Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society

Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society

Serving Benton and Franklin Counties since 1965

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Birding Locations: Between Richland, West Richland, Benton City and Prosser, Benton County, Washington

The Great Washington State Birding Trail Map for the Sun and Sage Loop is available from Audubon Washington.  The map offers more birding locations and  information for birding in South Central Washington.
Snively Road / Barker Ranch, Benton County, Washington
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Coordinates:  46.327609,-119.366519

This area is reached from Highway 240 north of Richland.  Snively Road and Barker Ranch lie west of the highway, between the Highway and the Yakima River, near Horn Rapids.  Barker Ranch is private land but the roads along it show some of the habitat they are protecting. Shallow water accumulating in some areas attracts shorebirds in small numbers.  White-faced Ibis have been seen more than once in Spring.  The marsh on Snively Road has winnowing Wilson's Snipe and rarities such as Swamp Sparrow and Indigo Bunting. Raptors can be viewed from along Snively Road.

Horn Rapids County Park, Benton County, Washington
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Coordinates:  46.380777,-119.438167

Turn west from Highway 240 at Horn Road (the horn of the Yakima River).  This is a Spring migration hot spot - look for migrants in the cottonwood trees in the day-use area and along the trails.  Yakima River has water birds; Osprey are evident. Bird entire area but trees near the campground and day use area are most productive. Rarities have included nesting Northern Mockingbird and Evening Grosbeak.  This is a good place to find Lewis' Woodpecker. 

Hanford Reach National Monument - Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve (FEALE, also known as ALE), Benton County, Washington

This area is closed to the public, but has often been cited in the Bird Sightings column, because authorized personnel are doing research there.  Birds seen here provide knowledge about the status and distribution of birds in the entire lower Columbia Basin.

The Arid Lands Ecology Reserve was one of the few large, contiguous blocks of shrub-steppe habitat in the Northwest still retaining a dominant pre-European settlement ecology and physical character. The site was closed to public access in the early 1940's, which preserved the native shrub-steppe ecosystem in a quantity and quality not found elsewhere in the Columbia Basin. Managed as a wildlife reserve and environmental research area, this site has a long history of biological and ecological studies, beginning in the 1950's. The area's diversity of habitats from a windswept treeless sub-alpine ridge at 1,060 meters of elevation, to bunchgrass grassland, shrub-steppe, and riparian habitats at 130 meters supports a wide array of unique plant and animal species. Biological inventories conducted in the 1990's yielded 20 new plant varieties and 50 species of insects previously unknown in Washington.  Text quoted from National Audubon Society Site Report.
Huge wild fires in 2000 and 2007 have severely changed the habitat. 

Vernita Rest Stop
, Benton County, Washington
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Coordinates:  46.637769,-119.731579

On your way to Vantage or whenever you pass this location at the intersection of Highways 240 and 243 - take a quick look for migrants. Rarities have included Cassin's Finch and Hairy Woodpecker. Who knows what vagrants the trees could harbor?

Horse Heaven Hills Map 1, Benton County, Washington
includes:  Webber Canyon, McBee Grade and County Well Roads
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Coordinates:  46.242314,-119.477692 (intersection of N McBee Road NW and N Webber Canyon Rd NE)

One can drive the Horse Heaven Hills for many miles in many directions. This route links with the Clodfelter Road route (see Horse Heaven Hills Map 2). Webber Canyon has margins of native shrub-steppe habitat.  McBee Grade Road, also with shrub-steppe margins, is very steep and should not be attempted in winter.

Birds to look for include Horned Lark and rare Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting among them. Grasshopper Sparrow may be found at the top of McBee. Loggerhead Shrike, winter raptors, Say's Phoebe can be in Webber Canyon. Gray Partridge can be in the canyons or field margins.  Continuing on County Well gives one more opportunity to look for Horned Lark flocks and raptors.

South Slope Rattlesnake Mountain, Benton County, Washington
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Coordinates:  46.331758,-119.74617

The only remaining shrub-steppe in this area, besides Hanford Reach National Monument.  The south slope of Rattlesnake Mountain is an area with the best accessible native habitat in our area. If you drive the roads, stop and get out or you will feel that this area is devoid of life. Follow the highlighted roads. Listen for singing. Once you have been to the area and are familiar with it, drive it at night. It is one of the few areas where Common Poorwill can be found. In winter when the fields are snow covered, Horned Larks gather in huge flocks and pick up grit and food from the roads. Search these flocks for Snow Bunting and Lapland Longspur. Also the arctic race of the Horned Lark (white instead of yellow on the face) can be found. Look for raptors. Gyrfalcon and Northern Goshawk have been found.

The South Slope can be reached from from Interstate 82.  One approach is via Exit 80, Gap Road, toward Prosser.  Turn right at N Gap Rd, right at W Hanks Rd, left at N Crosby Rd.  

See also Birder's Guide to Washington, Pages 345-6.