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Flora and Fauna

Flora and Fauna

A Brief Look at Local Flowers and Birds from the Walla Walla Valley. 

By Jessi Vietz 

The Walla Walla Valley, located between the Columbia and Touchet rivers as well as the Blue Mountains, provides a rich agricultural environment. The beautiful blend of forest, farmland and water reservoirs makes it an excellent location for bird scouting. [1] 

During the spring and summer months, around 325 bird species can be found. As spring progresses through April and May, thousands more species such as American redstarts, veerys, yellow-breasted chats, and yellow warblers can be observed concluding their long migration north from Central and South America.” [2] 

According to Walla Walla Uncovered, the McNary Wildlife Refuge is one of the top spots to get your bird watching on. “Other great places to see birds from June to September include Coppei Creek, Upper Dry Creek, Mill Creek and Blue Creek.” The Walla Walla River Delta is home to thousands of birds during the height of migration season. [3] 

In the freshwater wetlands, lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers and estuaries, you can find the American wigeon. These ducks congregate in groups and eat aquatic vegetation. The males have bright green feathers on their heads, as shown in the photo by Zeke VanZante, freshman civil engineering major. [4] 

A male American Wigeon. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.

The mountain bluebird dwells mainly in open woodlands and eats many species of insects. “Male mountain bluebirds lend a bit of cerulean sparkle to open habitats across much of western North America.” While the females sit on their nests, the males hunt and bring them food. [5] 

A male Mountain Bluebird. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.

The black-capped chickadee can be found in the forests, as well as seen on a neighborhood bird feeder. Their black heads and white cheeks make them easy to identify. “It’s habit of investigating people and everything else in its home territory, and quickness to discover bird feeders, make it one of the first birds most people learn.” [6] 

Several other species such as the long-eared owl and Townsend’s solitaire can be found closer to town but are slightly more elusive.  

See Also

Long-Eared Owl. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.
Townsend’s Solitaire. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.

Wildflowers that pop up through the spring and summer decorate the rolling hills of the Walla Walla Valley. Many of the species have been integrated in throughout the years, but several native species can be easily seen while driving down highway 11. Oregon sunshine and prairie star are the pride and joy of this area. [7] 

Prairie Star Flowers. Photo by Mark Turner. Accessed on 4/28/22.
Oregon Sunshine Flowers. Photo by Mark Turner. Accessed on 4/28/22.

Many people do not realize that these local treasures are only a short drive away. This spring, get outside, get moving and learn more about the beautiful valley we call home and the creatures we share it with. 

Photo of Zeke VanZante by Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.

References 

  1.  Birding in Walla Walla – common species, where to bird watch. (2013, December 27). Walla Walla Uncovered. https://www.wallawallauncovered.com/activities/birding/ 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. American wigeon identification. (n.d.). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Wigeon/id 
  1. Mountain bluebird overview. (n.d.). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/mountain_bluebird 
  1. Black-capped chickadee overview. (n.d.). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-capped_Chickadee  
  1. Barnes, B. (2020, June 15). Bloomin’ blues: Blue Mountains host wide variety of wildflowers. Union-Bulletin. https://www.union-bulletin.com/bloomin-blues-blue-mountains-host-wide-variety-of-wildflowers/article_41bfc086-9d1e-58f9-84b1-d6fec4a85e6c.html  

Photos 

  1. A male American Wigeon. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22. 
  1. A male Mountain Bluebird. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.   
  1. A Black-Capped Chickadee. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.     
  1. Long-Eared Owl. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.    
  1. Townsend’s Solitaire. Photo taken by WWU student Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22.     
  1. Oregon Sunshine Flowers. Photo by Mark Turner. Accessed on 4/28/22. 
  1. Prairie Star Flowers. Photo by Mark Turner. Accessed on 4/28/22.   
  1. Photo of Zeke VanZante by Zeke VanZante. Accessed on 4/28/22. 
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