YVAS October Meeting
PLEASE NOTE DATE CHANGE: Thursday, Oct. 29th, 7 pm  (Zoom)  
Crows: Clever, Curious, and Charismatic

Loma Pendergraft, M.S.University of Washington
     Due to their advanced intelligence, crows, ravens, and other members of their taxonomic family—a group called Corvids—have captured the imaginations of people throughout history. Many of our myths, legends, and stories testify to the astonishing brain power these birds possess. Here we will discuss fun facts about crows, the types of tasks they can solve, how they communicate among themselves, and the different research that Loma and his lab have conducted on these fascinating birds.
     Speaker Bio: A PhD candidate who is working under Dr. John Marzluff, Loma is studying American crow communication and intelligence. His work has been featured in Audubon, National Geographic, and Bill Nye Saves the World. He holds a BS in Wildlife Ecology from Oklahoma State University, a Masters in Environmental and Forest Science from UW, and was a science teacher working for Tulsa Public Schools. Visit his website at
October – December Dates & Deadlines

Thursday, Oct. 29th 7:00 pm: YVAS October Program
Zoom event name: Yakima Audubon September Program
Event link:
Or iPhone one-tap : US: +12532158782
Or Telephone: +1 253 215 8782
Webinar ID: 844 2557 6656

Saturday, Oct.  31st, 7 am: Vantage and Columbia River bird walk (see Field Trips)
Saturday, Nov. 7th, 9 am: Yakima Saturday bird walk (see Field Trips)
Thursday, Nov. 12th: November Calliope Crier article deadline (send articles, questions to Anita Osterhaug,
Thursday, Dec. 3rd, 7 pm: YVAS December Program (details in Nov. newsletter)

Dec. 14th, 2020 to Jan. 5th, 2021 Christmas Bird Count (Reorganized due to COVID. See article in this newsletter.)
Viewing tips for YVAS Webinars
    Would you like to enjoy Yakima Valley Audubon presentations with the whole family? You can now watch our programs whenever it is convenient for you! Our monthly programs are now available as webinars for viewing both in real time (so you can ask questions) and as recordings from a link on our website,
     To view the live presentation on your laptop, tablet, or smart phone, click on the link in that month's Calliope Crier or go to about five minutes before the program is scheduled to start and click on the Zoom webinar link. If you have never attended a Zoom meeting, you will be asked to download the app this first time. (You do not have to have your own Zoom account to join the webinar.) Be sure to answer “yes” to the questions about joining with video and audio. You can always mute yourself for privacy, but you will need to answer yes to view and hear the presentation.
    To better enjoy the beautiful photos in the presentation, you have the option of viewing it on a larger screen, such as your smart TV. To do this, you will need to connect your device to the TV with an HDMI cable. If your device does not have an HDMI port, there are inexpensive multiport adaptors available to enable this. (Try Office Depot or buy one online.)
     It is even easier to view a recorded seminar once it has been posted on our website! You can watch the recording through your Internet browser, or, if your smartTV allows you to connect to an internet browser, you can simply go directly to the website and click on the seminar link. Video and sound will automatically be displayed and controlled on your Smart TV. Alternatively, you can pull up the webinar on your computer as above and connect your computer with an HDMI cable to your Smart TV.
Even in these challenging times, Yakima Audubon is committed to bringing you information about our natural world. Please let us know at what you think and what we can do to improve this experience for you.
Welcome new members!
Moxee:  Sarah Montgomery
Queens, NY (wow!)Jessica Drew

Thank you for renewing your membership! 
Seattle: Martha Taylor
Selah: Cindi Confer Morris
Yakima: Carol Licht, Joyce Hernandez, Lucy Stevens, Bill Drenguis, Toby Hastie, Diana Bailey and Stan Belsher,  Mary Lou Rozdilsky, Jim and Jackie Hertel, Scott Downes, Elizabeth Anglund, Ross and Dinae Bornfleth, Eileen Gavin, Terry Shelton

