Many thanks to Karen Zook for this month's banner photos.
 YVAS March Meeting
Thursday, April  22nd, 7 pm  (Zoom)  
Condors in the Greater Northwest

Jack Nisbet
     Written, oral, and archaeological records describe a rich history of California condors in the Pacific Northwest, including many accounts from east of the Cascades. In this online presentation, author Jack Nisbet will revisit the research that he used for his book Visible Bones, then move forward in time to trace what has come to light since as part of the effort to reintroduce these birds into their original range.
Upcoming Dates & Deadlines

Thursday, April 22nd 7:00 pm: YVAS April Program
Zoom event name: Yakima Audubon April Program
Event link:
Or iPhone one-tap : US: +12532158782
Or Telephone: +1 253 215 8782
Webinar ID: 844 2557 6656


Friday, April 23rd, 9:00 am  -  Tour of Sunnyside Wildlife Area. (See article in  this issue.)

Saturday, April 24th - Zimmerman Farm Field Trip. (See article in this issue.)

Thursday, May 6th - May Calliope Crier article deadline (send articles, questions to

Friday-Monday, May 7-10 - Yakima County Migration Count. (See article in  this issue.)

Also in May - Annual Birdathon Fundraiser.
 (See article in this issue.)

Thursday, May 27th 7:00 pm (Zoom)
- YVAS May Program: Shrubsteppe Conservation
Presentation and panel discussion with
Scott Downes, habitat biologist with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife;  Andy Stepniewski, conservation chair of Yakima Valley Audubon Society; Celisa Hopkins, executive director of Cowiche Canyon Conservancy
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.

Like YVAS Programs? Want to help develop them?
Volunteer Needed to be our New Program Chair
Hello fellow YVAS members.
     After several years doing an excellent job as our program chair, Phil Fischer has decided it is time for a break. (Our heartfelt thanks to you, Phil.)
     So, we're looking for a creative person (or people) to be our new program chair(s). Programs are a key benefit of YVAS membership. In the last couple of years we have learned about climate change, butterflies, cottonwoods and yes, birds including both scientific and non-scientific talks.
     The program chair job requires only about 4 hours a month, and you get the added bonuses of choosing the programs you'd like to see and hanging out with fellow board members once a month. (We're a pretty entertaining group.)
    Key skills and duties include a creative mind and good communication and organization skills. The program chair gathers topic and speaker ideas from the board, other Audubon chapters, and other sources, and presents possible programs at the monthly YVAS board meetings. Once programs are decided, the program chair coordinates with the speaker and typically attends the meeting to introduce the speaker. (But other board members are happy to pitch in.) Since programs are currently on Zoom, due to COVID, there's not even any room or AV setup needed.
      So, any creative people out there that want to help in bringing fun and interesting programs to Yakima Audubon? If this is of interest to you, please contact me at
Thank you,
Scott Downes

Welcome new members!
Yakima, WACindy Lacey, Kathy Tierney
Thank you for renewing your membership! 
Bob and Mary-Lane Baker, Bill Drenguis, David Churchill, Bill Jacobs, Kathleen Ross, Peggy Schwartzenberger

  Support YVAS Through the 2021 Birdathon
     Last year the YVAS annual general fund fundraiser was cancelled due to the economic uncertainty of Covid-19 on our membership. But this year, with vaccines and stimulus money the future looks brighter and hopefully we are heading back to a little more normalcy, so our Birdathon is Back on May 7-10th! 
     Since 1998 we have conducted a spring Birdathon to raise money from Yakima Audubon’s membership for our general operations and conservation issues. We hope to return to regular chapter activities in the near future and your generous donations will help support our chapter programs and community outreach events. 
     Will you join us by making a contribution? You can Donate on-line at the  website ( click on the “Join” tab at the top right of  the hummingbird logo. Click on Join/Renew/Donate. Enter your amount, and enter Birdathon under “Write us a comment.” and click the green “donate” button. Both you and the Treasurer will receive a receipt), or just send your Donation to Yakima Valley Audubon Birdathon, P.O. Box 2823, Yakima WA. 98907.
      As a thank you, Birdathon Sponsors will receive a special report written by Scott Downes of the results of the teams conducting the county wide Migration Count in conjunction with International Migration Bird Day. 
Sunnyside Wildlife Area Field Trip
Friday, April 23, 2021
     During this tour of the Sunnyside Wildlife Area, you will get to experience the unique marsh habitats and the wonderful spring birds that  use these marshes for breeding in addition to migration stopovers. During similar periods in past years, birds such as Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, and Wilson’s Phalarope were present on the refuge. In addition to these regular waterfowl and shorebirds, the area has hosted unusual species such as Sandhill Crane and White-faced Ibis. Participants will walk 1-2 miles throughout the wildlife area on roads and trails. The trip will be done by noon. Water, food and bug spray are encouraged. As this is still during COVID, social distancing will be recommended and participants should bring a mask and use it if the need arises. Scope is helpful but not required.. The trip will be limited to 10 individuals, so you must contact the leader to signup.
     Contact leader Scott Downes for meeting location and time,

