To say that Okanogan County is for the birds reflects how many flocks you can find in our region.

Normally the expression, such as “this movie is for the birds,” is derogatory, unless, of course, it is true as in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “The Birds.”

Maybe I should have said that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

My recent copy of The Wild Phlox, published by the North Central Washington Audubon Society, showed sharp eyes can flesh out a ton of birds in the area.

To be exact, 11,334 birds in 180 species were counted by 63 spotters June 1 in a four-county area (Okanogan, Ferry, Douglas and Chelan).

Not surprisingly, the most-seen bird was the red-winged blackbird (641), which Google told me were linked to the “dark vs. light” phases of the moon. The bird is symbolic of life in the heavens and the color black is symbolic of pure potential.

Smaller birds don’t like blackbirds, preferring to chase the possible predators from breeding areas or home range.

Joe Veverka of Cashmere, in an article with credit also to Art Campbell of Winthrop, said blackbirds seemed to inhabit every marsh and wetland visited, no matter how small.

Other common birds with high numbers included the Canada goose (448), mallard duck (371), violet-green (341), cliff swallows (396) and the American robin (348).

I didn’t know Mandarin ducks symbolize love and commitment while peacocks symbolize abundance and good luck.

Dang, neither bird was found here, so I guess we’re out of luck.

My neighborhood in Okanogan doesn’t include many robins anymore. They apparently have been chased away by thriving quail, sparrow, pigeon and Eurasian collared-dove communities.

The doves were native to the Indian subcontinent before expanding through Europe (17th through 20th centuries) and into the Bahamas (I’ll bet not many are left following the recent hurricane) and through Florida (I’ll bet more were blown into the southeastern state) and spread through the states.

In the June 1 count, more collared doves were recorded (66) than pigeons (38).

No extremely rare birds were reported, but this area is on the edge of ranges where some out-of-the-way species can be spotted in small numbers.

The Wild Phlox article pointed out a trio of odd birds, starting with the bushtit (common in the Puget Sound west of the Cascades) that was spotted in Number Two Canyon west of Wenatchee.

There were 10 black-necked stilts seen on Atkins Lake on the Waterville Plateau. They appear to be moving from the south, where there are drought conditions, to the north.

The least flycatcher, normally found in the southern Canada, northern Midwest and in the east, popped up - three times in Chelan County and twice in Okanogan County.

One peregrine falcon, which continues to attempt a comeback after being nearly wiped out from the effects of DDT, was spotted in Ferry County.

Spotters reported four Anna’s hummingbirds, which normally are seen in California but can be seen now from Oregon to British Columbia. They were living in the Wenatchee River valley and around Chelan.

The bee hummingbird of Cuba and the Isle of Youth is the smallest bird. Males measure 57 millimeters (2.24 inches) in total length, half of which is taken up by the bill and tail. They weigh 1.6 grams (0.056 ounce). Females are slightly larger. This is believed to be the lowest weight limit for any warm-blooded animal, said a search at Google.

Other reports of hummingbirds in the count included the calliope (62), black-chinned (31) and rufous (18).

More recent sightings, not counts, included migrating sandhill cranes on Buck Mountain near Winthrop (I have seen them on the Colville Indian Reservation near Big Goose Lake, probably due to their like habitats with clear views of surroundings), and a spruce grouse near Hart’s Pass plus nearby a Swainson’s hawk on Slate Peak.

We see lots of cranes flying high over the county, migrating to the Central Valley in California.

According to Google, the state population of greater sandhill cranes numbers about 80 adult and sub-adult birds, with about 30 breeding pairs.

Sandhill cranes are long-lived, but have a low reproductive rate, and nests are vulnerable to predators, disturbance and fluctuating water levels.

In Ferry County, a clay-colored sparrow was seen on Forest Road 6120 and a long-eared owl was seen flying back and forth on Forest Road 2160.

Al Camp is the sports editor at The Chronicle. Email him at

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