Birding Trip to Vantage and the Columbia River, Saturday October 31st
     Vantage and the Columbia River are the focus of this trip. We’ll travel through the Yakima Canyon and Vantage Highway on route to Vantage and keep an eye out for raptors. Fall can be impressive at Vantage for waterfowl numbers in the hundreds to thousands, and often unusual diving ducks/loons are seen at this time of year including scoters, possibly long-tailed ducks, and Pacific loons, plus sometimes a good collection of gulls. The parks along the river also usually host a nice variety of wintering passerines. Field trip will leave Yakima at 7:00 am. Expect a return to Yakima around 4:00 pm. Bring lunch and water, and dress for varied weather conditions. We could get nice weather near 60 degrees or it could be windy and cold at Vantage. A scope is helpful, but not required to attend. Due to COVID restrictions, we will not be carpooling. Trip will be limited to 5 vehicles. We’ll stop at several places that need a Discover Pass, so drivers should plan on having one. Contact leader Scott Downes to sign up and for meeting location,
Yakima Saturday Bird Walk, Saturday November 7th
    Want to get out for a little fresh air before cold weather really sets in? Winter may be coming, but there are still birds to see!  Using social distancing protocols, we will bird the Arboretum trails, visit the bird blind, and then head north along the Greenway. Bring a scope. if you have one, for birds on the lake and in distant trees.We’ll head back along the river and return to the Arboretum parking lot in approximately two hours.
     This event is for all ages and birding abilities.  Participants are welcome to join us or head home as they are comfortable. Meet at 9:00 am, Saturday, November 7 in the Arboretum parking lot in front of the visitor center. The Arboretum is located at 1401 Arboretum Drive, Yakima  WA 98901.
     Hope to see you there!
     — Yakima Audubon Society, Sarah Shippen and Gene Miliczky

First Saturday Bird Walk with Kittitas Audubon Society (KAS)
When:   First Saturday of every month, 8:00 AM – 11:00 am.
Where:  Parking lot of Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park, Umptanum Road and I-90,  Ellensburg; check in with Steve Moore.
Bring:    Binoculars, good walking shoes, sun screen, insect repellent and your mask, and please remain conscious about social distancing.
Bird Laughs
    As nature enthusiasts, I'm sure many of us were fans of Gary Larson's Far Side comics. In case you hadn't heard, Larson has a new web site featuring daily sets of classic comics and occasional new work. Here's a recent bird-related collection: In these difficult times, this site is a great thing to bookmark in your browser for a daily laugh. (Of course, mask if you laugh in public.) Enjoy!
Field Trip Report, September 26, 2020
Romancing the Spruce Grouse at Conrad Meadows!
      Five Yakima Audubon members and a visitor from Seattle caravanned from the Chesterley Park parking lot to Conrad Meadows in hopes of finding the quiet, boreal Franklin’s Spruce Grouse. Arriving at the parking area of the meadows we found it to be a balmy 39º with gray threatening skies, which probably would have been a downer if not for the welcome we received from the local Canada jays that immediately flew in to see if we had any food for them. 
     We headed down the trail, running into an assortment of birds along the way, most of them flitting about and making it difficult to get a good look at them. After searching for the grouse for several hours and not seeing any sign, we had worked our way to the edge of Conrad Meadows where, while taking a five minute lunch break, we discussed our next move. It was decided that we would back track to the cars going through the better grouse habitat that we had already searched. Good decision!!!  
     If you're fortunate enough to find a spruce grouse, you're likely to get a very good look at it. There’s a reason for their nickname “fool hen”: it’s their total lack of fear of humans. We found this to be true. As we worked our way back along the trail we came across a beautiful male spruce grouse not more than ten feet away, and the biggest surprise was that he was displaying and strutting in front of a hen as if it were the height of the breeding season. This turned out to be a life bird for three of the lucky birders, and by the time the excitement was over we had spotted one male, three hens, and five immature birds. It was noted that some of the young were feeding on kinnikinnick berries (also known as bearberry) that spread along the side of the trail. That’s the most spruce grouse I have ever seen at one time. Then, as a bonus, we spotted a sooty grouse hen standing on a log across the road from the spruce grouse covey, nervously watching all the action. 
We ended with 27 species, and I think I speak for all who were there that this was an outstanding and very rewarding trip.                                                                                              
— Kerry Turley
Bird list
Spruce Grouse (Franklin's) 9                  Red-breasted Nuthatch 6
Sooty Grouse 1                                       Brown Creeper 1
Hairy Woodpecker 3                               Varied Thrush 1
Northern Flicker 2                                   Hermit Thrush 2
Merlin 2                                                   American Robin 4
Dusky Flycatcher  1                                Evening Grosbeak 2
Canada Jay 7                                         Pine Grosbeak 1
Steller's Jay 2                                         Pine Siskin 35
Clark's Nutcracker 3                               Fox Sparrow 1
Common Raven 3                                   Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) 13
Mountain Chickadee 4                            White-crowned Sparrow 1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1               Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 10                    Yellow-rumped Warbler 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2

