[Tweeters] Sunrise - a moUNTain of bluebirds

Marcus Roening marcus at rainierconnect.com
Mon Aug 1 10:19:06 PDT 2016

Hi Tweets,

Sunday at Sunrise in Mount Rainier NP was one of those glorious days at the Park that you just don’t want to leave – so we stayed. The early morning started with the classic Puget Sound low cloud cover and concerns about hiking IN the clouds. As we wound our way up to Sunrise, it wasn’t until the second to the last hairpin that we popped out above the cloud layer and there was Mount Rainier was shining in the sun in all its glory.

Heather and I hiked toward Shadow Lake near the campground first and found a nice mix flock of warblers containing Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped and NASHVILLE WARBLER – which can be a tough bird to find in Pierce County. The biggest surprise was my first ever gull at Sunrise – a juvenile CALIFORNIA GULL, paddling around in this subalpine lake.

We continued up to 2nd Burroughs Mountain for lunch, where we shared our space with the ever attentive Townsend’s Chipmunks and Golden-mantled Ground-Squirrels, and 2 HORNED LARKS. One bird was an adult, but it was the juvenile that was the real target bird. I just love the big white eye ring and their scaly brown back – it is quite striking. I remember the first time I found one, without the parent, on Chopaka Mountain creeping through the grass and I kept trying to turn it into some kind of shorebird. Finally, I got a clear look at its very short legs and learned all about juvenile Horned Larks. As a bonus, we saw 43 Mountain Goats on First Burroughs with lots of new kids in tow.

Since the weather was so dang nice, we decided to go to Fremont Lookout in idle hopes of finding White-tailed Ptarmigan, but no luck today. What we did find on the way back down as we neared Frozen Lake were Mountain Bluebirds – and lots of them. It is always exciting to see these sky blue birds in the subalpine areas and when we ran into 3 families in a row, we were pretty excited. It was certainly the most we had ever seen at Sunrise.

As we walked down the final stretch of trail toward the Visitor Center at 5:30 pm, I could see more small flocks of birds moving towards us, flying between the small clumps of Subalpine Firs. Suddenly, they were flying over us, loudly calling their ‘Feu’ notes and we watched thunderstruck as groups of 5-10 Mountain Bluebirds passed by. We counted up to 70 MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS flashing their blue and I know we didn’t count them all – quite the spectacle! There were definitely birds further up the hillside moving through and we ran into several more small groups of bluebirds moving along the road as we drove out.

It was a good day to be birding (and I didn’t even mention the amazing wildflower display!),

Marcus Roening
Tacoma WA

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