East Cascades Ecoregion and Birding Sites

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Click to see a detailed map with birding sites.

Location

This ecoregion covers the eastern slopes of the Cascades from the crest down to the shrub-steppe margin of the Columbia Plateau at about 2,000 feet elevation. The northern boundary is Sawtooth Ridge (for most of the way, the Chelan-Okanogan county line) and the southern boundary is the Columbia Gorge from Dog Mountain to Rowena Gap. Beyond Washington, the ecoregion stretches across Oregon to the Modoc Plateau of northeastern California.

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Physiography

These mountains are formed of a complex mix of old seabed and other sedimentary rocks, granite and more recent volcanic materials, and glacial rubble and silt. They are part of the North Cascades microcontinent, which joined the North American landmass about 50 million years ago. Wenatchee is on the east coast of this former island; farther south, the continental suture lies buried beneath lava flows from the Cascade volcanoes and the Miocene basalts of the Columbia Plateau. The highest of the ecoregion's volcanic peaks, Mount Adams, last erupted as recently as 6,000 years ago. High, southeastward-trending ridges emanating from the Cascade crest alternate with deep, glacier-carved valleys with rivers flowing to the Columbia. The most spectacular of these, dammed by its moraine, is Lake Chelan. The ecoregion has many other lakes and several reservoirs, including long reaches of the Columbia behind Bonneville and Rocky Reach dams.

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Climate

The climate is transitional between the maritime regime of western Washington and the continental regime of the Columbia Plateau. The Cascade crest has moderate temperatures (except for the highest peaks) and is very wet, while the lower edge is dry with warm summers and cold winters. Average annual precipitation measures 100 inches at Snoqualmie Pass and nine inches in Wenatchee. Snowfall is heavy at the crest (about 40 feet annually at Stevens Pass), but Cle Elum, near the ecoregion's lower edge, sees just seven feet annually. Average January low temperature in Cle Elum is 20 degrees F and July high temperature 81 degrees F. Strong, steady winds often blow through the Columbia Gorge, a product of differences in atmospheric pressure east and west of the Cascades.

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Habitats

The East Cascades are almost entirely forested. Vegetation is highly diversified in response to the wide spectrum of available moisture. A transition zone at the lower edge has steppe vegetation on dry slopes and fingers of ponderosa pines extending along drainage courses, and is succeeded in the foothills by open ponderosa pine forest with an understory of grasses and shrubs. Black cottonwood occurs along streams, with groves of quaking aspen in damp places. In the southern part of the ecoregion, Garry oak woodlands occupy this transition zone. At somewhat higher elevations, Douglas-fir begins to appear, alongside ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, and western larch at first, but eventually shading out these species as the forest closes its canopy. Typical plants of the understory here are common snowberry, bitterbrush, and kinnikinnick. Grand fir is the prevalent tree species at middle elevations. Moist mountain meadows are common in forest openings. Damp conditions on the upper Cascade slopes promote growth of a closed-canopy conifer forest dominated by western hemlock and western red cedar with a shrubby understory (huckleberries, Oregon boxwood, western twinflower). Still higher, subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce characterize the forest landscape up to treeline; grasses, sedges, huckleberries, rhododendron, beargrass, lupine, and many other plants form the understory. Bogs, fens, and forested wetlands ("spruce bottoms") are among the wetland types. Dense groves of Sitka alder thrive along seeps and in avalanche chutes. Subalpine parklands and alpine meadows can be found on Mount Adams and several high peaks north of Snoqualmie Pass.

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Human Impact

Although the ecoregion is lightly inhabited (Wenatchee is the only sizable city), it has been noticeably impacted by resource extraction, especially logging. Clear-cutting has denuded whole square-mile sections in middle-elevation forests, but extensive mid- to upper-elevation tracts are protected in North Cascades National Park, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and several wilderness areas. Lower elevations are vulnerable. Ponderosa pine forests have been logged selectively, resulting in the removal of a large proportion of mature trees. Fire suppression threatens open woodlands of ponderosa pine and Garry oak by allowing other tree species to mature and outcompete them. Overgrazing in the grassy understory has promoted replacement of native grasses and forbs by exotic invasives such as knapweeds and cheatgrass. The coal mines around Cle Elum have closed, but large-scale resort development there has introduced another form of habitat degradation.

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Abundance Code DefinitionsBird Checklist

