Thursday, June 3, 2010


Hatton Coulee, Western Washington—April 12, 2010:

We’ve been driving through the open, rolling plains of western Washington on our way to Yellowstone National Park. Miles and miles of sparse grass, sage, and huge fields, wheat fields I think. The furrows are sculpted against the grain of downward slopes. Hatton Coulee Rest Area is an oasis of planted trees. The English sparrows love this spot. Each year I look forward to a quick visit with them, the Spatzies.

The air is full of cheerful chitter. Spatzies are everywhere; in the shrubbery, on the parking lot and lawns, flying back from a brief foray to a nearby field, and most of all, setting up housekeeping in the straight row of 14 Lombardy poplars. It is the only place I’ve found where English Sparrows build nests in trees. English sparrows are famous for usurping all available nest boxes put out for bluebirds, swallows, etc. Reams have been written to help humans build birdhouses that foil the attempts of the English Sparrows. They also are adapt and squeezing into nooks and crannies of our buildings. It is hard to believe these bundles of exuberance are a pest in most places -- aggressive, unwanted little beasties. I, too, am unhappy when they throw out bluebird eggs and take over my chickadee nest box.

I’m happy to see them here. They build their own dwellings and clean up on scraps left by travelers. Their houses are quite the surprise. They look like prickly soccer balls, made out of small twigs and stiff stems and have a tidy little entrance hole. The trees host at least a dozen soccer balls and more on the way. It is a busy time of year for the Spatzies. I’d be disappointed if they went missing from here.

5:10 PM: We’re somewhere east of Missoula. Dale is singing a medley of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. I’m finally looking forward rather than worrying about what we forgot. The last week at home got really hectic. Three unexpected inhalers of time popped up; then we realized we were planning to take more stuff than the RAV is supposed to carry. We spent a lot of time weighing, and figuring out what not to take. I think I packed my lists of what to take and what to do … and by then I was so tired I didn’t care. Life is a bit of a mystery at the moment.


  1. Oh boy, I am already loving this journey.

  2. I thought I recognized the bird but had never heard it called English sparrow. I call them House sparrows. And I REALLY never heard them called Spatzie! In any case, I enjoyed the tale you told and the lovely image.

  3. I had never heard them called Spatzies before, either! We have them here in SW Florida, too, saw them in a magnolia tree just yesterday. I think they are nesting in the nearby building eaves.

    Wonderful sketch, and I always enjoy your writing.

    I'm passing on the Beautiful Blogger award to you (and also to Deb!)! I don't have an email address for you, so thought I would notify you here. Elizabeth

  4. Your sketch of the House Sparrow's nest is terrific. I think all the names fit them including Spatzie and English Sparrow. I also think it is funny that they even call them sparrows because they are actually Weaver birds. Just look at that nest. It looks like a woven basket. Don't you just hate it when the ornithologists change the bird names. With DNA testing the name changers are in their element.

  5. Regardless of what you call them, I love the sketch! Welcome back, Elva! Hope you had a marvelous trip.