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Bald eagles still not showing up at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual gathering of bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene is lagging.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

However, Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only two adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area on Tuesday, down from three eagles she counted last Tuesday during the first of the weekly bald eagle surveys she'll do this season.

"Last year on Nov. 20 there were 64 eagles in all," she said this afternoon.  The number built to 260 bald eagles counted on Dec.19, 2012.  

"I spoke with Jim Fredericks from Idaho Fish and Game about the kokanee spawn outlook," Hugo said.  "Fredericks said that estimates for numbers of adults are lower than last year but still within the realm of the norm for what they hope and expect to see in Lake CdA.  Also he mentioned that spawning is going to be pretty goon on Lake Pend Oreille and that he noticed quite a few eagles up there."

She said there's some speculation that bald eagles may be camping out in the Lake Pend Oreille area.  On the other hand, there were quite a few eagles at Pend Oreille's Granite Creek spawning area last year at this time and plenty of eagles still showed up at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Experts list 10 top gift ideas for birders

WILDLIFE WATCHING — From new birdsong collections to smartphone apps, online learning, and a kit for beginning birders, here are 10 holiday gift suggestions for the bird and nature lover in your life. All these items are available from the nonprofit Cornell Lab of Ornithology at www.birds.cornell.edu/BirdGifts.  (Purchases from this site support the Cornell Lab's bird conservation efforts.)

1. Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America

The most comprehensive guide available, featuring nearly 5,000 soundtracks for 735 North American bird species. Download includes MP3 sound files and photographs ($49.99), or receive all files on a pre-loaded USB flash drive. ($64.99)

2. Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Essential Set for North America
Great for beginners. This set includes the most common sounds for 737 species available as downloadable MP3 files ($12.99) or on a pre-loaded USB flash drive. ($24.99)

3. The Bird Watching Answer Book
A great stocking stuffer! Drawing from the tens of thousands of inquiries that pour into the Cornell Lab each year, author and bird expert Laura Erickson has compiled answers to more than 200 common and not-so-common bird questions. ($14.95)

4. Cornell Lab Beginner Bird-Watching Kit
This kit, available from Optics Planet, includes introductory binoculars recommended by Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff, six months free access to a Cornell online bird ID course, and other great accessories. ($199)

5. Bird Apps
Find more birds with BirdsEye, upload sightings from the field with BirdLog, or discover 24 North American birds in four games for kids with My Bird World ($3.99-$19.99).

6. Birds & Beans Coffee
A tasteful gift that supports organic shade-grown coffee farms that give shelter and sustenance to more than 60 species of migratory birds. A portion of the proceeds supports Cornell Lab conservation efforts. ($11.70 & up)

7. The Birds of North America Online
This continually updated, definitive life-history reference is authored by experts on more than 700 bird species, accompanied by images, sounds, and some video. An online publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with the American Ornithologists' Union. ($5 stocking stuffer for a 30-day subscription or $42 for an entire year)

8. The Warbler Guide with Song and Call Companion
This set of sound contains all the vocalizations described in The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. More than 1,000 files are presented in the same order as they occur in the text. ($5.99)

9. Cornell Lab Membership
Lab membership supports efforts to improve the understanding and protection of birds around the world. The quarterly Living Bird magazine is included with every gift membership. ($39)

10. Singing Plush Birds
The plush birds in this popular Wild Republic series make great collectibles for children and adults. Each bird contains authentic sounds from the Cornell Lab's Macaulay Library and is created with colorful anatomical details. ($8.99)

Three bald eagles lead annual feeding fest at Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual fall-winter congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene appears to have started, barely.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted three adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area on Tuesday during the first of the weekly bald eagle surveys she'll do this season.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

"There was no count this early last year because I was not here to count so I have no comparison," Hugo said, but she added that the eagle numbers can build rapidly. "The count on Nov. 20, 2012, was 64."

Most viewers drive to viewpoints at Higgens Point or from the Wolf Lodge Exit from Interstate 90.
However, eagle-watching cruise boat tours are scheduled in November and December leaving from the Coeur d'Alene Resort

Local veterans, active military and families from the North Idaho area will be honored on two admission-free cruises will be offered on Nov. 30 to local veterans, active military and their immediate families from the North Idaho area. The first two-hour cruise to the east end of Lake Coeur d'Alene will depart at 10 a.m. and the second two-hour cruise will leave at 1 p.m.

Reservations are required. Please call Suzanne Endsley at (208) 769-5004 during the business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to make a reservation.

Because the cruises fill quickly, the current status of available seating will be posted on the BLM's Coeur d'Alene District website.

