[Tweeters] Lewis County Unicorn

Tim Brennan tsbrennan at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 14 21:33:36 PDT 2018

Hey Tweets,

Okay, I didn't find a unicorn in Lewis County, technically, but that doesn't mean they aren't down there! I'd say the same for Broad-winged Hawks and White-tailed Ptarmigan - the targets of my search on Unicorn Mountain today.

In my mind, I would reach the snowy heathery goodness right below the unicorn's horn, and would get two life birds at once as the hawk came down and plucked a ptarmigan from the ground, but alas. It was still a lovely hike/scramble, and the clouds did part a few times for stunning views of Rainier. Blueberries are ripe now as well. The highlight from the hike up to Unicorn, which starts on the Snow Lake Trail in MRNP, was probably a pair of Sooty Grouse walking fearlessly up to me as they fed on the trail. Having started around 8:30, there was actually a good bit of bird activity, including Cedar Waxwings, Hermit Thrush, Fox Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Purple Finch, and a Townsend's Solitaire.

The hike to Snow Lake is easy enough, and from the trail's end, there's a walk across a boulder field (marmot and pika), and. . . I don't know exactly when something becomes a scramble, but it felt like a scramble before reaching the open fields below Unicorn Peak. I'm not a climber, but this was pretty manageable. Three raptors rode thermals upward before crossing over the ridge and heading south during the two and a half hours I spent at the top, but two were Red-tailed Hawks, and the third didn't give me a good look, but seemed like one too. Sadly this was the full extent of the raptor migration here. Seemed like a good ridge to try, anyway, and there is a ptarmigan sighting there on eBird, so it was certainly a hike with some possibilities.

>From Rainier, I did bird some other spots in Lewis County to finish up the afternoon: Coming down Highway 12, I stopped near Packwood when I saw a grouse on the side of the road - a Ruffed Grouse this time! Riffe Lake (mud but no shorebirds) and the Trout Hatchery on the Cowlitz (Black Phoebe reports in the last week) were not really productive stops, although there was some interesting tension created at the hatchery when a deer was approached by a Killdeer. . .

Happy birding,

Tim Brennan
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