Walla Walla County is one of the very best Birding Counties in Eastern Washington. Birding Walla Walla County is an avocation, a lifestyle, a pursuit, a science, an art and a verb. Birding is also a comfortable educational hobby for many millions of folks across the United States. To date, In Walla Walla County, 337 species of birds have been documented. This includes all the resident, migratory and introduced species. So I will touch on each of these categories of birds and share an example species or more of each. One other item before I start on this visit — great birding only comes with great conservation of habitat across many different ecological zones. Keep this one in mind as you proceed.
Let’s talk about the Resident Birds first. These are species that live within this county year-round and seldom if ever move out of their territories or habitat. These birds are mostly very common and can be observed on every birding trip into the county. These are species like Song Sparrow, Bewicks Wren, Downy Woodpecker and Great Blue Heron to name a few. These are the birds to get started on when beginning birding. These are the “old friends” that you will meet up with despite the weather, topography or quality of habitat. Resident birds are great because they are always here and fun to observe. Walla Walla County hosts many species that fit this category.
The next category of outstanding species is the “Migratory Birds”. This is where Walla Walla County shines! We are located in the Pacific Flyway which is a migratory corridor that runs from Arctic Siberia, Alaska and Canada south across the west and deep into Central and South America. Think of this as a rail line with different species getting on and off at different locations, at different times all along the corridor. Here in Walla Walla County, migration starts on or about the 20th of June with the arrival of the first waves of shorebirds (sandpipers) out of the Arctic headed south into Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Peru. Keep in mind that these birds weigh 2-3 ounces with some of the larger ones barely tipping the scales at 12 ounces. Then there are the “Neo-tropic Migrants”, these are the songbirds, hummingbirds and flycatchers that breed here in Walla Walla County and then in August pick up and slowly migrate south into the tropics. These are the birds that make birding this county a lot of fun. Many folks come to Walla Walla County to look for several of these range limited species as they move south. August is great birding along the foothills of the Blue Mountains and out along the Snake and Columbia Rivers.
Watch for birds like the Yellow-breasted Chat in the photo. This beautiful bird and hundreds of other fall migrants bring the last snap of bright colors to the county bird life. The last category to talk about is the “Introduced Species” such at House sparrows, European starlings, Chinese Ring-necked Pheasants, Eurasian-Collard Dove and California Quail, to name a few. These are birds that have arrived on their own once introduced to the continent or brought to this county by State or Federal wildlife agencies to hunt. Many are beautiful and some are pests. To learn more about birding Walla Walla County or getting a hold of a Walla Walla County Birding checklist contact the Blue Mountain Audubon Society at www.blumtn.org or the Washington Department of State Fish and Wildlife here in Walla Walla as they are also a great contact organization.
Ladybugs as most folks know them are beautiful with bright red, orange, yellow or even black with red dot wing covers. These amazing insects belong to the order Coleoptera ( Latin meaning: Coleo-sheath, ptera- wings). There are 24,000 known beetles or sheath-wings in North America. All these beetles have some type of hard or soft wing covers known as an elytra ( pronounced E-Lite-tra). These outer shells protect the soft wings next to the body. There are 475 known species of ladybugs in North America. This visit we will talk about only one of these valuable and spectacular insects that lives here in Walla Walla County. This predatory species lives here by the tens of thousands and yet it is not a native insect. It was introduced from Western Europe and Japan to help control aphids in orchards in this region.
The Seven-spotted Ladybird is common in this county and during August is frequently seen in flight or running across outdoor tables, cars or up grass stems and feeding on aphids on garden plants. These highly important beetles are about 7mm long and have three dots on each elytra with a seventh dot shared at the base of the wing covers. These insects should never be intentionally killed or poisoned as they are an important predator of aphids and many other pest insects. Look for these bright spots of color all over Walla Walla County. Protect these beetles as many farmers rely on them to produce this valley’s great vegetables and other produce.
If you want to see this little dynamo of a ladybug drive out to Rooks Park in the afternoon and watch the air over the lawn as thousands of adult ladybugs fly around looking for mates and new feeding sites. These little jewels are here all year long. They form huge hibernating groups underground or at the base of big trees, logs or old root wads. Hundreds of thousands of ladybugs of many species will all get together in the fall and hibernate. That is next.