Osprey lands prize catch

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Ospreys will be leaving this fall on their lengthy migrations to other parts of the world for winter.

But their athleticism shouldn't escape us while they're here in their nesting territory. Look at the size of the lunker — apparently a sucker — that this osprey snagged in the water and lifted to a utility pole.

Here's what North Idaho photographer Mark Powers saw:

I was walking to my barn along Cocallala Creek where it flows into the Pend Oreille River across from Laclede when I noticed a larger than normal fish atop what I refer to as the Dinner Pole.  The osprey was not too afraid of me because I presume he was not anxious to get airborne again with this fish.

Campers find creative ways to feed hummingbirds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — People camping and fishing in North Idaho are taking note and enjoying what appears to be a good population of colorful hummingbirds in the region.

The photos above where shot and compiled by Hal Blegen of Spokane, who was in the field for fishing last week, but equally fascinated by the creative ways campers were tending to the hummers.  Here's his report:

The hummingbird population up and down the North Fork of the Clearwater and Kelly Creek was thriving (during my recent fishing trip).  I found that a number of campsites had make-shift feeders. They were made from whiskey bottles,  plastic drink containers, empty fruit trays, and bottle caps,  patched together with tie wraps, duct tape and coat hangers. 

The curious thing was that they all seemed to work just fine.  There was no shortage of ideas or hummers, but finding enough sugar to keep them filled was a challenge. 

Burrowing owl quick as cricket to feed baby

BIRDING — A burrowing owl chick knows when it's feeding time; knows when the meal's only half finished; and knows when the cricket is consumed and it's time to quickly retreat into the vacated prairie dog burrow that's become its nursery.

Check out this short video by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson for a ground-dwelling bird's eye view of the action.

Birder witnesses eaglette’s first flight

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane birder Kim Thorburn treats us to her July 10 observation of Spokane River bald eagles of the year taking their first flight from their nest in Riverside State Park.

This morning I watched the maiden flight of the second Riverside State Park-Deep Creek eaglet to fledge.  The first and largest sibling left several days ago.  The final pipsqueak remained branched by the nest, squealing as its second sibling tried its wings.  The soaring went well but landing looked pretty hairy.
First, there was the matter of selecting a perch that was solid enough to receive pretty significant mass arriving with considerable velocity.  Then there was figuring out and coordinating the wing rotation and tail rutter to reduce the velocity enough to light on the perch.  The success of it all seemed quite remarkable.
A little while later, I watched a juvenile bald eagle soaring with a kettle of turkey vultures on top of Pine Bluff.  I assumed it was the first sibling and wondered if it had already figured out that this might be a good crowd to hang with to improve the chances of the ever-constant foraging that it now faced.  It seemed unphased as the only bird of the group that an adult sharp-shinned hawk persistently dive bombed.

Osprey-viewing boat cruise set for Saturday

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A boat-load of people will get a close-up view of wildlife biologists capturing and banding young osprey during a wildlife-watching boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Saturday (July 13).

Space is limited, so sign up now for this event, which includes onboard presentations by osprey experts.

Make reservations through the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, (208) 415-0110.

Online reservations are planned, but the option is not yet posted on the Chamber's website.

Cost: $15 for adults, $30 maximum per family.

The trip will run from 9 a.m. –11 a.m.

Read on for more details about the cruise, the speaker and the birds.

Snowy owl still clinging to Eastern Washington

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spring reports of snowy owls postponing migration back to their arctic breeding areas to hang out in Eastern Washington have continued into summer.  Here's a notice from the Palouse just posted by Inland Northwest birder Bill Siems:

A Snowy Owl with a fair amount of dark mottling was spotted while driving by the Plaza exit on US195 at 9:30 AM today.  The bird was perched on the tall light pole over the N-bound entrance.  In surprise, I turned around and parked just under the pole to recheck and get a photo.

Sizing up a hummingbird nest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — How big is a hummingbird nest that held two chicks until fledging?
The chicken egg in the photo above tells the story.
South Hill resident Bill Bender followed the growth of the hummingbird family that nested on a bicycle-parts wind chime off his porch.  Here's his final report:
22 days from hatch to leaving the nest. Just for some perspective, here are pictures of the empty nest. Yes, that is a standard, store bought chicken egg, so that is how big the nest is. And the picture of the empty nest lets you know that the final nest was actually spread out larger, as the chicks got bigger. The original nest into which the eggs were laid was more like a cup, than the final soup bowl shape.
The other photo shows the two hummers at 17 days, filling the nest to overflowing just two weeks after they were so small they could hide at the bottom of the nest. One chick fledged at 21 days; the other a day later.

