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Crier August 2011 - Yakima Valley Audubon Society

Calliope Crier
The Yakima Valley Audubon Society is people dedicated to the enjoyment and
preservation of the natural world. Through birding, education and conservation activities
in our community, we raise awareness and promote the cause of global environmental
Volume 40, Number 07
A Chapter of the National Audubon Society
August 2011
The Ponderosa Pine Forest
Presented By Andy Stepniewski
Heading up into the Cascades from the Yakima Valley
the first forest type you encounter is the Ponderosa Pine Zone,
the classic dry forest of the
American West. The wonders
of this picturesque forest has
been celebrated annually for
more than 40 years by Washington State Auduboners at the
nearby Wenas Memorial Weekend. It turns out there is an
amazing diversity of plants and
animals in this dry forest type,
as documented by a number of
scientific studies. I will introduce you to this ecosystem and
its various plant community
types. I will focus on the birds
associated with each of the
communities, and especially on
declining species such as White
-headed Woodpecker and Flammulated Owl. Both of these
species are dependent on mature trees, becoming scarce on
account of the high timber
value of this forest.
Join us at the meeting
on August 25 at the
Yakima Arboretum!
What’s in this Crier Edition?
“On the 11th of August we commenced to descend the eastern slopes
of the Cascade range...and found ourselves in quite a different natural
Cooper, 1853
Program for this Month
President’s Report
YVAS Meetings
No Kiddin’ - Kids Found Birds!
Conservation: Shrub Steppe Project Sites
Field Trips
Tip of the Crown, Wag of the Feather
3, 6
4, 5
Reporting Color-Banded White-headed Woodpeckers
Membership Form
Visit the Yakima Valley Audubon Society’s website at:
Page 2
August 2011
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I just drove by the grass
fire at 16th Ave and Highway 12. It was a fairly
impressive fire. However,
I got to thinking about one
year ago when we had the
big fire at Snow Mountain
Ranch at Cowiche. Now
that was a grass fire! By
Bill the Bird Charmer
making regular visits, one
Photo by Jan Gano
can see how quickly the
vegetation starts to return,
even in our desert. To see the progression from
scorched black to green is really uplifting.
I am sure that everyone is saying "Yakima Audubon" when they make their purchases at the Yakima CO
-OP. We get a rebate on every purchase and it does not
need to be bird related. Well, Robin the store manager
(what a great name) has suggested we try a Bulk Seed
Sale this fall. We are envisioning bringing in a large
shipment and selling it at a discount. The Audubon
chapter in the Tri Cities has done this for several years
with good success so it can be done. Look for more
information on this as plans firm up.
All the hummingbirds around my feeder must mean
Fall migration is starting. Time to look for those shorebirds at Wenas Lake.
Aug 25
Sep 13
Chapter Meeting at the Yakima Area
Arboretum at 7:00 pm.
Board Meeting at Bill Drengjuis’s
house (7708 Popularview Dr.,
965-5808) at 7:00 pm.
Welcome New Members:
Yakima: Jane Mortimer
Thank you for renewing your YVAS Membership!
Earl Derry, Dan Kinney, Sara Cate & Russell
Maier, Joyce Hernandez, Jheri Ketcham,
Joan Miler, Susie Lattomus, Betty Peterson,
Don Sattler, George & Susan Vlahakis
Union Gap: Louise Sisk
Selah: Maia & Bob Mittelstaedt
Naches: Carol & Jack Roth, Katherine Vornbrock
Sunnyside: Myra Dorsey
Seattle: Jennifer Kauffman, Rick & Ann Matsen,
Martha Taylor
Please note that the above membership renewals are for Yakima
Valley Audubon membership. Renewals to National Audubon
are separate and are not listed here.
NO KIDDIN’ – Kids Found Birds!
If you were to choose a time to introduce kids to the joys
of watching birds, it might not be a warm midday in July.
That was the time for the ―Kiddin’ Around‖ bird walk at the
Yakima Area Arboretum. With the life-sized, anatomically
correct bird models that Yakima Audubon acquired with a
grant, and some life-sized photos, the walk was a rousing
success. Nine Auduboners, and two Arboretum volunteers,
led about twenty kids and as many adults on the bird walk,
which was part of the Yakima Greenway’s summer activity
program designed to get kids outdoors.