C=Common; F=Fairly Common; U=Uncommon; R=Rare; I=Irregular
BirdJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Greater White-fronted GooseRRUUR RUUR
Snow GooseRRRRR RRRR
Cackling GooseUFFU RFFU
Canada GooseCCCCCCCCCCCC
Tundra Swan RRR RR
Wood Duck UFFFFFFURR
GadwallFFFFFFFFFCCC
Eurasian WigeonRRR RRR
American WigeonCCCFUUUUFCCC
MallardCCCCCCCCCCCC
Blue-winged Teal UURRUU
Cinnamon Teal UUURRUU
Northern ShovelerRRUUU UUURR
Northern PintailRRUUU RRUUR
Green-winged TealUUUUURRUFFFU
CanvasbackUUUUR RUUUU
RedheadUUUUR RRUUU
Ring-necked DuckFFUURRRRRUFF
Greater ScaupUUUUR RUUU
Lesser ScaupFUUUURRUUFFF
Harlequin Duck UUUU
Surf Scoter RR
White-winged Scoter RR
BuffleheadCCCCU RUFCC
Common GoldeneyeCCCUR UFCC
Barrow's GoldeneyeRRRUUUUUUURR
Hooded MerganserCFFFURRRUFFC
Common MerganserCCCCFFCCCCCC
Red-breasted Merganser RR
Ruddy DuckFFUUR RUUUF
ChukarUUUUUUUUUUUU
Gray PartridgeRRRRRRRRRRRR
Ring-necked PheasantUUUUUUUUUUUU
Ruffed GrouseFFFFFFFFFFFF
Spruce GrouseRRRRRRRRRRRR
White-tailed PtarmiganRRRRRRRRRRRR
Dusky GrouseFFFFFFFFFFFF
Sooty GrouseFFFFFFFFFFFF
Wild TurkeyUUUUUUUUUUUU
California QuailCCCCCCCCCCCC
Pacific LoonRRR RRR
Common LoonCCCCFUUUCCCC
Pied-billed GrebeFFUUUUUFFFFF
Horned GrebeCCCCU UFFCC
Red-necked GrebeRRRUU UUURR
Eared GrebeRRRUU UURRR
Western GrebeUUUUURRFFUUU
Clark's Grebe RR
Double-crested CormorantUUUURRRRUUUU
American Bittern RRRRRR
Great Blue HeronCCCCCCCCCCCC
Black-crowned Night-HeronRUUUURUUURRR
Turkey Vulture UFFFFFFU
Osprey RFFFFFFU
Bald EagleFFFURRRRRUFF
Northern HarrierRRRRRRRRRRRR
Sharp-shinned HawkUUUFUUUUUFFU
Cooper's HawkUUUUUUUUUFFU
Northern GoshawkUUUUUUUUUUUU
Red-tailed HawkCCCCCCCCCCCC
Rough-legged HawkRRRR RRR
Golden EagleUUUUUUUUUUUU
American KestrelFFFFFFFFFFFF
MerlinUUU UUUU
Peregrine Falcon RRRRRRR
Prairie FalconRRRRRRRRRRRR
Virginia RailRRRUUUUURRRR
Sora UUUUUU
American CootCUUUUUUFCCCC
Sandhill Crane RUR RR
KilldeerFFCCCCCCCCCF
Spotted Sandpiper UFFFFFU
Solitary Sandpiper R RR
Greater Yellowlegs RUR UUUR
Lesser Yellowlegs R RUR
Western Sandpiper R UUR
Least Sandpiper UR UFUR
Baird's Sandpiper R
Long-billed Dowitcher RUFU
Wilson's SnipeRRRUUUUUUURR
Bonaparte's Gull RR
Mew Gull R
Ring-billed GullCCCCCCCCCCCC
California GullUUFCCCCCFFUU
Herring GullUUUUR RUUU
Thayer's Gull RR
Glaucous-winged GullUUUUR RUUUU
Caspian Tern RRRUUUR
Black Tern RR
Forster's Tern RRRR
Rock PigeonCCCCCCCCCCCC
Band-tailed Pigeon RR
Mourning DoveFFFCCCCCFFFF
Barn OwlUUUUUUUUUUUU
Flammulated Owl UUUR
Western Screech-OwlUUUUUUUUUUUU
Great Horned OwlFFFFFFFFFFFF
Northern Pygmy-OwlFFFFFFFFFFFF
Spotted OwlRRRRRRRRRRRR
Barred OwlUUUUUUUUUUUU
Long-eared OwlUUUUUUUUUUUU
Boreal OwlRRRRRRRRRRRR
Northern Saw-whet OwlUUUUUUUUUUUU
Common Nighthawk RCCCF
Common Poorwill FFFFFF
Black Swift UFFUR
Vaux's Swift UCCCCC
White-throated Swift UFFFFU
Black-chinned Hummingbird RRR
Anna's HummingbirdRRRRRRRRRRRR
Calliope Hummingbird FFFF
Rufous Hummingbird FFFFF
Belted KingfisherFFFFFFFFFFFF
Lewis's WoodpeckerUUUUFFFFUUUU
Acorn WoodpeckerRRRRRRRRRRRR
Williamson's SapsuckerRRRUUUUUUURR
Red-naped Sapsucker FFFFFF
Red-breasted SapsuckerRRRUUUUURRRR
Downy WoodpeckerFFFFFFFFFFFF
Hairy WoodpeckerFFFFFFFFFFFF
White-headed WoodpeckerUUUUUUUUUUUU