Video: Dusky grouse strut their stuff this season

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Dusky grouse males seemed to be especially testy during mating season.  One of the feathered bruisers even took on a Washington Fish and Wildlife policeman.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson was glad he was safely inside his vehicle when a different dusky made sure he knew whose territory he was in.  

Check out his short video and live in FEAR of grouse.

We decided to head back to where we had the encounter with the crazed Dusky Grouse a week ago. Realizing that lightning doesn’t often strike twice in the same spot – it seemed worth a try.
This time, we were prepared. The GoPro video was ready.
As we rounded the corner where we had last seen the grouse, there to our surprise was our little friend standing in the middle of the road. I stopped the truck and shut it off. The grouse came running.
It was almost a complete replay from last week. He flew to the roof of the car and tried to get in the Sun roof and drivers window (see image of grouse on roof looking into drivers window from the roof).  The window was only rolled down about 2 inches.
He eventually flew back to the ground and continued to circle the truck. I got out and hand-held the tiny GoPro video camera. He attacked the camera with a vengeance. He did manage to draw blood twice during the encounter! He targeted the fingers holding the camera.
I returned to the truck and we drove away in defeat. This little guy is cranky…
He was still standing in the road as we left.

Hummers nesting in the yard; something to sing about

WILDLIFE — You're living well when hummingbirds chose your yard for their nursery.

This is the second consecutive year Bill Bender has had a nest off the back porch of his South Hill home.

The chicks are seven days old in this photo from the weekend.

Floods, Flowers, Feathers Festival May 18 at Turnbull Refuge

OUTDOORS – Experts in wildlife, wildflowers and geology will combine their talents for a festival of nature walks, youth activities and educational information on Saturday (May 18) at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The second annual “Floods, Flowers, and Feathers Festival” – completely free, including no entry fee into the refuge – will include nature hikes dealing with topics such as Ice Age Floods and Channeled Scablands, spring birds, wildflower and insects.

The refuge is 4.2 miles south of Cheney, off Cheney-Plaza Road.  Drive to the refuge headquarters.

Info: Turnbull Refuge, (509) 235-4723. 

Charm of hummers, raft of ducks: can you name that flock?

BIRDING — "I haven't seen any hummingbirds up here, yet, but I did find out what to call a group of them when they do arrive: a 'charm' of hummingbirds," said Janis Woolbright of Woodland, Idaho, in an Inland Northwest Birders post last week.

"We don't have to resort to saying group or flock for all our different species," she said, noting some of the chucklers in the bunch, such as a conspiracy of ravens.

Lists of collective nouns for birds and other wildlife are posted every now and then, but this one by the Palomar (Calif.) Audubon Society is one of the best organized.
But there's still room for expanding the list. 
I looked it over closely, and I saw no reference to the term that's been used frequently in headlines but which needs to be coined officially here and now: a blizzard of snow geese.

Bald eagles raising young over Lake CdA, throughout region

UPDATED 12:30 p.m. with info from Idaho Fish and Game.

WILDLIFE — May is family time for bald eagles, which have been steadily gaining a greater foothold in the Inland Northwest as they're considered one of the shining examples of Endangered Species Act recoveries.

This bald eagle family was photographed at Lake Coeur d'Alene over the weekend by Larry Krumpelman and posted on the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society website.

Idaho will conduct a bald eagle nesting survey next year, the first since 2008, when more than 50 breeding territories were documented in the Panhandle from Lake Coeur d'Alene and northward.  Surely there's that many or more.

Spokane County alone has 15-20 active nests, said Howard Ferguson, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department area wildlife biologist.

The bald eagle, one of the first species to receive protections under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, was been removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in 2007. After decades of conservation efforts, the bald eagle exhibited a dramatic recovery, from a low of barely 400 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in 1963, to more than 10,000 nesting pairs.

Nesting bald eagles can be resiliant.  

A bald eagle nest surveyed near Post Falls Dam blew down during an early July 2008 windstorm. The nest was home to 3 chicks at or very close to fledging. All chicks were observed after the windstorm and presumed to have successfully fledged.

The eagle pair rebuilt their nest in the same tree in December 2008, according to the IFG survey report.

Birding workshop, family activities set for Migratory Bird Week

OUTDO – National Migratory Bird Week events organized by area Audubon Society chapters are for the birds––and people who want to learn more about them.

A three-day Learn-to-Bird Workshop starts Monday and continues Wednesday and Friday, 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Spokane Falls Community College Science Building, Room 28/119.  A field trip will follow on Saturday.

Info: Gary Blevins, 533-3661, email GaryB@spokanefalls.eduor Kim Thorburn 465-3025, email kthorburn@msn.com.