We had specially made ―field guides‖ and a checklist that
made identification easy. To quote Spencer Hatton’s July
31, 2011 column in the Yakima Herald-Republic ―You can’t
go wrong spotting a Ruby-crowned Kinglet when it is fixed
to a tree limb in broad daylight.‖
Thanks go to Bill Drenguis, Arboretum co-director Colleen Adams-Shuppe and her son, Denny Granstrand, Dotty
Armstrong, Ellen Stepniewski, Jim Hertel, Kerry Turley,
Mike Roper, Richard Repp, and Vera Backstrom for helping.
— Ellen Stepniewski —
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Priority Shrub Steppe Project Sites for South Central Washington
Yakima Valley Audubon Society is a member of the South
Central Washington Shrub Steppe and Rangeland Conservation
Partnership formed in 2006. This is a volunteer organization
developed to facilitate collaboration among public and private
entities interested in conserving shrub-steppe. The Partnership
focuses on shrub-steppe in Benton, Yakima, Kittitas and Grant
Counties. A diverse ownership of shrub steppe exists in this
area; the U. S. Army, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington
State Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the Yakama Nation own
the largest non-private parcels. Smaller scattered tracts are
owned by DNR and BLM. Private lands surround these public
and tribal ownerships. Land use decisions and changes are being made daily that can affect the habitat and species in this
area. Many of these decisions and changes will be adversely
affecting habitat quality. To stem or reverse habitat loss, conservation easements or fee title acquisition are important tools the
Partnership can use to maintain habitat quality in high priority
As background, the shrub- steppe ecosystem is extremely
threatened in Washington. Approximately 60% of this unique,
fragile ecosystem has been completely lost. Agricultural development was historically the most important cause of habitat
loss. Residential development, military training, hazardous
waste cleanup activities at Hanford, large scale wildfire, inappropriate grazing by domestic, feral and wild grazers, renewable energy development, new agricultural water delivery projects and proposals for new water storage threaten remaining
shrub steppe.
Wildlife species dependent on the shrub steppe plant community have correspondingly been impacted. The Greater SageGrouse, once common and abundant in eastern Washington, has
declined to approximately 1100 birds statewide. Roughly 200 of
these birds remain in the focal area and are almost entirely dependent on the Yakima Training Center for habitat. The imperiled condition of this federal candidate and state threatened species is a primary driving force for numerous shrub-steppe conservation actions at the national and state levels.
Ferruginous Hawks have experienced a similar fate and have
been listed as a state threatened species since 1983. Their core
nesting range has contracted to southeastern Washington with
only 35 active territories documented in 2010. Numerous other
shrub-steppe obligate species have experienced population declines in response to habitat loss. Black-tailed and White-tailed
Jackrabbits, Burrowing Owls, Golden Eagles, Sage Sparrow,
Sage Thrasher, and Sagebrush Lizard are all candidates for state
listing as threatened or endangered.
Given the imperiled status of the shrub-steppe ecosystem
and associated wildlife species, the Partnership formed to collaborate on conservation efforts in the focal area. The Partnership developed a conservation strategy plan to direct conservation to our highest priority areas.
Of immediate importance is the planning being undertaken
for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project. A
water storage project is proposed in Lmumma Creek drainage in
Kittitas County. Under the proposal, a new Wymer Dam would
be constructed to create an off-channel storage facility that
would hold approximately 162,500 acre-feet of water. The reservoir behind the dam would flood the creek, basalt cliffs, and
shrub-steppe vegetation impacting plants and wildlife. The approximately 15,000 acres of private ranch land that contains and
surrounds the creek is currently being proposed as a mitigation
site through fee title acquisition to offset habitat losses from
inundation. The Partnership offers several alternative high priority sites for acquisition in case this primary mitigation site is
not available for protection.
