower season.  More adventures to come....

American Three-toed Woodpecker


  1. Wow that white headed woodpecker was my favorite
    Always be safe

    1. I do my best Suz....and sometimes.....yikes!:)

  2. Wonderful post! Love the grey-crowned rosy finch!

    1. And now....that's one of your birds you can look for....pretty special!

  3. That winter gray is what keeps me away from the PNW. But you got some great sightings.

    1. Great sightings....not sure I'd want to live there though.

  4. Again as a PNWesterner, this weather is exactly what I think of when I see the title of your post ... not some book somebody somewhere might have read.

    Surely did not know about the finches using the swallow 'holes' ... how fascinating.

    We've often said that line about 'nobody would know....' even when we were in our jeep on backroads. There really are a lot of remote places in Washington and Oregon and Idaho.....

    1. I couldn't believe it!!! Some of the back roads were quite scary with folk walking about......


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