Events set for Saturday include:

Turnbull Wildlife Refuge tree and native plant restoration work party, 9 a.m.-noon, followed by a group potluck. Meet at refuge headquarters south of Cheney.

Info: (509) 235-4723.

Lake Coeur d’Alene family birding fair at Blackwell Island Boat Launch, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., includes adult and family activities such as migration obstacle course, scavenger hunt, bird feeder projects, feather painting, 'bird friendly" coffee, guided bird walks, Bird Bingo and live owls.

Directions: From Coeur d’Alene, drive south on Highway 95. Cross the Spokane River and turn right to Blackwell Island.Info: Coeur d’Alene Audubon, (208) 769-5048.

Birder spots rare Baikal teal near Missoula

BIRDING — “As soon as I looked at it closer, I knew right away it was a Baikal teal,” said Western Montana birder Radd Icenoggle. “There have only been 11 or 12 of them spotted in the continental U.S. south of Alaska.”

He immediately going online Sunday night with his photo and observations of the rare sighting — in an irrigation ditch.

Like the storm that blew in last weekend, he created a flurry of activity among birders who wanted to bag a life-list bird they'd otherwise have to travel to another continent to see.

The male Baikal teal is unmistakable, with its striking green nape and its long-dropping dark scapular feathers. It breeds in eastern Russia and winters in eastern Asia.

Read on for the story from the Missoulian.

Grouse puts wildlife police officer in pecking order

WILDLIFE — Washington Fish and Wildlife police officers are accustomed to dealing with testosterone-charged males strutting their stuff.

But officer Curt Wood stood up to a bird-brained attacker to get these photos.  Here are the details from an edited version of the agency's Enforcement Division's weekly report:

While patrolling Lincoln County for turkey hunters, Officer Wood encountered a male dusky grouse that was strutting head on a primitive road.  Officer Wood pulled his patrol vehicle up to the grouse and stopped.  

Within seconds, the grouse jumped up onto the front of the officer's pickup and started strutting on the hood.  Officer Wood was able to get one picture with his cell phone camera before the grouse jumped back onto the ground in front of the truck.  

Wood got out of his vehicle and eased to within a foot or so of the grouse.  While the officer was snapping more photos, the grouse suddenly attacked Wood’s hand, sending his camera flying several feet.  

Wood was able to get a few more pictures (and a few more pecks to the hand) before he returned to his vehicle and tried to get out of there with his ego intact.  While driving away, he observed the grouse chasing his vehicle for quite a distance down the road. 

At last report, no charges have been filed.

Photo: a pleasant pheasant morning in Montana

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Mating season is in full bloom around the region, and rooster pheasants are dressed to kill.

Check out the colors this cock displayed Wednesday for the lens of by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Ants, birds featured in Audubon programs

NATURE – Local Audubon chapters are sponsoring free 7 p.m. nature progams this week:

Tuesday (April 9): Bluebird trails, citizen science and NestWatch; sponsored by Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey in Coeur d’Alene.

Wednesday (April 10): "For the Love of Ants: a Superorganism," by Laurel Hansen, EWU natural science professor, at Riverview Retirement Center auditorium, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society.

Fish, wildlife recreation fills the calendar

If you fish, hunt, dig clams or enjoy watching birds, keep your eye on the calendar this month:

April 9-14 - A six-day morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled on various Washington ocean beaches.

April 15 - Washington's general spring turkey hunt opens for hunters of all ages and runs through May 31.

April 24-30 - The month’s second morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled on various ocean beaches.

April 26-28 - The Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, based in Hoquiam, celebrates shorebirds.

April 27 - Hundreds of lakes, including West Medical and Williams in Spokane County, open to trout fishing across the state for the biggest "opening day" of the year.

See The S-R's special 2013 Fishing Section coming Thursday.

Birding author presents ‘Gift of the Crow’ at Get Lit!

WILDLIFE WATCHING  – If you don’t think crows are cool, you haven’t read “In the Company of Crows and Ravens,” (Yale University Press) by John Marzluff, a University of Washington professor of Wildlife Science.

To catch up, bring the kids and catch his presentation, “Gifts of the Crow,” at 7 p.m. on Thursday (April 11) at the Mobius Science Center on Main Avenue across the street from River Park Square.

It’s one of many fun events set for EWU’s Get Lit! literary festival.

Marzluff’s latest book, “Gift of the Crow,” (Free Press) combines biology, conservation and anthropology to present an in-depth look at the way humans and crows have mutually influenced each other. The illustrated book reveals how crows share human behaviors such as delinquency, risk-taking, and even language.