Xupnish (formerly Zimmerman Ponds) Field Trip
Saturday, April 24, 2021
     Each spring, snow-melt in the Cascades rushes down Toppenish Creek, filling ponds and flooding valley bottoms and creating a bonanza for water and marsh birds. The marshes, fields, and riparian patches in the lower valley rise to their birding peak in late April. We’ll look (and listen) for American Bittern, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Cinnamon Teal, Virginia Rails, Sora and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The Zimmerman Farm was restored by the Yakima Nation and is closed to the public except by special permit.       
     This is a great half-day field trip  and there are many birding opportunities close by for those who want to extend the day. Meet at 8:00 am at the intersection of Lateral A and Marion Drain.

To sign up: Contact Kerry Turley (509-840-0980 or email him at COVID social-distancing and other safety protocols will be observed.

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.
Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge Field Trip, March 27th
      We had another beautiful day for our second field trip to the Toppenish Refuge on March 27.  Twelve birders met in Wapato at the Wolf Den gas and grocery.  On this trip we reversed our  direction of travel to take advantage of the early morning light and hopefully catch the morning feeding of birds on Lateral C.  We saw a different mix of waterfowl, with only a couple of Northern Pintail and many more American Widgeons.  We did see a few birds that were not present on the February visit:  Downy Woodpeckers,  Yellow-rumped Warbler, Buffleheads, and a Wilson’s Snipe. Next we headed east on Pumphouse Road stopping at the Great Horned Owl nest again.  She was sitting up higher in her nest this time—so maybe some eggs or even chicks?  Toppenish Creek was considerably drier on this trip, so the numbers of waterfowl were also down from our last visit, but we did see 6 Ring-necked Ducks coming up on Old Goldendale Road.  We headed down Old Goldendale Road and were rewarded by sightings of numerous Northern Shovelers, American Coots, Canada Geese, and Green-winged Teal. We finished up at the Refuge and finally saw twelve Tundra Swan flying low overhead having just taken off from the Highway 97 ponds. We saw 28 species overall on the four-hour trip.
Above: YVAS birders on the bridge at Old Goldendale Road. Photo by Sarah Shippen.
Snow Mountain Second Saturday Bird Walk, April 10th
A dozen determined birders participated in the chilly Second Saturday Bird Walk on April 10. The skies were sunny with broken clouds, but a fairly steady, cold wind blew out of the hills and made birding challenging at times. After seeing three Northern Harriers soaring above the Garry Oaks Trail, we headed off from the parking lot down along Cowiche Creek. We stopped along the trail to look at some of the wildflowers in bloom. Ellen Stepniewski helped us identify three different types of Lomatium present at the Ranch and explained key characteristics to identify them. After crossing the foot bridge at the bottom, we headed off on the East Riparian Trail. It seemed to be more sheltered from the wind and has a lot of good bird habitat. Fairly quickly we started hearing and seeing Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitting in the brush. We saw additional male (gray) and female (brown) Northern Harriers flying across the fields together. 
     The winds became intermittent, and during the quiet spells we were rewarded with many good sightings: a pair of male and female American Kestrels, a Fox Sparrow (Sooty form) at the small bridge, Northern Flickers, Turkey Vultures, California Scrub Jay, a Steller’s Jay, and many American Robins. We looped back on the Ditch Trail, and Andy Stepniewski was able to call in a couple of Golden-crowned Sparrows. All told, we saw 27 species. Thanks to all our hardy birders, especially to our new members and to Ellen and Andy for sharing their extensive knowledge about the habitat and birds of our Valley!
Sarah Shippen
White Pass (lower areas), April 3rd

