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!!!


  1. Best dip ever. With dips like this, almost hope you keep dipping so you have an excuse to keep going back.

    1. So true! I probably won't make the pilgrimage once I finally see a ptarmigan.

  2. Aw man, too bad you didn't have any cool scenery or other wildlife as consolation!


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