American Three-toed WoodpeckerUUUUUUUUUUUU
Black-backed WoodpeckerUUUUUUUUUUUU
Northern FlickerCCCCCCCCCCCC
Pileated WoodpeckerUUUUUUUUUUUU
Olive-sided Flycatcher UFFUR
Western Wood-Pewee CCCCF
Willow Flycatcher RUUUU
Least Flycatcher RR
Hammond's Flycatcher RFFFFFR
Gray Flycatcher UUUUR
Dusky Flycatcher RFFFFR
Pacific-slope Flycatcher RUUUUR
Say's PhoebeRRUUUUUUURRR
Ash-throated Flycatcher UUUR
Western Kingbird RUUUUR
Eastern Kingbird RUUUR
Loggerhead Shrike RRRRRRR
Northern ShrikeURR RUU
Cassin's Vireo UFFFFU
Warbling Vireo CCCCR
Red-eyed Vireo RUUU
Gray JayFFFFFFFFFFFF
Steller's JayCCCCCCCCCCCC
Western Scrub-JayFFFFFFFFFFFF
Clark's NutcrackerFFFFFFFFFFFF
Black-billed MagpieFFFFFFFFFFFF
American CrowCCCCCCCCCCCC
Common RavenCCCCCCCCCCCC
Horned LarkRRRRUUUURRRR
Purple Martin RRRRRR
Tree Swallow UFCCCCCR
Violet-green Swallow CCCCCCC
Northern Rough-winged Swallow FFFFFU
Bank Swallow UFFFFR
Cliff Swallow FCCCFR
Barn Swallow UCCCCFUR
Black-capped ChickadeeCCCCCCCCCCCC
Mountain ChickadeeCCCCCCCCCCCC
Chestnut-backed ChickadeeFFFFFFFFFFFF
BushtitRRRRRRRRRRRR
Red-breasted NuthatchCCCCCCCCCCCC
White-breasted NuthatchFFFFFFFFFFFF
Pygmy NuthatchFFFFFFFFFFFF
Brown CreeperFFFFFFFFFFFF
Rock Wren UUUUUU
Canyon WrenRRRUUUUUURRR
Bewick's Wren RRR
House Wren FFFFFU
Pacific WrenUUUFFFFUUUUU
Marsh Wren RRRRRRRR
American DipperUUUUUUUUUUUU
Golden-crowned KingletCCCCCCCCCCCC
Ruby-crowned KingletUUUFCCCCCCCF
Western BluebirdRRUFFFFFUURR
Mountain BluebirdRRUFFFFFURRR
Townsend's SolitaireUUUUFFFFUUUU
Veery FFFRR
Swainson's Thrush FCCCF
Hermit ThrushRRRUFCCCFRRR
American RobinCCCCCCCCCCCC
Varied ThrushFFFFFFFFFFFF
Gray Catbird FCCCC
Sage Thrasher RRRRR
European StarlingCCCCCCCCCCCC
American Pipit UUUUUUUR
Bohemian WaxwingIII III
Cedar WaxwingFFFFCCCCFFFF
Orange-crowned WarblerRRRFCFFFCURR
Nashville Warbler UCCCCU
Yellow Warbler RCCCFR
Yellow-rumped WarblerUUUCCCCCCFUU
Black-throated Gray Warbler UUUUU
Townsend's Warbler RCCCCFR
Hermit Warbler UUUU
American Redstart RRR
MacGillivray's Warbler UFFFFFU
Common Yellowthroat RUUUUUR
Wilson's Warbler RCCUUFR
Yellow-breasted Chat UUUUR
Western Tanager FCCCCF
Spotted TowheeUUUCCCCCCUUU
American Tree SparrowRRR RRR
Chipping Sparrow UCCCCCU
Brewer's Sparrow RRRRR
Vesper Sparrow UUUUUU
Lark Sparrow UUUUUR
Savannah Sparrow URRRUUR
Fox SparrowRRRUFFFUUURR
Song SparrowCCCCCCCCCCCC
Lincoln's Sparrow RFFFFFFUR
Swamp Sparrow RR
White-throated Sparrow RR
Harris's Sparrow RRR
White-crowned SparrowCCCCCFFFCCCC
Golden-crowned SparrowUUUUU RUUU
Dark-eyed JuncoCCCCCCCCCCCC
Black-headed Grosbeak FCCFU
Lazuli Bunting FFFFU
Red-winged BlackbirdFFFCCCCCCCFF
Western MeadowlarkUUFFFFFFFUUU
Yellow-headed Blackbird UUUUUR
Brewer's BlackbirdUUUUFFFFUUUU
Brown-headed CowbirdRRRUCCCCCURR
Bullock's Oriole CCCU
Gray-crowned Rosy-FinchRRRRRUUURRRR
Pine GrosbeakRRRRRRRRRRRR
Purple FinchUUUUUUUUUUUU
Cassin's FinchRRUCCCCCFRRR
House FinchCCCCCCCCCCCC
Red CrossbillFFFFFFFFFFFF
White-winged CrossbillIIIIIIIIIIII
Common RedpollIII III
Pine SiskinUUFCCCCCFFUU
Lesser GoldfinchUUUUUUUUUUUU
American GoldfinchFFFCCCCCFFFF
Evening GrosbeakFFFFFFFFFFFF
House SparrowCCCCCCCCCCCC

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