The Partnership utilized existing plans and studies completed at the state and regional level to guide decision-making
and set priorities. These past efforts were directed at either conserving biological diversity and/or imperiled species. The ultimate deciding factor was the landowner’s interest in working
with us. There are certainly other sites within the focal area that
also possess high ecological and public value; however, it was
decided to only include those sites where opportunity exists to
work with willing landowners.
Priority #1: Wymer Reservoir Project Area (Eaton Ranch):
This 15,000 acre working ranch lies between the Yakima
Training Center and WDFW’s Wenas Wildlife Area. This is the
number one priority for protection because of its immediate
proximity to the proposed reservoir. This parcel’s landscape
context and large size has also elevated the priority for this project. Radio-equipped Greater Sage-Grouse have been documented traveling across the site in between the YTC and
WDFW land. Golden Eagles currently nest and Ferruginous
Hawks historically nested on the site. Bighorn Sheep commonly
move between the site and WDFW land and a resident group
lives there year-round. Habitat on site is present for numerous
other species including Townsend’s Ground Squirrel, Mule
Deer, Rocky Mountain Elk, Black-tailed Jackrabbits, Sage
Thrasher, Sage Sparrow, and American Badger. Threats to the
site are abundant. Housing developments are creeping up the
slopes from Ellensburg and Selah. Energy companies have installed towers to determine the best places to install wind tur-
Conservation Article — Continued on page 6
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Please call the leader before the trip to let him/her know you are interested in going.
That way, if plans need to be changed, he/she can call you. Also, if no one calls, the
leader will know to cancel the field trip and won’t be sitting around at the meeting
place all alone! Be sure to wear clothing appropriate for the weather and take
lunch, snacks and beverages. Also please make a contribution to the driver for gas
when you carpool.
Sep 10
Sept 24
Fort Simcoe – We will scour Fort Simcoe for migrating birds that should be filling the trees at the park. Resident
species include Lewis’s Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Steller’s Jays and Ash-throated Flycatchers
may still around. Contact Denny Granstrand ([email protected] or 453-2500); meet at the Sears parking lot
west of IHOP on Valley Mall Blvd. at 8:00 a.m.
Clear Lake – Kokanee salmon spawn in the creek between Rimrock Lake and Clear Lake, creating a feast for
many species of birds. The salmon are quite a spectacle themselves. There should also be migrants and montaine
species to seek out. Meet leader Dan Kinney (452-3670 or [email protected]) at 40th Ave. Bi-Mart at 8:00 a.m.
Please contribute for gas when you ride on field trips
With high gas prices it is important for all participants to contribute for gas. Based on four people in a car, here
are the totals per person: 100 miles driven on the trip — $5.00 each; 150 miles — $8.00 each, 200 miles — $10.00
each; 250 miles — $13.00 each; 300 miles — $16.00 each. Please pay your share; if drivers have to pay most of
the gas bill, they may quit driving.
This month’s
tip of the crown
goes to all those
individuals who
marvel at some
aspect of a bird’s
life and then
share their wonder with others.
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Photo by
include everyMike Roper
Audubon family, but lest we forget, also includes many mortals lacking attachment to any nature-orientated organization.
Earlier this month, a co-worker of my sister-in-law shared
a few photographs of hummingbirds that were subsequently
emailed to me. I deemed them to be male and female Blackchinned Hummingbirds.
The photographer, Debi
Roberson, relayed that a male and female(s) had spent the
spring and summer sipping sugar solution at her home near
the Union Gap School. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are the
only one of our county’s three breeding hummers that remain
to nest at lower elevations in the valley. However, the breeding records I am aware of seem to occur in more rural or
fringe areas such as Andy and Ellen Stepniewski’s Parker
Heights home, Ron and Debie Brown’s Konnowac Pass
sanctuary or Larry and Doris Robinson’s Nile Valley villa.
As hummingbirds are one of the more iconic birding attractions, I am now wondering if more Black-chinned do breed
inside the boundaries of the valley’s cities. Is there a trend
developing where hummers are expanding their breeding
range into areas where they were once just migrants?