Top: Male spruce grouse struts his stuff at Conrad Meadows. Bottom: Male spruce grouse and hen.  Photos by Kerry Turley.
Vredenburgh Bluebird Trail 2020 – Off Year or Downward Trend?
by Richard Repp
     This year’s nesting results are in: a total of 467 bluebirds fledged from the Vredenburgh’s nest boxes. The annual fledge totals over the past 35 years average 440 bluebirds. So why suggest that 2020 was an off year?
     Twenty-one boxes along Durr Road were added to the trail this year and contributed 41 Mountain Bluebirds to our total. Deducting those would lower production from the core trail’s 132 boxes to 426. The trail’s best year was 2018, when 620 bluebirds fledged. The 2019 season total reflected a more average 446 fledges.

     The Vredenburgh has exceeded 500 fledges a total of eight times over the trail’s 39 years and only in consecutive years twice. Weather is the most likely cause of fluctuations. Both cool, wet springs and hot summers will hamper the nesting success. According to an article in the North American Bluebird Society’s most recent magazine, bluebird trail managers across North America this year cited one or both of those weather factors as affecting their trails. 
     The article also mentioned the decline of insects, nestlings’ primary food, as a factor this year. The writer pondered whether this was merely a combination of wet spring and dry summer conditions or a confirmation of the general loss of insects worldwide.

     Locally, monitors Joe and Karen Zook commented that House Wrens were more numerous in boxes this year, establishing nests in thirteen boxes. Equally concerning was the fact that twelve boxes were not used by any avian species this year. When you combine the wren and unused boxes, the total is 25. Had half of those been successful bluebird nests, the yearly fledged total would probably increase by 50.
     Looking closer, all but one of the wren nests occurred on the lower half of the trail. All unused boxes were on the upper half. The lower trail habitat has more low growth brush while the upper trail is more open. Wrens favor brushy areas for nesting. Bluebirds return to our area as early as February while wrens arrive much later in April. Bluebirds claim territories and select mates prior to the appearance of wrens. 
     I am suggesting that the 25 unused or wren boxes were standing vacant when the wrens arrived. Possibly because bluebirds were electing to delay nesting because of weather. Wrens completely fill a nest box with brittle twigs well above the entrance hole; once completed, bluebirds can’t enter a box.
     A second possibility could be that fewer bluebirds returned to the area this spring.Are they losing habitat and or food sources on their wintering grounds? Or is the Wenas area habitat becoming less attractive?
     Admittedly, I tend to be a pessimist. But as for the Vredenburgh, give me bluebirds in every box or give me…chickadees, swallows, nuthatches, anything but house sparrows, starlings or wrens!
     YVAS has added a “Bluebird” tab on our website home page. There you can access the box by box yearly recap as well as a summary table of the trail’s success since its inception plus (eventually) photos and much more. Here is a quick link:

