[Tweeters] Cascade Burn Woodpeckers - Sometimes You Win/Sometimes You Lose...We Lost

Blair Bernson blair at washingtonadvisorygroup.com
Wed Jul 9 09:47:57 PDT 2014

After the Ebird and Tweeters posts lauding the
Cascade Burn on the slopes of Mt. Adams as a
Woodpecker Wonderland, Susan Myers, Ann Marie Wood
and I left Seattle bright and early yesterday
(4:30 a.m.) and headed to the burn. The LONG (5+
Hours) drive was helped by good company, good
weather, no traffic and the anticipation of
woodpeckers everywhere.

Heading up Hwy 142 from Highway 14 and then ip Mt.
Adams Recreation Road, we were feeling good with
birds in the fields and on the wires. Nothing of
note, but seemingly a good start. Our optimism
increased when once on Forest Service Road 80 we
found a very close Ruffed Grouse in beautiful
light that posed for pictures. We moved on to
Forest Service Road 8040 and were pumped up when
we came across the first burn area and turned our
attention to the scarred trees with the various
reports from Matt Bartels, Jim Danzenbaker, Karl
Anderson, and Dave Irons providing both adrenaline
and direction. This is when reality began to
overtake fantasy and the remainder of the trip was
sadly disappointing.

The BOTTOM LINE despite hours of hard work was:
ZERO THREE TOED WOODPECKERS (and maybe hearing a
distant tapping that could have been one), TWO
BLACK BACKED WOODPECKERS that we found only by
following tapping heard in the distance and
working our way some distance uphill into one burn
area; perhaps a half dozen HAIRY WOODPECKERS -
each a wonderful bird but very disappointing when
we were able to determine that they were not one
of the more sought after specialties; THREE
WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKERS including a pair at a nest
right on the road which was a highlight of the
trip; ONE NORTHERN FLICKER. We met other birders
on the journey who had also diligently sought the
specialties. They had found NO BLACKED BACKS and
two brief sightings (one by each of two groups) of
a female THREE TOED. Also we had ZERO of the
other birds that were reported and we hoped for at
the camp prep area. NO CLARK'S NUTCRACKERS or
CHICKADEES. (Other birders had none either.)

Some background and possibly helpful information
for others: (1) We had never been to this area
before and had the "seemingly" precise directions
from the aforementioned super birders to go on on
- but in this new place to us, those directions
were confusing to apply "on the ground"; (2) It
was VERY hot yesterday - with bright sunshine and
temperatures in the upper 80's; (3) the burn area
is HUGE - miles and miles; (4) as mentioned in
some of the reports but not really appreciated
until after the experience by us, there are
pockets of smaller burn areas quite far down
(meaning early on the ascent) on FSR 8040 and the
"real burn area" is several miles further up; (5)
since we had the long drive to get there and spent
so much time in the lower areas, we did not reach
what is probably the prime burn area until fairly
late (around noon) when it was really hot and
bright and (6) the references to "the end of 8040"
were confusing to us, as the best of the burn area
(we think) is on FR 500 according to our GPS etc.

There are few guarantees in birding although with
the numbers of the Black Backed and 3 Toed
reported we felt that this was going to be close
to that. Each of the three of us has had grfeat
birds at the end of chases and also other
disappointments. Susan is a top professional
guide with WINGS and some of her stories of her
misses throughout Asia helped console us. A day
of great birding even if without some of the great
birds and with the disappointment of not being
what it might have been.

On a "redo", we would get there much earlier in
the day, we would go directly to the top of the
route and work down and ... we would have gone at
least a week or so earlier. The burn is fabulous
habitat and the birds are obviously there
somewhere. I plan to return in late June next year.

Blair Bernson

More information about the Tweeters mailing list