Perhaps the city of Union Gap is taking birders back to
school. Denny Granstrand’s homework included following
up on a group of Black-billed Magpies playing hooky behind
the school’s bus barn. One of these clever corvids was reputed to be wearing a disguise to insure anonymity. It took
our intrepid truancy officer several trips but he eventually
came away with photographs of the gray clad magpie. While
true albino birds are pure white with red eyes, birds that have
paler than normal plumage fall into the leucistic category.
For a definition of leucism we turn to the Cornell Lab website:
Tip of the Crown, Wag of the Feather — Continued on page 5
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August 2011
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Tip of the Crown, Wag of a Feather — Continued from page 3
Photos of the Black-billed Magpie and a leucistic Black-billed Magpie were taken by Denny Granstrand
―Leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin from
being deposited normally on feathers. Typically birds with
abnormally white feathers do not survive long because they
are so much more visible to predators. Those that do survive
may have trouble attracting a mate. Consequently, the mutated genes that cause albinism and leucism are less likely to
be passed on to a new generation. If you are ever fortunate
enough to see one of these oddly plumaged birds, consider
yourself lucky!
Melanins occur as tiny granules of color in both the skin
and feathers of birds. Depending on their concentration and
location, melanins can produce colors ranging from the darkest black to reddish browns and pale yellows.
Melanin provides more than just coloration. Feathers that
contain melanin are stronger and more resistant to wear than
feathers without melanin. Feathers without any pigmentation
are the weakest of all. Many otherwise all white birds have
black feathers on their wings or black wingtips. These flight
feathers are the ones most subject to wear and tear. The
melanin causing the tips to appear black also provides extra
Pigment colorization in birds also comes from carotenoids
and porphyines in addition to melanin. For more information, visit:
Another marvel and share story originated in the northeast corner of Terrace Heights. A songster of varied repertoire serenaded Kim Naasz as he worked in his garden. Finally, a glimpse and a few notes struck a chord for Kim who
is a beekeeper with scores of colonies near his home. A call
to Denny Granstrand resulted in several birders making a
beeline for Terrace Heights where a nervous search for the
purported Northern Mockingbird may have caused a case
or two of hives among the anxious birders.
The buzz over the Mockingbird’s two-day stay was barely
dying down when Denny received an email from Lamont
McLachlan, a self-described new birder. Lamont included a
few photos of a raptor he found just off of Hwy 410 near
Bald Mountain Road. The consensus at press time indicates
the bird to be a Broad-winged Hawk, another county rarity.
The broad appeal of relocating this raptor combined with
high water at Wenas Lake retooled the scheduled Aug 13
shorebird field trip into a bueto quest along the Chinook Pass
Highway. Although the trip netted close to 40 species, a
Cooper’s Hawk was the lone raptor.
On July 10, Andy and Ellen drifted south along Hwy 97
stopping at dense pockets of White Alder occurring in the
Satus Creek drainage. At two stops, Red-eyed Vireos were
found singing in this habitat. Best part, to catch these redeyes it wasn’t necessary to roll out of bed pre-dawn; these
birds were singing in the warmth of mid-day.
Last month, we touched upon the mystery of Turkey Vultures roosting in residential Yakima in the midst of the
breeding season. This roosting behavior has continued as
evidenced by Lori Isley’s running recount of at least two
Turkey Vultures gliding in the late evening towards the intersection of Barge and Gilbert Avenues. According to Diann
MacRae of the Olympic Vulture Study, these city roosters
are most likely birds that have not yet attained breeding
status. Diann stated that literature indicates it might take
three years for Turkey Vultures to become breeders.
So, a gentle wag of the feather to encourage us all to share
not only unique birds but also the mystery and/or joy that
even the common species gift us with.
Please send your bird sightings to: [email protected]
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Conservation Article — Continued from page 3
bines. Public ownership through fee title acquisition of the site
is the preferred conservation action. Several environmental and
governmental organizations have agreed to this proposal. Landowner interest in this proposal is uncertain at this time and
therefore the following alternate sites are provided.