     A caravan of 11 Yakima Auduboners headed up the lower White Pass Highway on April 3rd to take in the early spring birds and scenery. We enjoyed fair weather, but with increasing west winds in the afternoon, which hindered birding. At and near our meeting spot in Yakima, a pair of Ospreys were nest building and the nearby canal was attracting a Belted Kingfisher which rattled as it flew overhead.
     Our first stop at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area headquarters, we enjoyed Lewis's Woodpeckers, Red-shafted Flickers, and Stellar's Jays in the Oregon White Oaks. Migrants such as Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitted and called in the thickets while Violet-green Swallows fluttered near the cliffs. The high rimrock across the Tieton River provided distant scope views of a Prairie Falcon, which might be nesting on these cliffs.
      Higher up the highway in the Ponderosa Pines, we walked about Hause Creek Campground. Turkey Vultures were roosting atop a pine and we all carefully counted five birds; within a few minutes they launched into the air on rising thermals and there were about 20 with another 10 or so soaring very nearby, suggesting faulty counting skills (or multiple roosts). In the brush by the riparian area here were Spotted Towhees and Song Sparrows while a pair of Downy Woodpeckers hitched up a nearby pine. Beautiful male Yellow-rumped Warblers flycatched and gleaned insects on a pine, too.
      Heading up the Bethel Ridge Road we made our first stop along this road in the very open Ponderosa Pine Forest. Woodpeckers called and drummed down the slope but could not be seen. I heard the "pid-er-ric" of a White-headed Woodpecker and calls of Northern Flickers. Pygmy Nuthatches, however, were more obliging and gave us views. A couple Canada Jays, at a lower elevation than is usual for this species, flew in next to us. A little higher on the road, a short walk among the pines was great for a Northern Pygmy-Owl, probably the favorite trip bird, which glared down at us from a lofty pine branch. The camera shutters were clicking madly! Yet higher on the road, at the first aspen copse (fenced to exclude elk and allow these trees to recover), we awaited the usual woodpecker show. These birds had other ideas, though, and kept off in the forest, though we could hear drumming of both sapsuckers and flickers. I decided to move higher and return here for lunch for a second try. At our top stop on Bethel Ridge Road, we parked just short of the beginning of big snow banks and walked up road to a snow-rimmed wet meadow. Birds were quiet, but Pacific Treefrogs provided a lively chorus until our approach suddenly quieted them. Returning to the lower aspen copse, we lunched on logs in the warm forest with views of the aspens riddled with woodpecker holes. By and by, we got onto a male Williamson's Sapsucker excavating a hole. Training the scope on this sleek woodpecker, everybody had good looks of the sapsucker pounding away on the trunk, creating a new nest cavity.
     After lunch, we continued west on the highway to Clear Lake. The lake was ice-free but the snow still lay on the surrounding slopes. A west wind had picked up, making viewing difficult. Still, we scoped a distant pair of Trumpeter Swans, lingering late this year by their usual migration schedule. Also here were lots of Ring-necked Ducks, a few each of Barrow's Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers, and one Wood Duck. Under the Clear Creek bridge, a big nest of an American Dipper, made mostly of mosses, shows their architectural prowess. Seeking another vantage by Camp Dudley was still windy, so we moved west to our last stop at the Tieton Airport Marsh where we added several more species of ducks such as Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, and Bufflehead.
A great day with just over 50 species!
Andy Stepniewski
    Bluebird Boxes are Ready for the Nesting Season
     On April 2, eight of us cleaned out the Bluebird boxes on the Vredenburgh trail to get them ready for spring. We got all of them cleaned and found only a few minor maintenance issues and a few boxes which will need replacement.  We had a great group and perfect weather! The surprise of the day came when volunteer Ron opened a box and there was a chipmunk inside! It quickly scampered away. We did find a few nest starts and there were quite a few Bluebirds already in the area.
     It gave me a bit of hope to see some green growth emerging from the blackened soil. The sage buttercup and grass widows are starting to bloom. There is plenty of blackened sage on the Ellensburg side of the trail and it will be interesting to see how this affects nesting birds this year, but we are hoping for the best.
     Many thanks go to volunteers Jan and Judy, Kristi and Ella, Sara and Ron and Joe. Richard, along with Janna and Steven cleaned out the Durr Road boxes on Saturday, where they found several nest starts of Mountain Bluebirds, three of them with eggs already! We are as ready as we can be, and are hoping for a productive nesting season.
Karen Zook
Above: Green emerging in a burned area along the Vredenburgh Bluebird Trail (North Wenas Road). Photo by Karen Zook.

