Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The North Cascades
I was up at 5 AM yesterday to make the drive from Hermiston, OR up to the Wenatchee area on the eastern slope of the North Cascades mountains in Washington state. I stopped about an hour south of Wenatchee to bird for a couple of hours in the morning. It was nice to see some new habitat and the birds that came with it such as evening grosbeaks and swainson thrushes. The highlight was seeing both male and female rufous hummingbirds which was a new bird for the year.
I stopped birding to make it up to Wenatchee to a bar in time to catch the World Cup final between the Dutch and Spain. The game went into overtime before the Spanish finally scored the only goal of the game to win their first ever cup. The Dutch have been bridesmaids 3 times now.
I then tried to bird just north of Wenatchee but there was a small fire in the area and the sheriff would not let me drive up the forest road. So I went a bit further north, and tried another forest road which I had to myself for an hour, but it was quite hot by early afternoon and there were not many birds about. Undeterred, I stopped to buy some super fresh rainier cherries and drove another hour north to the small town of Mazama where my Washington bird guide said there was a place that had hummingbird feeders. On my way I found 2 vaux's swifts feeding over a river with a bunch of violet-green swallows.
I arrived at the North Cascades Base Camp to find that since the guide was published in 2003, it has had 2 different owners. The 2nd owner, a husband and wife with 2 young kids, had just moved in during the last month. They did not have any feeders up yet, but they told me another birder had come by since they took over the lodge also because of the reference in the bird guide.
I ended up staying the nite, and had a very nice time talking with the wife, her mother and her son and daughter. And early this morning the husband called a woman he knew about back down the road in Twisp, the town from where they had moved, who he thought could help me out with seeing a calliope hummingbird. Sure enough she said to come on by her place. So I drove back to Twisp, and spent over an hour watching calliope, black-chinned and rufous hummers feeding at her wealth of flowers and her sugar feeder. We also had a nice chat about birds and farming (she had been a market gardener for many years).
After a hearty breakfast in Twisp I began the drive up thru the North Cascades mountains. This is an area that I have not been in since my 20's when I did some backpacking there. Back then it seemed like it rained on me most of the time, but today it was sunny. No matter the weather, these mountains are very beautiful, and it felt great to be back in them.
I stopped at Rasar SP to see what might be about. The photos above of a red-shafted flicker (top) and 2 pileated woodpeckers (bottom) were representative of my overall day since I also saw both red-naped and red-breasted sapsuckers, and a downy woodpecker. Remember to click on the photos to make them bigger.
I then drove another hour to catch the ferry over to Port Townsend. At the ferry dock I saw, and clearly also heard, several northwestern crows. The Olympic peninsula is the only area in the lower 48 states where this crow can be seen, and even then there is some dispute about whether you saw it or the much more common american crow. Based on the bird guide range maps and the bird's call, you have to make a judgment call, which I did.
The past 2 days added 37 more birds for this week, and the calliope and rufous hummers plus the swift and the crow bring the YTD up to 639. Tomorrow I will be up especially early to drive up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic NP in search of a sooty grouse. Stay tuned!