[Tweeters] SAS Mt. Rainier Trip 8/17

Jon Houghton jon.houghton at hartcrowser.com
Tue Aug 19 10:57:49 PDT 2014

On Sunday, Cara Borre and I led a group of 10 eager birders on a fairly rigorous, but rewarding hike up Mt. Fremont and First Burroughs Mountain above Sunrise in Mt Rainier NP. Most of us left the Ravenna P&R about 0640 and met up with Cara in Enumclaw about 0730. Arriving at the Sunrise parking area about 0900; skies were clear and winds were calm. We set out through the picnic area, finding an abundance of Mountain Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Cassin's finches (mostly lacking any pink), and Chipping Sparrows. We had briefer looks at Cedar Waxwings, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Western Tanagers, with a nice flyby from a Prairie Falcon. An immature Red-tailed Hawk also passed by and was later seen multiple times during the day. Thanks to Cara carrying her scope, we had great views of all the perched birds.
Heading up the trail through the waning summer flowers (and leap-frogging a group from Tahoma Audubon!), we had our first Common Raven, Mountain Bluebirds, and our only Northern Flicker of the day. An immature Cooper's Hawk made a dramatic and close flyby, appearing quite large and leading some of us (me) to have visions of Goshawk. We also saw the first of many Pine Siskins for the day. At Frozen Lake we had marvelous views of the Prairie Falcon streaking over the lake and then being joined by a second bird. On the trail from the Lake up to Mt. Fremont, we met George Gerdts and Sarah Piden coming down with bad news on our target Ptarmigan (no show for them). But, the krumhollz along the trail had more Mountain Bluebirds, as well as Orange-crowned Warblers and Chipping Sparrows. In the valley below, we watched a close interaction between the immature Red-tailed Hawk and an American Kestrel.
The summit of Mt. Fremont was a bird-free zone except for a lone raven, but the views and a flock or mountain goats made it all worthwhile. Disappointed (we had White-tailed Ptarmigan and Horned Lark there 2 weeks ago, and Sarah reported Gray-crowned Rosyfinches on Saturday), we headed back down, seeing the same birds as on the ascent except...we saw an unusual congregation of Mountain Bluebirds moving down the slope towards us while hovering (kiting?) about 10 - 15 feet in the air before plunging to the ground to grab some juicy insect morsel. At times there were 3 to 5 birds hovering in a parallel line!
Back at Frozen Lake, we had a unanimous vote to head down, by going up - First Burroughs, that is. Both Cara and I had seen American Pipets up that trail in the previous couple of weeks. Sure enough, only about 500 yds up the trail, we found them, quite close to the trail - lifers for a couple of folks in the group! Reaching the top of First Burroughs in a swirling (but not cold?!) fog, we quickly located a pair of Horned Larks. Taking a left at the trail junction (about 1500), we ran into a few birds near the first of the stunted white bark pines. An immature Horned Lark, more American Pipets, and a couple of pretty plain sparrows that seem to have been Brewer's (to be verified based on photos).
Down near the stone masonry viewpoint over the snout of the Emmons Glacier and the origin of the White River, we encountered a very large mixed flock of Pine Siskins and Mountain Chickadees that included Cassin's Finches, RB Nuthatches and along with Townsend's Warblers and a quick fly by from a Rufous Hummingbird. The lovely hike down past Shadow Lake and back up to the parking lot yielded quite a few birds but no new species. Along with the goats, marmot, ground squirrels, chipmunks were common along the hike (along with one nice male deer (aka a buck) but, as usual, the diminutive pikas stole the scene. On the day we had just 24 species but enjoyed great looks at some pretty cool birds.
Jon Houghton, Edmonds

Jon Houghton, Ph.D.
Principal; Senior Marine/Fishery Biologist
Jon.Houghton at HartCrowser.com<mailto:Jon.Houghton at HartCrowser.com>
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