Priority #2: Rattlesnake Mountain (McWhorter Ranch):
The Rattlesnake Mountain project located in Benton County
will protect 14,000 contiguous acres of ecologically unique
shrub-steppe. A parcel of this size offers a rare opportunity to
conserve habitat connectivity and buffer existing conservation
lands. Hanford Reach National Monument and the Sunnyside
Wildlife Area protect the north side of Rattlesnake Mountain.
This acquisition will protect a substantial portion of the south
side. Ferruginous Hawks, among other species, are targeted for
conservation. The project site is at the nexus of a concentration
of territories. Wind turbines, houses and vineyards are being
developed on the ridges and fields this shrub steppe specialist
needs for nesting and foraging. Acquisition will abate these
threats at the project site for the hawk and other listed/priority
species including Burrowing Owl, Long-billed Curlew, Townsend’s Ground Squirrel, American Badger, Black- and Whitetailed Jackrabbit, Sage Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, elk and Mule
Deer. Conservation and outdoor recreation groups have identified this property as a priority for protection. Documented support has been received from the Benton County Commissioners
and Parks and Recreation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Richland Rod and Gun Club, Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society, Tapteal Greenway, Friends of Badger Mountain and many
others. To date we have secured approximately half the funds
needed to complete the acquisition. The landowners intend to
sell the ranch as soon as possible and therefore our time is short
to raise the remaining funds.
Priority #3: Cowiche Watershed (Emerick, Van Wyk, Lenz/
Trepanier, Tieton Cattle Company):
The Cowiche Watershed project in Yakima County targets
several parcels of critical and diverse habitats in the shrubsteppe/dry forest transition zone of the south central Cascades
slopes. We are working with several landowners and partners
who are interested in either fee title or easement acquisition.
Priority habitats present and in good to excellent condition include: stream, riparian, shrub-steppe, oak woodland, cliffs and
talus. Targeted terrestrial species include raptors, bat guilds
associated with cliffs and riparian draws, primary cavity nesting
woodpeckers (White-headed Woodpecker), and shrub-steppe
obligates. The target aquatic species are steelhead and Bull
Trout (both listed as threatened), Coho (recently re-introduced)
and West-slope Cutthroat. Other listed and priority species include: Sage Thrasher, Loggerhead Shrike, White-breasted Nuthatch, Vaux’s Swift, Lewis’ Woodpecker, Greater Sage-Grouse,
and elk. Partners include: Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, North
Yakima Conservation District, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy. The need for protection is
driven by conservation value, imminent threat (subdivision and
development), and current opportunity (willing landowners).
Advancing subdivisions are approaching this key habitat and
regulatory protections will not adequately protect priority species, habitat or landscape connectivity.
— Andy Stepniewski —
Figure 1. Locations of the proposed Wymer Reservoir and high priority shrub steppe project sites in the South Central Washington Shrub Steppe and Rangeland Conservation Partnership focal area.
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August 2011
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Reporting Color-Banded White-headed Woodpeckers
As some of you know,
I have been studying the
reproductive biology of
White-headed Woodpeckers (WHWO) in Yakima
County for the last 9 years
and still ongoing. This
year, I am teaming with a
PHD student, Teresa Lorenz from the University
of Idaho, on a project to
color-band and affix radio
transmitters to WHWO in
the areas of the Nile, Wenas, Rimrock, and Bethel
Ridge (as well as Leavenworth). Teresa is studying the home-range size of
WHWO and also longevMale White-headed
ity and dispersal using
Photo by
color-bands. We have
banded adults and some
George Vlahakis
nestlings in each of these
areas and one of each pair has a radio transmitter. We are asking birdwatchers (or anyone!) to please report color-banded
birds to Teresa and I (e-mail addresses below). Each bird has
two color bands on one leg and one color-band and one metal
band on the other leg. When reporting the colors, please report
them in the order of Upper Right (UR), Lower Right (LR), Upper Left (UL), and Lower Left (LL). Also, right and left are the
bird's proper right and left leg (imagine yourself as the bird and
your arms as their legs). Getting the order and colors correct is
paramount to successful observations. The colors we used are
pink (P), mauve (M), yellow (Y), red (R), orange (O), and green
(G). Please denote the
metal band as "X" instead of "M" which
would be confused with
If you have access to
a GPS, please denote
the location and report
the coordinates. If not,
please give as accurate a
description as possible
of where you observed
the bird and the date
and the confidence of
your observations of
colors...even if it is only
one leg. This information will be vital, especially for nestlings that
Female White-headed
Teresa has banded as
Photo by
we don't know where
Denny Granstrand
those birds will end up.
