Hart's Pass/Slate Peak LONG

Marv Breece mbreece at foxinternet.net
Mon Sep 2 18:39:31 PDT 2002

Friday night (8/31/02) I camped near Hart's Pass (near Mazama in Okanogan
Co). I awoke to the hooting of a GREAT-HORNED OWL. At 7AM I arrived at
Slate Peak and began to look for ptarmigan. I parked and walked the ridge
to my right. No ptarmigan. AMERICAN PIPITS were everywhere. Then I walked
up to and beyond the tower. About 1/4 mile past the tower I decided to find
a smooth flat rock with a view, sit quietly, and allow the ptarmigan to come
to me. They did.

Thirty minutes passed. It was 8:45AM. First I heard the gravel. Then
again, and again. As I looked in the direction of the sound, a head popped
up from behind a rock. I had seen a family of BLUE GROUSE last year in
almost this exact location. But the
grouse were in the foliage; this bird was in the rocks. After a few
seconds the bird stepped into full view. Then the mate. I was looking at a
pair of adult WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN! Full view, close range. I sat and
watched these birds for 2 hours. They ate seeds, flowers and leaves. They
seemed less than graceful as they slid around kicking gravel (thank
goodness!) and occasionally using their wings to gain balance.

The male was all gray above with red above the eyes. It was white below
with some black spotting on the breast. The sides of the tail were white as
were the primaries. The female was also white below with white primaries
and white outside tail feathers. Above, the female seemed not to have 2
feathers the same. A collection of light brown, gray, and black feathers.
Also brown and white barred feathers. The small size of these birds struck
me. They were about 12" from tip of bill to tip of tail.

At times, the birds seemed sensitive to me. At other times, it seemed that
they reacted to something I could not perceive at they stood motionless for
minutes at a time. During the 2 hours I watched them, there was a time when
they were left and right of me within 2 feet as I sat on the rock. They
chatted with each other constantly. The notes were high pitched and soft.
Believe me, it was difficult to walk away from these birds. I was hoping
they would leave first.

The rest of the day I looked for grouse. Saturday at Hart's Pass was sunny
and warm. Sunday was cold, windy and at times, rainy. Slate Peak was
socked in early in the AM on Sunday. At 9:30AM Sunday I drove up to 2
SPRUCE GROUSE alongside the road, in the rain. It was 9/1, the first day of
season, and a hunter had found these birds before I did. I finally find the
birds, and someone is shooting at them. The bad news: the hunter was
successful. The good news (for me): I got a good look at a SPRUCE GROUSE!

At the bottom of the road to Hart's Pass this morning (9/2), there was a
flurry of bird activity. In one tree were BLACK-CAPPED, CHESTNUT-BACKED
AND MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES! I don't believe I had seen this before. Also at
this location were a lone WILSON'S WARBLER, a CASSIN'S VIREO and a WESTERN
TANAGER. A NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL tooted in the distance.

Other birds seen this week end at Hart's Pass:
Sharp-shinned Hawk-1 moving thru
Red-tailed Hawk-5
Golden Eagle-1 imm
American Kestrel-1 local
Peregrine Falcon-1 moving thru
Horned Lark-many
Yellow-rumped Warbler- all over
Townsend's Warbler- a few flocked w/ YRWA's
MacGillivray's Warbler-1 female local
Lincoln's Sparrow- 2 locals
White-crowned Sparrow-many on the move
Red Crossbill-2

No luck with Boreal Owl, Boreal Chickadee, WW Crossbill or Pine Grosbeak.
No complaints.

It was a good week end.

Marv Breece
Seattle, WA

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