Check it Out: Bird guide may help on your next trip



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I hope you had an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. My husband and I drove to Walla Walla for a short getaway and to spend time with family. We took our time, spending the first night in Wenatchee, then on the second day driving through the Potholes Reservoir Unit in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge before heading to Walla Walla.

Every time my husband had reminisced about childhood camping trips to the Potholes, I couldn’t help but visualize a vast parking lot full of street potholes. Quite frankly, I thought his idea of a good time sounded downright peculiar. But now that I’ve been there — and having seen that it’s not a big piece of pavement desperately needing repairs — I can understand why this recreation area appeals to campers. It might not be lush like the western half of the Columbia River Gorge, but the desertlike terrain has its own natural beauty.

When we go to the eastern side of Washington, I love keeping an eye out for wildlife. If I’m lucky, I see species not common to the western side of the state. On this trip, we spotted quail, chukars, red-tailed hawks, heron, plenty of red-winged blackbirds and magpies and even a coyote trotting along a ridge. It’s too bad I didn’t have James L. Davis’ “The Northwest Nature Guide” with me. I saw quite a few birds I couldn’t identify, and I’ll bet if I had read the section on May wildlife, I’d be better informed. Perhaps they were migrating songbirds; or maybe they were just birds native to the area.

If you don’t want to have to wing it on your next wildlife-spotting adventure, pick up this week’s book. Otherwise, you might end up like me yelling, “What are you?” as you motor past unknown eastern Washington birds. I swear that I heard them chirp, “Birdbrain!”

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at She blogs at