Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mount St. Helens

Yesterday I decided to wake up at a ridiculous hour and drive up to Mount St. Helens to do my first proper hike on the mountain.  Well.  I had actually planned a short improper hike for flowers, but it turned proper when I ended up at the top of Harry's Ridge, four miles from the Johnston Ridge parking lot. 

My first stop was one of many viewpoints on the road to Johnston Ridge.

Varied Thrushes were calling, bats were swooping out of the sky, and a creature unseen was rustling around in the bushes.  Perfect.

I began my hike on the Boundary Trail at 5:30 a.m. in the company of nighthawks and Willow Flycatchers.

The flowers were spectacular as I had hoped, though this was definitely a case of quantity over diversity.

Around 6:30 I heard a coyote give a quick howl and a bark so I stopped to scan for it.  I never located the source, but he or she erupted in full blown howls with coyotes in several directions responding.  It was lovely.

The coyotes quit howling after awhile and I began to hear a Sooty Grouse.  Never saw it.  The trail began to hug a cliff face with all sorts of warning signs, though it didn't feel particularly dangerous.

And the view on the return hike later:

I stopped to eat a snack in a spot that was pretty birdy.  Slate-colored Fox Sparrows were hopping around the rocks and hummingbirds were chasing each other all over.  Mostly Rufous from what I could tell.

One landed super close to me and I shot off one photo without getting an actual look at the bird.  Looks Calliope-ish to me, eh?  Maybe just a young Rufous.

I continued along the trail and turned off at Harry's Ridge where the trail leads up to a fantastic viewpoint.

View of Spirit Lake which is still filled with dead trees from the eruption:

The Harry for which this ridge was named was famous for refusing to leave the lodge he owned on this lake in the months prior to the eruption.  Wikipedia quotes him as saying, "If the mountain goes, I'm going with it."  Him and his sixteen cats.  RIP.

From the top of the ridge there is a 360 degree view and I could even barely make out the parking lot, where the tiny arrow is in this photo:

To the left of the arrow is the Johnston Ridge Observatory which I unfortunately did not have time to visit.  Also at the top of this ridge I saw my first human, a fellow that was trail running.  He ran back down the ridge while I was poking flowers, and I didn't see a second human for another hour and a half.

Yet another view of Spirit Lake with St Helens.  

There were a couple kinds of penstemons near the top that I have yet to identify...

A tiger beetle was hellbent on scurrying away from me on the trail back down.

Cicindela purpurea

More good stuff along the trail... 

 Orange agoseris (Agoseris aurantiaca)

Tasty snacks...whatever they are... 

 To be identified... 


A couple sections of the trail were carpeted with lupine.  It smelled ridiculously amazing. 

I stopped at another birdy spot where hummingbirds were very much interested in me.

So, not the birdiest hike but pretty well-rounded with bugs and flowers and scenery and howls.  I definitely recommend it!  Good times!!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Post-Montana odds and ends

July has been so pleasant weather-wise that I have been out and about plenty, though my blog has yet to reflect that.  Let's catch up. 

On the way back from Montana I stopped at Turnbull NWR near Spokane to drive the auto tour.  This place has been on my radar for years merely because I once saw a photo on Flickr of a moose from this refuge.  No moose on this morning. 

Post-downpour grumpy owl

 The refuge was pretty tame in the afterglow of my Montana lifer bonanza, and the highlight was a Red-naped Sapsucker family.

Back in Portland I began hitting the local hotspots including Smith & Bybee Lakes and Broughton Beach. 

Beetle threesome at S&B

 Horned Lark at BB

 Least Sandpiper at BB

 Semipalmated Sandpiper at BB

 Coyote at BB

 Red-tailed Hawk at BB

Dead barn owl at BB

 Bonaparte's Gull at BB

I have been psyched that White-crowned Sparrows nested somewhere near my house for the first time since I've lived here.  The young along with Song Sparrows are often poking around under my feeder.

 Juv. White-crowned 

Juv. Song Sparrow

Weekly dog walks at Mount Tabor haven't turned up much of interest, though I was surprised to find a baby cowbird being fed by two different species one morning.  A Yellow-rumped Warbler was bringing it little worms, while a junco also brought it bugs.  I don't remember ever seeing that happen before.  I took a photo with my phone through binoculars:

Junco feeding cowbird on right while YRWA waits with more food.  

I've taken a few hikes lately, including a couple new ones to places I was curious about for one reason or another.   A couple weeks ago I checked out Rattlesnake Falls up near Husum, WA even though I knew ahead of time that the falls would not be falling. 

Still a pretty box canyon with bonus angry kestrels and a few wildflowers. 


Last week I hiked to Dry Creek Falls, a relatively unpopular falls in the gorge.  To get there you hike a couple miles along the PCT starting at the Cascade Locks trailhead, then hang a right when you hit a bridge.  It was rather pleasant.

I took a wrong turn in the middle of the hike and wandered a sunny stretch of a powerline trail.  This is where all the good insects were lurking.

A couple days ago T&C Audrey and I went up to Mount Rainier to cement the White-tailed Ptarmigan as my official nemesis bird.  It was (obviously) beautiful and marmots and other critters are always entertaining, even when ptarmigans do not cooperate. 

 A few Avalanche lilies

What trail?  Views of Adams and St. Helens in the distance

Hoary marmot

Along the Golden Gate trail we stopped to eat a snack.  Audrey had a packet of Wild Friends peanut butter that had melted and erupted out of the package when she opened it.  Wild friends showed up immediately to help clean up. 

Squirrel-chippy combo (Townsend's or Pine chippy?)

 At a nice lookout above Panorama Point on the High Skyline trail we found a few butterflies...

Anise swallowtail

 Edith's checkerspot I think

I have some new intel on a potential ptarmigan spot so we will be back for those jerks!

Good times!!!