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Walla Walla Birding, Wineries, and Great Food

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Looking for a weekend away for our 15th anniversary we chose Walla Walla for a getaway to do some birding, drink some good wine, and eat some good food. We accomplished all of these things and had an excellent weekend! To be honest we weren’t sure what sort of birds we’d see but were pleasantly surprised, there were so many colorful birds this time of year, including two of our favorite Washington birds that we’d never photographed before – the Lazuli Bunting and the Western Tanager!

The Lazuli Bunting is a bird we’ve been wanting to see for some time – in fact, it’s the bird on the cover of the Sibley West Bird book that I like to flip through and try to identify birds I’ve seen!

So we chose Walla Walla more for their food and wine, and after we arrived we started investigating where to go for a morning hike to find some birds. We knew Walla Walla was near the Blue Mountains on the Idaho border but were hoping for something closer. We were in luck – there were two great local spots right in town to go bird watching! The first spot we visited was Bennington Lake, the second spot was the Arthur G. Rempel Nature Trail. Both are excellent riparian ecosystems, perfect places to find birds. Both of these spots are part of the Sun and Sage Birding Loop which covers the south east part of the state for the Great Washington State Birding Trail. You can learn more about the different bird loops here at Audubon Washington’s website.

On the Bennington Lake Trail we immediately saw a Western Tanager and House Wren as we entered the trail heading north out of the parking lot. Further up the trail we found the Black-headed Grosbeak which is also a quite colorful bird, and then finally as we neared the section of Mill Creek that feeds into the lake, we found our first Lazuli Bunting. We ended up seeing five total on this trip, though only the one Western Tanager. As for the other birds seen that day we spotted many Yellow Warbler’s, in fact they seemed to be everywhere though always hard to actually see and photograph (but we did get some good shots!), Yellow-breasted Chat’s, Cassin’s Vireo, and California Quail. In total we saw 26 different species over the weekend! Those that we photographed are shown below.

The Lazuli Bunting and Western Tanager are not uncommon but we rarely see them on the west side of the Cascades and they are both so colorful we just enjoy every chance we get to see them. The Lazuli Bunting will come to feeders but mostly live in brushy areas looking for insects. Western Tanagers also eat insects (as you can see from the above image!) and generally won’t come to feeders but will come for bird baths or other sources of fresh water. They also are known to like fruit, so if you have a cherry tree they may find their way to it and eat your cherry’s!

I also have to mention we ran into a Walla Walla local David Shipp who suggested we include in the blog! On our hike around Bennington Lake we ran into David and his family on a bike ride; they were stopped to enjoy the cool creek there on a hot day. At the time we were photographing a Calliope Hummingbird (which will post about later). David told me many very long to setup dad jokes which I really enjoyed – thanks David!

While the birding was great I can’t forget to mention the wine and food – we only visited three wineries on this trip but Walla Walla is loaded with good wineries, the arid landscape is apparently excellent for growing grapes making Walla Walla the wine country of Washington along with the Columbia River Valley. But for food I have to plug Hattaway’s On Alder. We went there for our anniversary dinner, I am sucker for southern cuisine after living in New Orleans for five years so we had to check it out as it is a Southeastern styled menu. We ordered their bone-in ribeye to split as well as an asparagus and faro salad that were both amazing. We highly recommend you check it out if in the area!

Things to Note:

  • It is very hot and dry even in spring here – bring a lot of water and sunscreen!
  • These shots were taken with the Sony a7 along with the Sony FE 200-600mm lens and a Sony 2x Teleconverter.
  • Please check out our resources page to learn more about the equipment we used to find and take these shots!

Backyard Birding?:

  • It’s springtime and we’ve upped our backyard bird game with a couple of new feeders. We currently get House Finches, Song Sparrows, Chickadees and Nuthatches. And of course our resident Anna’s Hummingbirds. Make your backyard birds happy and get them a new feeder!

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