[Tweeters] Chinook Pass sightings SNOW 10-29-06

Ruth and/or Patrick Sullivan godwit513 at msn.com
Sun Oct 29 19:45:29 PST 2006

Hello Tweets,

Today Jim Pruske and my mother and I ventured up to Chinook Pass for some mountain birding and hiking, and to enjoy these last few days before this area is closed for the winter. Before arriving to Chinook Pass our only good sighting of the day was a flock of 22 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE observed flying south along Hwy.410 over Bonney Lake in Pierce Co. As we continued towards the mountains the weather remained good,but windy at times and when we finally arrived to Chinook Pass the skies had cleared fairly nicely with just a few clouds with Mt.Rainier nearly engulfed in clouds. We noticed that many of the upper areas and surrounding ridgelines had a definite dusting of snow. We began along the Pacific Crest Trail and worked our way east towards the Dewey Lakes and gaining an elevation to 5900' before descending back to Hwy.410. We endured very stiff winds at times,but also calm areas but overall birding was extremely slow as we trudged along the frozen trail. Our first good sighting before gaining too much elevation was a nice cooperative NORTHERN PYGMY OWL that came into imitations of it's call. It entertained us for several minutes before finally flying downhill into more forested areas. We also ran into several Elk hunters along the trail,as well as on nearby hillsides all dressed in fluorescent orange clothing.

We arrived to one of 3 vantage points that overlook the Dewey Lakes along the Pacific Crest Trail,as winds prevailed much stronger with higher gusts. Skies remained fairly clear,but the wind was extremely brisk and fierce at times. We scoped the Dewey lakes and were able to locate a few fairly notable species for this location given the time of year,which included a Great Blue Heron,3 Buffleheads and 1 Common Merganser. After scoping the Dewey Lakes we worked from our half way point towards Hwy.410 with clouded views of Mt.Rainier to the west of us. From this point winds became even more stronger,but we were well equipped with heavy clothing. We arrived back to our vehicle at 2:30pm with a total of 3 hours spent hiking and not a moment too soon when light snow flurries began with no real accumulations.

Within 30 minutes the skies around us were entirely engulfed in low,misty clouds and the snow flurries only became more intense,but the snow was very dry and in small pellets. We sat comfortably in the warmth of our vehicle,as the wind remained strong and the snow showers continued. We decided to drop in elevation down to the parking lot at Tipsoo Lake,where our day ended. We sat for the first 45 minutes as clouds moved over and around,but soon the skies were completely clouded over and snow showers increased and became heavier and this time the roads and surroundings all became covered. We soon decided to head home since visibility was near zero and the snow followed us(being heavy at times)all the way down to well beyond the cut-off road to Crystal Mtn. along Hwy. 410 at an elevation of around 3200'. It was our first snow of the season,but it is late October!

A few other species of note from our hike a Chinook Pass included the following:

100+ waterfowl species(observed in 3 separate flocks flying over distant ridges east of Chinook Pass)
6 Red-tailed Hawks
1 Golden Eagle
15 Gray Jays
4 Clark's Nutcrackers
12 Mountain Chickadees
3 Chestnut-backed Chickadees(observed with several Mountain Chickadees at the Tipsoo Lake parking lot,where they are most like migrants at this location due to the elevation and habitat)
5 Varied Thrushes
40 Red Crossbills
250+ Pine Siskins

Good mountain birding,

Ruth and Patrick Sullivan
godwit513 at msn.com

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