Teresa's study will
be going on until 2013 I believe and I plan on color-banding
birds in my historical study areas even after Teresa's study is
My e-mail is: [email protected] or
[email protected] Teresa can be reached at:
[email protected]
Thank you for your time and your assistance with this important project! If you have any questions, please feel free to
contact us directly.
Good birding,
— Jeff Kozma —
Join or renew your annual membership to the Yakima Valley Audubon Society to receive ten issues of the Calliope
Crier and all chapter membership benefits.
Yakima Valley Audubon Membership …………………………………….$25
Yakima Valley Audubon Senior (62+)/Student Membership …………..$15
___ I do not wish to receive any solicitation or communications from NAS (please check if applicable)
NAME _________________________________________ PHONE ____________________
ADDRESS ________________________________________________________________
CITY __________________________________________ STATE _____ ZIP __________
E-MAIL ADDRESS __________________________________________________________
Please make your check payable to: Yakima Valley Audubon Society
Send the form and your check to:
YVAS Membership
P.O.Box 2823
Yakima, WA 98907-2823
If you have any questions, please call Debie Brown at 248-3878
The Gentleman Peep
Non-profit Organization
It is time for
fall Postage
migration. Paid
Fall means
WAcoming. Be on
that the shorebirds
38 Sandpiper.
the look-out
for theNo.
Yakima Valley Audubon Society
P.O. Box 2823
Yakima, WA 98907
This champion long-distance migrant
winters in Southern South America and
breeds in the northernmost high Arctic.
Return Service Requested
Baird's Sandpipers basking at Wenas Lake in the golden glow the late
evening sun. Photo by Denny Granstrand, altered for effect by Elizabeth Bohn.
Adult Description
Small to medium-sized sandpiper. Short neck. Moderately long, slightly drooping bill. Moderately
long legs. Long wings extend past end of tail on resting bird. Dark center of rump and tail. Fairly
distinct chest markings. Back scaly, with whitish edges to dark back feathers in some plumages.
printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper
The Yakima Valley Audubon Society meets on the fourth Thursday of January, February, March, April, May, August, September, and
October at 7 pm at the Yakima Area Arboretum, located at 1401 Arboretum Drive, Yakima, WA. Guests are welcome at these meetings.
The Annual Meeting of the Society is held the first Thursday of December at 6 pm. The Board of Directors meets each month except
December at 7 pm at locations announced in the Calliope Crier. Members may attend Board meetings; however, please notify the host
because of possible space restrictions.
Vice President
Bill Drenguis
([email protected])
Kerry Turley
([email protected])
Vera Backstrom
([email protected])
Ellen Stepniewski
([email protected])
Jan Gano
([email protected])
Bob Wahl
([email protected])
Standing (Voting) Committee Chairs:
Audubon Hoegar Preserve Leslie Wahl
([email protected])
Audubon Refuge Keeper
Kerry Turley
([email protected])
Bluebird Trail
Richard Repp
([email protected])
Jenny Snyder
([email protected])
Field Trips
Denny Granstrand
([email protected])
Fund Raising
Dan Kinney
([email protected])
Newsletter Editor
Special Committees:
Bird Rehabilitator
Debie Brown
[email protected]
Elizabeth Bohn
([email protected])
Andy Stepniewski
([email protected])
Connie Hughes
([email protected])
Bird Reports
Richard Repp
([email protected])
Bluebird Trail
Richard Repp
(sponsorship records)
Important Bird Areas
John Hebert
[email protected]
Denny Granstrand
([email protected])
Volunteer Recognition
John Hebert
([email protected])
Toppenish NWR CBC
Andy Stepniewski
([email protected])
Yakima Valley CBC
Denny Granstrand
([email protected])
Yakima Valley Audubon Voice Mail
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