  New Bluebird Boxes Donated to YVAS
      It started late last summer when my sister Lynne contacted me about doing a conservation project for YVAS. She is the Regent of the Mary Ball chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR is committed to historic preservation and education, but you may not know that they are also very committed to conservation. She contacted me and asked if we needed any boxes for the Bluebird trail. We can always use more Bluebird boxes and we were excited at the possibility of having more boxes available.  As it turned out, her timing could not have been better.
     I was in the process of getting the plans together when the Evans Canyon Fire hit. The fire was depressing enough, but to make matters worse, Evans Canyon runs right through the middle of the Bluebird box trail that Joe and I maintain on Cleman Mountain. We had 35 boxes up there, and we presume that most (if not all) of them are now gone. We will find out after May 1, when the Elk closure ends and we can access the area again. The fire destroyed eleven boxes on the Vredenburgh trail as well. At that point, our need for a few new boxes turned into a need for a lot of new boxes.
     The designs for our boxes are very specific, so I got the plans from Richard and sent them off to Lynne. She and her husband Mike purchased the wood and other materials needed. DAR paid for the wood and materials for the boxes, and Mike and Lynne cut out the wood and constructed the boxes.  They made 35 boxes!  Not only that, they drove over from the West side to deliver them to us on April 11.
     In addition, my mother (who is also a member of the Mary Ball chapter, as am I) happened to be talking to some people who live in her Senior Living complex about the fire and the Bluebird boxes. She learned that there were some men who live there who are into woodworking, and they volunteered to make some boxes as well. They made eight more boxes. Once again, Mary Ball provided the funds and the guys provided the labor.
     So, we now have 43 new Bluebird boxes, which will hopefully host many generations of bluebirds. Our thanks go out to Lynne, Mike, Morris, Marlen, Dan, Craig, and Dick, and, of course, to the Mary Ball chapter of the DAR.
Karen Zook

Looking for Bluebird Monitors
     Have you ever considered becoming a Bluebird monitor?  Monitoring is a fun outdoor activity that the whole family can enjoy.  AND you get to see baby bluebirds. If you think that you may be interested but are not sure how to do it, we will be happy to teach you. We will be starting up monitoring around the beginning of May. You can sign up for monitoring now if you would likewe have lots of spaces open. We monitor the boxes once a week through June, and monitors generally do half the trail at a time. I will be coordinating the monitoring this year, so if you are interested or just have questions please contact me (Karen Zook) at
     The article below describes how I feel about Bluebird monitoring so well that I contacted the author about using it. Please give it a read
I hope you enjoy it.
A Surprise in Every Box
 Susan Mates

      In February of 2011, I was deciding whether I wanted to be a bluebird monitor. I was looking for a citizen scientist project that would get me out-of-doors and allow me to feel that I was doing something to help birds survive better. I expected to have a weekly commitment that would require keen observation, good recordkeeping, and, secretly, an excuse to wander around in pretty places.

All of those things happened, but what I didn’t expect was that:

  • Each time you open a nest box, it is like a treasure hunt. You will never know what to expect. You will catch your breath when there is the first egg in a beautifully designed nest, and laugh when you see a brand new baby chick with its clump of fuzzy down on its head. You might even startle a miffed Douglas tree squirrel who decided to occupy a box. After 8 years, there is a surprise every time.
  • You will be rewarded by bluebirds fluttering in to greet you at their boxes. You will watch their courtship, take pleasure in witnessing how they feed mealworms to their hungry brood, and learn the personalities of some of them.
  • You will learn more than you guessed about the other birds in the area, their songs and their nests, where their favorite places are, and how they pay attention to each other.
  • You will be humbled by the property owners, who so generously allow us to traipse through their beautiful land, and some of them will become true and dear friends.
  • You will be struck by spotting close up, a turkey vulture airing its enormous wings, or seeing a line of pigs running pell mell toward a food bucket, or or catch the eyes of a mother coyote hunting across a field in the mist.

     Our project helps to supply nest boxes that replace habitat lost to human intervention, and we can hope that the boxes provide a boost for their survival. You will be amazed by the determination and bravery of the parents defending their brood. There are vulnerabilities and dangers for them at each stage, and their struggles and triumphs become more personal for us through this work.
      You are, at times, going to be sticky with sweat, drenched with rain, covered by mud, or spend an hour picking weed seeds from your socks. And yes, sometimes you are surely going to encounter death, because you are, after all a witness to the whole cycle of life, and not all of our birds are going to survive.
        But when you see a line of fledglings sitting on a fence, waiting for a meal, you will feel hopeful that nature can heal, and that maybe you have been a tiny part of that. And I can guarantee that you will also, each time, find deep joy and awe.

