Saturday, August 31, 2019

White-tailed Ptarmigan--NO

In my eBird account I have 14 checklists from 14 different hikes on Mount Rainier, dating back to 2011.  14 times searching for White-tailed Ptarmigan.  14 times dipping on White-tailed Ptarmigan.  Will I ever learn?

Probably not.  As long as there's a really cool bird I have never seen lurking around one of the most stunning landscapes in the Pacific Northwest I will always want to try again.  This week I spent three days up at Mount Rainier National Park with Tweets and Chirps Audrey, hiking our butts off and even sometimes relaxing.  Here's the story.

Day 1:  Hiking from Sunrise to the Fremont Lookout, camping at White River Campground.

We arrived at Mount Rainier in mid-morning and quickly claimed a campsite before heading to Sunrise to start hiking. 


Mormon cricket?  Not a frog.

 Mountain goats

 Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Bluebird

The hike up was fairly tame and getting warm, though we managed bad views of a flock of Gray-crowned Rosy-finches.

When ptarmigan are seen on this trail they are generally seen around this fire lookout.  Nope.  And so we hiked back down.

 Another alpine potato

We took the slightly longer way down via Shadow Lake and found some Canada Jays.

Many wildflowers were past prime and I barely took any photos of them.  But here's some lousewort:

Coiled beak lousewort (Pedicularis contorta)

We headed back to camp as it was pretty warm and I was drained.  The campsite we had chosen that morning was in lovely shade by a creek with easy access to the bathroom.  It was so big I couldn't fit both our tents in a picture.

Day 2:  Hiking to Second Burroughs Mountain, moving campgrounds.

We were at the Sunrise parking lot well before sunrise and began our hike in the dark. 

The sun began to come up and we started hearing and seeing birds.  I was confident this falcon we saw zip by was a Peregrine till I looked at photos.  Total Prairie.

We checked for chickens all along the trail and made it to Second Burroughs fairly early.  Still no ptarmigan.

A flock of Gray-crowned Rosy-finches landed at the top and gave us decent views for a bit.

View of the Fremont Tower 

 Hoary marmot

 We searched all over this area before throwing in the towel and heading back down via Frozen Lake. 

Horned Lark

American Pipit

 Just past Frozen Lake we found a flock of Mountain Bluebirds and Yellow-rumped Warblers hawking insects. 


When we were on top of the mountain we had cell service and we learned there had been two eBird reports of ptarmigan the week before on a trail near Paradise.  We decided to change things up and move campsites to Cougar Rock, the campground closest to Paradise.  Audrey made a friend immediately:

After we got our tents set up it was still pretty early so we drove up to Paradise to hang out.  The Exhibit area of the Visitor Center had our only ptarmigan:

And the inn had our only beers:

Day 3: Hiking Paradise to Panorama Point, High Skyline, Pebble Creek then home.

We started on the Skyline Trail in the dark, getting most of the elevation gain done before sunrise.

In the trees shortly before Panorama Point we found a small mixed flock that included a Western Tanager and a Warbling Vireo. 

The vireo flew uphill and landed briefly on the rope fence. 

We followed the trail up past Panorama to the High Skyline Trail where no ptarmigan were lurking but a Clark's Nutcracker was pondering things.

These footprints were on the trail but not sure what they are.

These signs should be everywhere:

We confirmed the absence of ptarmigan before deciding to head back down the mountain. 

Over 7000 feet elevation, Mount St. Helens in the distance

The marmots along the Skyline Trail are more ridiculous than the marmots near Sunrise.  They will sit two feet from the trail chowing down, not giving an eff about anything.

We were most of the way down the trail back to Paradise, less than a quarter mile to the parking lot, when we saw a couple standing quietly on the side of the trail looking through binoculars.  I noticed a deer in the brush, then a Sooty Grouse, then two young grouse. 

A perfect way to end our trip to Mount Rainier, with finally seeing some wild chickens. 

Looks like I'll be going back next year, which I really cannot complain about.

Good times!!!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Lincoln City this week

For my birthday this week I decided to spend four days out at the Lincoln City house.  Jacob was able to join me for most of those days, but my first night and morning I was on my own.  The first evening I took the mutts up to one of the clearcuts to tire them out.

The next morning I wanted to check out the Salishan Nature Trail (outside the future 5MR) for possible shorebird action. 

I was initially a little annoyed that they were mowing the golf course that borders the trail but forgot I was annoyed when I encountered a flock of Bushits.  County bird!  Ha!  Such a ridiculously easy bird in PDX, but not quite as common at the coast I guess.

These vast mudflats were promising and I could see tons of shorebirds in the distance but I didn't have my scope.  I picked out some Semipalmated Plovers but that was it.  The trail was birdy though!

Hairy Woodpecker

Marsh Wren (County bird #2!!)

Song Sparrow feeding time

Lots of fun birds here including Wrentits, Band-tailed Pigeons, crossbills, yellowthroats, and many more. 

The next day was my birthday which began with a dog walk at East Devils Lake State Park. 

With those guys tired we were free to get some tasty breakfast and head out for some cloudy then rainy birding. 

The Wildflower Grill has both awesome pancakes AND a wetland with a Green Heron.

With full bellies we drove south to check out Cannery Slough which definitely looks like it has good potential.  Purple Martins were abundant here and I assume that's what this youngster is:

A Peregrine appeared and was escorted away by the martins.  Nice and quick little roadside stop.  From here we went back to 101 to head south to try the Salishan Nature Trail again with a scope.

The scope helped...somewhat.  Low tide is probably not the ideal time to look for shorebirds here because the birds end up way far away from the trail.  Lesson learned.  Even so we were able to pick out some Leasts and Westerns and this flock of Whimbrels:

We followed the trail that leads out to the ocean beach and found two Semipalmated Plovers on the sand.

Overall it was less birdy than my walk there the previous day, but more shorebirds identified so that was good. 

Earlier that morning I noticed an eBird checklist from the local sewage ponds that I did not know existed.  The hotspot says "restricted access" but we decided to give it a shot anyway and I'm so glad we did.  At the office the guy told me all we had to do was sign in and out, and keep our car parked in the office lot.  Easy peasy, sewage for everyone!

Immediately we saw there were plenty of shorebirds, ducks, swallows and more to keep us busy.

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs together!  And both county birds!

This one peep we kept trying to turn into different things but I think it's just a dirty-legged Least.

This dowitcher would be a county bird if I could tell which kind it is:

There were tons of swallows here and they conveniently were landing on a wooden railing.  Convenient for picking out two more county birds!

 Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Tree Swallow 

This is a great spot!  And surprisingly it hasn't been eBirded all that much.  Best of all it's in the future 5MR!

Back at the house we enjoyed some birds that have been regular at the feeders for over a week, a pair of Red Crossbills.

The next day we went for a walk through the Friends of Wildwoods Open Space near our house, then headed to a new-to-us beach access. 

Friends of Wildwoods was lovely though uneventful.  The 15th Street beach access was a bit more exciting.

Complete with a Dodge Charger stuck in the sand

I had read that there are tide pools at this beach access but it was an eBird report full of rockpipers that got our attention. 

 Even though there were a bunch of people climbing on the rocks there were still lots of birds.

Plenty of each, 5MR Black Turnstones and Surfbirds!  

So cool.  This week I picked up 7 Lincoln County birds and added a dozen birds to my future 5MR list.  Great success all around!