[Tweeters] Sooty grouse family at Hurricane Ridge

Nathaniel Peters ncpeters at uw.edu
Thu Aug 15 14:46:16 PDT 2013


Hey Tweets,

My parents came into town this past weekend, and one of my father's primary
target birds for Washington was Sooty Grouse. We therefore decided on
Monday (8/12) to head out to the Olympic Peninsula and try for them at
Hurricane Ridge. We arrived at the Hurricane Ridge visitor center at
around 10am, before the place got too crowded, and the weather was warm and
misty, with intermittent sunshine.

We started up the High Ridge Trail from the parking lot (
http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=95481)
and came to the first clump of trees about 100 yards up the trail. I was
just thinking to myself to remember to call out "Sooty Grouse" and not
"Blue Grouse" if I saw anything, when I looked to my right and saw a large
brown bird perched on top of a rotting log about 50 feet off the trail to
the right. Needless to say, the first words out of my mouth were "DAD!!
Blue Grouse!!.......I mean Sooty!!! Sooty Grouse!!!"

The female soon began to give soft hooting calls and it quickly became
clear that she had a family nearby. Soon there were 4, quail-size grouse
milling around her feet and calling back and forth with the mother. As we
watched, the mother flew over our heads to a nearby tree, and the chicks
followed on the ground, crossing the path 5 feet away from us. We
continued to watch the family for about half an hour and showed them to
about 20 other people who passed by on the trail. For about half that time
they stayed in the trees, moving slowly uphill and engaging in some
vigorous dust-bathing. As they moved out into the open field, the young
birds began to jump up in the air and pluck the flower and grass heads off
the tops of the plants, as they were too short to reach them while
standing. Several times the birds walked right alongside the path or
crossed in front of us, and at one point I was within 10 feet of the entire
family. Finally, the mother moved up into some nearby rocks and called to
the family to follow. My father and I turned to each other and agreed that
we were........satisfied.......

Other than the grouse, the ridge was fairly quiet. We did get several
looks at hunting American Kestrel from above, Ravens were quite frequent,
and a Northern Harrier flew over at one point. We also had good looks at
burrowing Olympic Marmot. After we left the ridge and headed back down the
road, we stopped at the Heart of the Hills Campground at saw Townsend's and
Wilson's Warblers, Black-headed and Evening Grosbeaks, a Downy Woodpecker,
and an immature Red-breasted Sapsucker.

After a full and very satisfying day, we returned to Seattle. To make a
long story short, Hurricane Ridge is a fine place to look for Sooty Grouse,
at least at the right time of year.

-Nathaniel Peters
ncpeters at uw.edu
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