Pacific Northwest Trip: The Sandhill Cranes of Othello *FULL*
*This 3-day, 2-night trip includes lodging, breakfasts, and lunches. This is a self-driving trip and transportation is not included. Dinners are also not included.
Join Stefan and Randy on this exciting local trip to Othello, Washington, a main stopover site on the Pacific Flyway for Sandhill Crane migration, with up to 35,000 stopping to rest and refuel. It is a special treat to have Randy, a former Wildlife Biologist for Columbia National Wildlife Refuge and one of the co-founders of the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival 20+ years ago, with us to share his knowledge.
We will explore beautiful landscapes, from the basalt columns of Columbia National Wildlife Refuge to the gorgeous vistas of Saddle Mountain. We’ll have good chances of viewing Long-billed Curlew and Tricolored Blackbird around Othello. Loggerhead Shrike, Chukar, Sagebrush and Vesper Sparrow, and Sage Thrasher will be our hopes in the shrub-steppe. Finally, we will explore the wetlands, searching for American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and a variety of breeding waterfowl.
We’ll start in Portland bright and early, heading east on I-84. We will stop where noteworthy birds have been reported, which could include Hood River, The Dalles, Brooks State Park, and Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge. Bird highlights are Lewis’s Woodpecker, grebes, and loons. In the afternoon in Othello, we will look for one of the area’s signature birds, the Tricolored Blackbird. And, of course, we will watch Sandhill Cranes as they settle into their evening roost.
On the second day, we will explore croplands near Othello for Sandhill Crane and Long-billed Curlew, and both sides of Saddle Mountain for shrub-steppe species, including Sagebrush Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, and Sage Thrasher. There were fires in the last few years at Saddle Mountain, we may have to improvise the locations we visit. The County Line Ponds along SR26 should be great for waterfowl, Black-necked Stilt, and American Avocet. We will check Royal Lake and the Royal Slope for waterfowl, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge for swallows and other cliff nesters, plus a Sandhill Crane day roost at Marsh Unit 1 and Potholes Reservoir from the south side.
On our final day, we will explore the area around Vantage. We will check the river for unusual waterfowl and loons, then drive up the Old Vantage Highway. Chukar, Vesper Sparrow, and Sagebrush Sparrow are very possible at the Quilomene Wildlife Area. Mountain Bluebirds, always a fan favorite, are often present there.
The stops on the way back will depend on what we haven’t seen yet. We will also stop for unusual birds that have been reported. The expected arrival time in Portland is 7:00 p.m. at the latest.