Left: A Western Bluebird pair. Right: Mountain Bluebird male feeding young at Box 48.  Photos by Karen Zook
YVAS Officer Candidates for 2021
     We will be voting (by Zoom!) on new Board of Directors officers at the YVAS October meeting. Voting will take place at  the beginning of the meeting, and your hosts will give instructions for voting by Zoom. The candidates are
  • President: Scott Downes. Scott lives in Yakima with his wife and 2 daughters. For work, Scott is a wildlife biologist and studied Sage Thrashers for his master’s at Central Washington University. He has lived in Yakima since 2003 and when not working, can often be found birding, especially with his talented young birder daughter, Sierra.
  • Secretary: Sarah Shippen. Sarah moved to the Yakima Valley from the West Side more than 30 years ago and lives with her husband, Gene, in Zillah.  She is a relatively new birder, but has discovered through Yakima Audubon many of our local birding hotspots and is having fun improving her skills.  Now retired, she wants to help support YVAS in its important community and conservation activities.
     We still need a new Treasurer because Karen Zook, our current treasurer, has volunteered to be Richard Repp's apprentice to manage the Bluebird Trail. If you are interested, please email Karen at .
Christmas Bird Counts in the time of COVID-19
     COVID-19 has disrupted almost everything in our lives, and the annual Christmas bird counts are no exception. The good news is that they will still happen. The not-as-good news is that they have had to be restructured in the interests of safety. The 2020 Toppenish NWR and Yakima Valley counts this year will be done by just the route leaders and people they have feel safe socializing with. We have added some flexibility to the two counts by allowing the route leaders to do their route on any day they would like in the count period. The count period runs from December 14, 2020 through January 5, 2021. Because of the risk of spreading the virus in group settings, the breakfast get-together and compilation dinners are cancelled.
     If you would like to participate this year, please count the birds in your yard or neighborhood. Please make sure that your house is within the Christmas Count circle. The Yakima Valley count map is centered on Sportsman’s State Park. If you live within 7 ½ miles of the park, your house is in the circle. The center of the Toppenish NWR circle is at the intersection of S. Wapato Road and Larue Road, south of Toppenish.
     Here is the link to a map showing the locations of all of the Christmas Counts: . In the upper left corner, click on the “+” to enlarge the map until you can read some of the city names. Drag the map until Washington is visible and you will be able to find Yakima. The Yakima Valley and Toppenish NWR count circles can be seen just below Yakima on the map. Keep clicking on the “+” to further enlarge the map until you can read the street names in either circle. You can click and hold on the map to drag it to find your neighborhood. If your neighborhood is not in one of the count circles, and you would still like to count, contact the compiler for other ways your participation can contribute to citizen science.

     At the end of the day in which you have counted birds, please send your totals to the CBC compiler for the count:
     Toppenish NWR CBC: Eric Heisey, email:
     Yakima Valley CBC: Denny Granstrand, email:
     If you have any questions, please email Denny Granstrand:
Wildfires reinforce case for Greater Sage-grouse endangered status
       The recent landscape-scale fires in Douglas and Okanogan Counties swept through much habitat critical for both Greater Sage Grouse and Sharp-tailed Grouse. A news release by the  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) estimate that "recent wildfires have burned tens of thousands of acres of Eastern Washington Sage-grouse habitat, adding to the reasons that the department is recommending endangered status for Sage Grouse in Washington through its periodic status review processes."
      Prior to the fires, there were an estimated 775 Greater Sage Grouse in Washington, ~ 85 % in Douglas County, the remaining 65 or so on the Yakima Training Center. A tiny number, perhaps less than 10 may be hanging on in a Lincoln County reintroduction site.
     WDFW says of its review process: "Such reviews periodically assess the status of protected species and recommend status changes if warranted. The designation change from threatened to endangered would increase current levels of protection to promote the survival of Sage Grouse in the state."
    Further, WDFW states "Habitat loss is the single greatest threat to Greater Sage Grouse and is exacerbated by the immediate threat of wildfire. While WDFW staff may not know the full impacts to grouse populations until spring, they estimate that recent wildfires may reduce the number of threatened Greater Sage Grouse by 30 to 70 percent, bringing the statewide population dangerously low."
  “The fires have caused a devastating setback to recovery of Sage Grouse populations in eastern Washington,” said Mike Livingston, south central regional director with the agency. “Vast acreages of shrub-steppe habitat just burned, and surviving birds are more vulnerable to predators and winter conditions,” he adds.

Left: Sharp-tailed Grouse in Montana. Photo by Ellen Stepniewski. Right: Greater Sage Grouse. Photo by George Vlahakis.
Feed the Birds and Support Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society
     For the last 19 years, Columbia Grain and Feed has been a huge supporter of the Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society (LCBAS). They work to purchase seed in large quantities at this time of year and pass the savings on to you, and then they make a large donation to LCBAS. Unless the bird seed market changes, this sale will have the lowest prices for the year. Buy now for easy storage through the winter!  
      No order form is needed – just call Columbia Grain & Feed at 509-547-8818 between September 28 and October 31, 2020. Remember:  ANY purchase made at Columbia Grain & Feed during the year benefits LCBAS if you mention our name at checkout!  


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