Above: Bluebird nestlings. Photo by Karen Zook.
This article originally appeared in the newsletter of Oregon’s Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project. It is reprinted here with permission.

Join the (COVID-Safe) Spring Migration Count
     This year YVAS is planning to hold the usual migration count on the weekend of May 7-10. This will be a county-wide bird count, as we try to tally species from different sectors in the county. Sector leaders will cover all of the best areas to bird around Yakima including the White Pass, Chinook Pass, Lower Valley, Ahtanum, Yakima Training Center, and the Toppenish and Wenas areas (depending on what lands are open at that time). Some teams start before dawn with owling, while most teams go all or most of the day.
     With the current social distancing of COVID-19, we are not encouraging members to join these team leaders this year. Instead, in addition to cheering on teams on their long journeys around the various habitats of the county, you can contribute, wherever you are! If you see an unusual species while out birding, from the 7th through the 10th of May, email Scott Downes (  to have your unusual species added to the team effort. If you're not sure how unusual the species is, please send the sighting to Scott, as even some relatively common species do get missed by the teams! You can also submit a trip list of your birding excursion to eBird, which Scott can add to the data
Evans Canyon Restoration
     The late August 2020 Evans Canyon Fire charred more than 75,000 acres of shrub-steppe, Ponderosa Pine forest, and riparian habitat northwest of Yakima, largely on the Wenas Wildlife Area. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has begun restoration efforts. Combined with the volunteer efforts, helicopters reseeded a large part of the fire perimeter. WDFW seeded 750 acres aerially in canyons, draws, and riparian zones across the burn area. Along with an additional 553 acres of reseeding on the ground in draws, riparian zones, and shrub-steppe, a total of 1303 acres have been reseeded. The agency plans another 385 acres with sagebrush, as well as seeding an additional 150 acres with drill (manually), broadcasting, and/or aerial seeding in the fall. The seed mixes included: Mountain Brome, Blue Wildrye, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Idaho Fescue, Basin Wildrye, Sterile Triticale, Sandberg Bluegrass, Idaho Fescue, Prairie Junegrass, and Tufted Hairgrass.  
     WDFW will do vegetation monitoring this spring to assess the success of the seeding efforts. This will be volunteer led. Volunteers are needed specifically to monitor bunchgrass and sagebrush establishment. WDFW will train the volunteers in monitoring procedures and basic plant identification. Volunteers will likely work alone or in pairs, ideally 2-3 days in late spring (mid-May through mid-June), but effort (number of days) is flexible and individuals may contribute more or less time as consistent with their personal circumstances. The monitoring work will be located primarily in 3 places: 
  1. Yakima Canyon
  2. Off of North Wenas Road in Yakima County
  3. Off of Umptanum Road in Kittitas County
     Volunteers walk up to a mile or two per day in the field, photographing sites using a personal camera or phone and recording basic vegetation measurements on datasheets. These will be transmitted to WDFW staff.
     An initial training day will be set-up with WDFW staff in early to mid-May to go over basics such as the monitoring protocol, distributing maps and datasheets.
—Andy Stepniewski
Adapted from WDFW information by Andy Stepniewski. At this time, enough volunteers have come forth to accomplish WDFW goals.  Thank You!

Above: Sage buttercups and plants emerging from the burned ground. Photo by Karen Zook.    
New study finds birds give people as much happiness as money
     YVAS members know this  already, but the experts have confirmed: birds bring happiness, and it's not just Bluebirds! Check out this article in The Hill.  (There's also some nice video.)

Great resource for pollinator-friendly plants
 Last month's YVAS speaker, David Jennings, talked about the importance of choosing pesticide free plants for our gardens to protect bumblebees and other pollinators. You can find a list of pollinator-friendly seed suppliers and nurseries at
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P.O. Box  2823, Yakima, WA 98907
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Copyright © 2021, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
P.O. Box  2823, Yakima, WA 98907
To contact us, email

Other Contacts:
Membership questions:
Newsletter content:
Conservation concerns:
Field trips:
Program ideas:
Bluebird Trail:
Bird questions:

Yakima Valley Audubon Society Membership Form

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