Bird Songs in Sagebrush

Horse Spring Coulee

Bird Songs in Sagebrush: Horse Spring Coulee

Looking south from the saddle on Horse Spring Coulee Road, sagebrush extended as far as the eye could see. The hills rolled gently through the area. Geologists say this isn’t a coulee in the true sense of the word, but apparently, the valley was shaped by flood waters from a Pleistocene glacier. Each time I drive up from Loomis, I stop at this saddle to look down the coulee and then back toward the road to Loomis and the valley several hundred feet below, trying to imagine what had happened. A lobe of the Cordilleran Glacier came down the Sinlahekin Valley a few miles west of here; perhaps a chuck of ice flowed along the valley, getting stuck where Spectacle Lake now sits, and that caused the overflow. It is mind-boggling.

I’d come, though, to look for birds, particularly those that live in the Sagebrush ecosystem. This valley contains excellent habitat for several miles south. Here, the wildfires haven’t swept through, killing back the sagebrush. Perhaps cheatgrass hasn’t taken hold, and this remote dirt road means people don’t drive it often, and it has lucked out. Brewer’s and Lark sparrows breed here, and perhaps a Sage Thrasher will sing from a post. Many others are possible, including the melodic Western Meadowlarks singing while I looked south.

I’d come to stash a few sound recorders in bushes along the road, hoping they might catch birds singing. A stereo set of Mikrousi microphones taped to a sagebrush stem and a Tascam DR-05x in a black dry bag will be inconspicuous and the perfect tool. They can record continuously for up to five days using an external battery pack. The challenge is picking a spot where a sparrow or a thrasher might perch and sing.

About a mile down the road, numerous four-foot-high sagebrush grew along a three-strand barb-wire fence bordering the road. One had overhanging branches, giving me a place to hide the dry bag. Two more places along the next two miles provided additional areas for this endeavor.

Two days later, I retrieved the drop rigs and headed for home. 

This album is based on recordings done in 2022 and 2023 along Coulee Spring Road. I’ve added a few from Baird Springs Road NW in Grant County to cover more of the species found along Coulee Spring Road. 

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