[Tweeters] a fun trip to the Naches Pass area yesterday (mostly King County)

Evan Houston evanghouston at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 4 13:02:58 PDT 2015

Hi Tweeters,
Jordan Gunn and Scott Ramos joined me for a trip to the Naches Pass area on 7/3/2015, where we focused on a few sites that sometimes offer up fun high-elevation birds, including King County specialties.  Here are the highlights in order of our stops:
On Forest Service Road 70, just after MP 15, we jolted to a stop to watch a male Sooty Grouse foraging along the edge of the road.  His likely very small brain was not at all bothered by the proximity of our car, and he kept on coming closer, allowing Scott to get this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OshfE6DQ4o
Naches Pass: we walked from the signed trailhead to the upper end of Government Meadow, and we beat the ATVs:- BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER - we heard, and then had extended great looks at a male not far from the start of the trail.  We didn't have time to locate the nest tree, but its behavior indicated that it was foraging for food to bring back to a nest, have they been noted to nest here before?  Scott's video shows the bird flying away with a food item just after picking up a prize:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJOjwl7v4sE- Pine Grosbeak - at least 3 different singing birds along the trail!  Photo by Jordan:  http://tinyurl.com/ncvghvv- Nashville Warbler - at least one bird, not commonly noted during breeding season in King County- Clark's Nutcracker - flyover of a silent bird
Windy Gap: Our early start at Government Meadows allowed us to get here in late morning, in time for a few raptors to soar, most of which were Turkey Vultures. - NORTHERN GOSHAWK - This one was not a "vulture false alarm"!  A huge accipiter glided over the ridgeline, and through binoculars and scope we could see that it was carrying a ground squirrel-sized mammalian prey item.  This was a long-awaited King County lifer for me, and having it be an adult Gos carrying food made it a true birding highlight.  Jordan was able to use the full extent of 50x zoom on his camera to get this picture:  http://tinyurl.com/qccl9rm- CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD - we stopped at a patch of flowers about a half mile on the forest service road before reaching the main parking area for Windy Gap, which harbored a number of Rufous Hummers and this pleasant surprise, photo by Jordan:  http://tinyurl.com/pvg2pbj- ROCK WREN - in same place I saw it ~3 weeks ago, seems to have set up a territory on the rocky slope on the Kittitas Co. side- additional King County specialties included Mountain Bluebird (just fledged young:  http://tinyurl.com/p7m8mxd  ), Cassin's Finch, and breeding sparrows:  Chipping, Fox, and pugetensis and gambelli subspecies of White-crowned Sparrow side-by-side
Kelly Butte:  - On my trip about 3 weeks ago, I came here first, and highlights included a Golden Eagle and a Rock Wren, today in the mid-afternoon heat it was mostly dead, with the best highlight being several Townsend's Solitaires and a good workout.
A few notes:- High-elevation birding can be very hit or miss, and this area is no exception.  Factors in our favor yesterday included the sunny weather and no early morning fog, and the fact that we met in Seattle at 3:45am to get an early start!- Even if you don't see any unusual birds, it's fun to see and hear the regular birds that breed up here, including MacGillivray's + Yellow-rumped + Nashville + Wilson's Warblers, Fox + Lincoln's + White-crowned + Chipping Sparrows, and of course the background chorus of thrushes such as Hermit + Varied.- Google maps usually does a decent job using the coordinates of the hotspots of the above sites from eBird, but email me if you want a word document that has extended directions and site descriptions.
Good birding,Evan HoustonSeattle, WA


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