Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Olympic NP

I spent last nite in Sequim, WA which is just down the road from Olympic NP where I was hoping to find a sooty grouse. I was up at 4:30 AM to make the 1 hour drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge in the park. Once I was on the park roads I saw no other cars. I was told by a birder from Seattle who I met in Florida back in February that sooty grouse were "thick" up on Hurricane Ridge. I saw none on the road on my way up, so I parked the truck and walked the trails at the top of the ridge. I saw the sun come up over the mountain tops, and many deer that seemed almost tame. I also spied at some distance a very large black bear sauntering up a distant slope (top photo above--click on photo to enlarge). But after 90 minutes of walking the trails no sooty grouse made an appearance.

I did run into a couple who told me that they had seen a sooty grouse on Deer Park Rd yesterday, so I headed back down the mountain. But I first stopped at the Heart 'O the Hills campground to look for pacific-slope flycatchers. I heard them calling as soon as I drove in, and fairly quickly saw 3 different birds singing, calling and eating. I then made the drive up Deer Park Rd which is a one lane gravel road for its last 8 miles as it winds its way up a mountain. No grouse walked out on the road on my way up or down.

The middle of my day ended up being all about truck maintenance. An oil change at a Jiffy Lube that did not rotate tires meant I next went to Les Schwab where they told me that my front brake pads were finished, but they did not have the parts to fix it. That sent me down the road to the local Toyota dealer where the brakes were fixed.

I then decided to test the new brake pads by driving back up Deer Park Rd. Again there were no grouse on the road, but at the very top I parked and took the short trail that wrapped around the top of Blue mountain. A Birder's Guide to Washington said that sooty grouse could be found in the trees. The bottom photo was taken while walking the trail. You can see how steep the sides of the peak are. As I entered a small section of trees I flushed a female sooty grouse that flew down the mountain and out of sight.

Finding the grouse was a big get since grouse in general can be difficult to locate. My new brakes worked just fine as I drove back down the mountain, and over to Bremerton for the nite. 4 more new birds were seen for the week, and the grouse and flycatcher bring the YTD total to 641. Tomorrow I will be looking for mountain quail and hermit warblers. Stay tuned!