[Tweeters] Sooty Grouse Down Low

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Feb 20 11:26:38 PST 2013

Maybe not all Washington State Sooty Grouse make that mountain climb each year in Winter.

In the vicinity of Wildberry Lake, Mason County you can see Sooty Grouse. This area, sometimes called the Tahuya Peninsula, is the land that is inside the 'hook' of lower Hood Canal. A low plateau of around 400 ft above sea level, with bluffs and ravines running down to the Sound. Although somewhat mutilated by the DNR and others, it is a remarkably wild area of the Puget Sound lowlands. According to that great tome of Washington ornithology, 'Birds of Washington' (Jewett et all) not all Sooty Grouse make an attitudinal migration.

The grouse of Wildberry would have to fly across Hood Canal to do a mountain hike, something I'm not sure a grouse is capable of. Alas, my sightings of Sooty Grouse in the area predates my era of journal keeping, so I don't have records of Winter views. Also of note in the area are Gray Jays and Snowshoe Hare's, which most of us probably associate more with "Canadian Zone" forest, Yet here they are just above sea level. It really is a wild area.

Back in the day (pre white guy period) you probably could have seen Sooty Grouse, Gray Jay's, Varied Thrush breeding right in Seattle, in that great ancient forest. In mid August a few years ago I was walking in one of the last remnants of old-growth on Orcas Island (near Mountain Lake, Moran State Park) when I heard a mob of birds up high- a flock of Varied Thrushes nagging a Barred Owl. I presumed the thrushes breeding there. Some of the attitudinal migrations we seen now, might be the birds trying to find some acceptable remaining habitat.

Jeff Gibson
Everett Wa

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