Spring gets slow start for birders near Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As spring returns to northeastern Washington, Mike Munts, wildlife biologist at the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge has resumed his periodic updates on refuge wildlife watching.

"It has been a bit of slow start," he reported Sunday. T"he lakes and ponds are just starting to break up but the river has mostly thawed and Hatch Lake on the drive out from Colville is opening up so it should not be too much longer here.

"Temperatures have in the 50s the last couple of days and birds are starting to trickle in."

One notable species seen this weekend is a white-winged crossbill.

Click continued ready for Munts' list of birds seen on the refuge in the past two weeks:

Idaho sets rules for falconers to take wild peregrines

WILDLIFE — Idaho will allow up to two peregrine falcons a year to be taken from the wild by selected falconers under rules adopted by the state Fish and Game Commission Tuesday.

Rules allow the take of nestling or juvenile wild peregrine falcons during open seasons from 2013 through 2015. The capture season runs May 1-Aug. 31.

Read on for more details and history.

CdA Audubon members have eagle eyes for birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A group of Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society members has a little contest to see how many species they can see in a year from their homes.  You can bet the binoculars and spotting scopes are always on hand.

While all members of the club set a record of 209 species in 2012 for their Kootenai County big year, this group of 10 couples chipped in a whopping 110 species without venturing beyond their back yards.

Click here to see the report of the species they recorded.

Read on for a summary of their findings compiled by member Dough Ward.

Great gray owl lives large over field mice

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The great gray owl, widely distributed in the boreal forests of the north, also is found in a narrow swath of home range that runs south through far Eastern Washington, the Idaho Panhandle and Western Washington.

But seeing them is rare.  I know birders who'd drive hundreds of miles to watch a great gray owl.

That's why Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson knew he was privileged to spend hours on three different occasions last week — shooting thousands of frames from his cameras — with a couple of the owls as they fed in a Montana forest meadow.

This particular bird kept flying and landing near me. She would then sit quietly listening. Often, she would look directly toward the snow and then lose interest.
Every once in a while, she would not lose interest. She would silently fly and dive into the snow on the ground. She would go completely under the snow – Just her wing tips would stick out. Then, she would right herself and enjoy the fruits of her hunt. Sad for the mouse, but it is the circle of life.

She was probably 20 feet away on this dive. One cool thing, check out the bottom half of the beak – cool curve!

Even though great grays are huge owls, they have a taste for small rodents. They locate hidden prey with the help of large facial disks that funnel sound to their ears.  Using their heft, they've been known to dive for a rodent with enough force to crash through a snow crust that's thick enough to hold a 180-pound person. 

Whooo are the first love birds of the season?

WILDLIFE — At least one bird species in the Inland Northwest was way ahead of the crowd on the procreation front, as I mentioned in today's Outdoors column.

But birdwatcher reporting from Pend Oreille County Wednesday said they a raucus bunch of hungry nestlings proved that common ravens weren't far behind.

Idaho may allow falconers to capture peregrines

FALCONRY — For the first time in more than 40 years, up to two falconers in Idaho may once again get limited opportunity to capture and keep a wild peregrine falcon — a species federally listed as endangered from 1970-1999.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department proposes to allow the capture of two juvenile peregrines from the wild for falconry purposes in 2013 and has developed a set of draft rules for public comment through March 11.

The American peregrine falcon has continued to rebound since being delisted to the extent that in 2004 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the capture of nestling peregrines from the wild for use in falconry.

In 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service also allowed capture of post-fledging first-year peregrines – hatch year or “passage” birds.

States have the authority to manage the capture of up to 5 percent of annual production. Based on Fish and Game surveys, the most juvenile peregrines that could be taken from the wild in Idaho in any given year would be two birds.

Montana, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona also allow the capture of peregrine falcons.

The peregrine has been used in falconry for more than 3,000 years, beginning with nomads in central Asia. Captured wild migratory peregrines were used regularly by North American falconers from 1938 to 1970 when the species was added to the federal list of threatened and endangered wildlife and plants.

Until 2004, nearly all peregrines used for falconry in the United States were captive-bred from the offspring of birds captured before the Endangered Species Act was enacted.

The successful recovery program involved a collaboration of Boise’s Peregrine Fund along with state and federal wildlife agencies. Falconers provided the needed expertise through a technique called “hacking,” the release of a captive-bred bird from a special cage at the top of a tower or cliff ledge.

Robins flock in profusion near Walla Walla

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I've seen flocks of American robins off and on around Spokane this winter, but nothing close to the locust-like congregations found earlier this month near Walla Walla.

Carl Kjellstrand sent these two photos from the Walla Walla area and noted that the robins dimmed the afternoon sunlight.