[Tweeters] Birding in Paradise: Ptarmigans, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, and More

wheelermombi at comcast.net wheelermombi at comcast.net
Sun Oct 9 08:51:40 PDT 2011

Good morning Tweeters,

Dave and Sherry Hayden, Barb McDowell, and myself spent the day birding in the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier NP. We really lucked out with the weather as it was sunny to partly cloudy and very mild the whole day; I actually got a sun burn, which I wasn't expecting in October. We hiked up the Golden Gate Trail to Skyline Trail, and then continued on to a portion of the Upper Skyline Trail, not quite to Panorama Point, before heading back down to the visitor center on the same trail. We encountered snow on the ground about 2/3 up the Golden Gate Trail, but it was mostly a dusting and very easy to walk on most of the time. It became a bit slick on the higher section, but was easy to navigate with a bit of cautious walking.

Our target species were the ptarmigans and rosy-finches, and we easily found both. We encountered 4 WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGANS perhaps 1/4 of a mile above the intersection of the Golden Gate and Skyline Trails. There was 1 adult and 3 nearly grown chicks. All had an extensive amount of white coloration, but still retained some of their brown summer colors. This allowed them to blend in almost perfectly with the white snow and the protruding volcanic rocks and seemed to me to be an excellent camouflage for this time of the year. They also left numerous tracks in the snow, making them easier to spot. Lower down, off of the Golden Gate Trail, we also found ptarmigan tracks (and 1 feather), so they are definitely out and about.

We encountered the GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCHES along the Upper Skyline Trail, about 3/4 of a mile above the intersection with the Golden Gate Trail, a little beyond where the trail levels off for a while. A flock landed about 20 feet from me and stayed in view for a few minutes before moving on. I counted 10 birds, but there were probably a few that I missed as they were popping in and out of view.

Other species seen include: close up view of an adult and a nearly grown chick SOOTY GROUSE ( a good chicken day as Khanh would say), 1 GOLDEN EAGLE that seemed intent on removing the heads of a couple of hikers just down the trail from us (they said that it really gave them a good scare); 1 PEREGRINE FALCON; 1 SHARP-SHINNED HAWK; lots of GRAY JAYS; STELLER'S JAY; 1 NORTHERN FLICKER; MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES; RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES; PINE SISKINS; GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS; 1 BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (in the parking lot, unexpected at this elevation); 2 AMERICAN DIPPERS; 1 TOWNSEND'S SOLTAIRE; several flyby AMERICAN PIPITS (I wasn't sure if any would still be around this late in the year); VARIED THRUSH; AMERICAN ROBIN; DARK-EYED JUNCO; and COMMON RAVEN.

In addition to the birds, we saw 3 foxes. The first was a partially black individual basking in the sun just a few feet off of the Skyline Trail. It completely ignored us. The second was a beautiful black individual approaching the cars just after the parking lot at Paradise. The third was a much more reddish individual also looking for a hand-out a little farther down the road. We also saw 1 black bear, lots of hoary marmots, pika, black-tailed deer, 2 species of chipmunk and the impressively named Cascade golden-mantled ground squirrel.

Good birding,

Lonnie Somer
wheelermombi at comcast.net

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