In early July, we flew out to Spokane for a pro bono job with an organization called Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, that assists vets wounded in the wars.
Following this work, Chris and I drove a few miles out of town early the next morning to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. Shortly after entering, we came across a wet meadow and out in this meadow was a cow moose grazing away happily. She posed for a few images and then wandered off.
We continued on the 5.5 mile auto loop, but found little in the way of wildlife. It was post breeding season and there was not much showing. Also, it was very dry and hot! In the mid nineties. We did come across a group of about 4 or 5 deer. They were mostly White Tails, but one small buck appeared to be a Mulie. It is most unusual for these two species to mingle, but when the buck ran, it jumped like a Mule Deer, not a White Tail.
Chris found and photographed a rather habituated Red Squirrel and we saw a few chipmunks, but that was about it for critters. Oh yes, there were some wildflowers, such as Blue Vetch (abundant), Brown-eyed Susan and Sticky Geranium. But all in all, this refuge was a disappointment.
Early the following morning, July 11, we checked out of our Spokane motel and drove north along Interstate 395 to the little town of Colville. Colville is a delightful town of a few thousand folks, not very far south of the border with British Columbia. A dozen or so miles out of town is Little Pend Orielle National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is over 41,000 acres, with elevations of 1800-5600 feet.
LPO has a small office buiding that serves as the visitors center, but there is really not much there to view. The park rangers, however, are very helpful and friendly. There is a wildlife drive, but it is not well marked and we got, well, lost! We drove up one gravel road that we thought was part of the loop, but it was a side road and was washed out near the top and blocked off. We did a U-turn and figured out how to get back on the wildlife drive. Park employees advised that new signs will be installed for the 2013 season.
Once again, there were very few mammals to be seen, although we did have one quick sighting of a moose running across the road and into thick cover as we wandered up that side road. We saw no elk or bears, but did see White-tailed deer, particularly in the early morning and late evening. Chipmunks were not hard to find.
As for birds, we saw Western and Mountain Bluebirds, Violet Green Swallows, Chipping Sparrows, one Ruffed Grouse and a few common woodpeckers. The big surprise and welcome sighting was a big flock of Red Crossbills that assembled each morning on the road into the park office. They were on the road, probably taking up grit and quite tame, so easy to photograph from the car. My estimate: 35 birds, accompanied by a half dozen or so Pine Siskins.
The road from Colville into the refuge was also productive. At one point there were many Mountain Bluebirds, both adults and young birds. they managed to stay just out of photo range, flying from fence post to fencepost and frustrating the photographer! We also spotted a very nice cock Pheasant one morning. At another location by a small pond there were Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a flock of lovely Cedar Waxwings. I was able to make some nice images of this latter bird from the car. Perhaps the highlight for photography were a pair of Western Meadowlarks that had a nest nearby and were feeding young. They posed on the tops of fence posts and once allowed some close photography. Deer were common along this road also.
There were lots of butterflies and wildflowers along the road. Butterflies included the Pale Swallowtail that looks like a washed out Tiger Swallowtail; the Lorquin’s Admiral, a handsome butterfly; and the Pink-edged Sulpher.
Wildflowers were well represented with blue Round-leafed Harebells; red Scarlet Gileas; purple Shaggy Fleabane and many white flowers. Early on we discovered wild Mock Orange bushes in full bloom that had a delicious sweet smell! They were widespread along the wildlife drive.