I took my annual autumn trip up to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood this week. There were a few birds around, but none were feeling photogenic.
Above the tree line, Mt. Hood is a big pile of rocks and fine volcanic ash. The fine sand makes for strenuous hiking, especially when combined with the thinner air at this elevation. The open skies here can be good for raptors. On this day I just saw two Red-tailed Hawks, a Prairie Falcon, and several Common Ravens.
Nala took advantage of the glacial runoff to cool off and rehydrate. We kicked up an American Dipper in this stream.
The rivulets in the ravines form little pockets of riparian habitat. A pair of Townsend’s Solitaires were in this little clump of vegetation.
The Pacific Crest Trail runs through areas with a few more trees. Dark-eyed Juncos, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Pine Siskins, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were the most common species in this habitat. Nala would stop and rest in every little patch of shade she came to. She has a lot more stamina when she is swimming than she does when hiking in hot dry habitats.
When we got home we discovered that Nala had torn a pad on her paw. It is not too bad, but needs to be bandaged for a few days.
Nala and I walked part of the Pacific Crest Trail in Mt. Hood National Forest, starting at Little Crater Lake (Birding Oregon p. 75) and walking north for about seven miles before turning around. The edge of this old clearcut provides a view into the valley below. If it weren’t for the low cloud cover on this day, you would be able to see Mt. Hood in this photo.
As expected this time of year, the forest held very few birds. Once the nesting season ends in July, most birds on the west slope of the Cascades take off. For some reason, forests on the east slope maintain a higher species diversity. In five hours of walking, I found (in order of decreasing abundance) Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Red Crossbills, Gray Jays, American Robins, Swainson’s Thrushes, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Common Ravens, Dark-eyed Juncos, and singles of Brown Creeper (above) and Wilson’s Warbler.
There was plenty of evidence of woodpecker activity. The rectangular holes suggest Pileated Woodpecker.
Various berries provided a dash of color.
Nala on the trail
the wet meadow near Little Crater Lake
Here are some photos from a recent scouting trip to Mt. Hood for my upcoming Portland Audubon class.
Timothy Lake, a good spot to look for migrant loons and grebes
Varied Thrush on the shore of Timothy Lake
Clear Lake is very low this time of year, but still attracts waterfowl.
Greater White-fronted Goose on the shore of Clear Lake
Nala, the Birding Dog, after adding Greater White-fronted Goose to her life list. She apologizes for chasing the goose into the lake, but she just couldn’t help it.
A burned section of forest near Cooper Spur on the northeastern part of the mountain. Burned forest is a magnet for woodpeckers.
A really bad photo of an American Three-toed Woodpecker in the burn
The giant gravel pile that is Mount Hood, above Timberline Lodge
I spent a day exploring part of Mt. Hood National Forest along Forest Service Road 58 (Birding Oregon p. 75). A hot day in July is not the best time to find lots of birds, since singing has greatly diminished and there is so much great habitat for birds to hide in, but the scenery and solitude are well worth the trip.
Here is the view from the High Rock area, showing the peak of Mt. Hood and the forest in various stages of regrowth.
This area of the forest is a patchwork of clearcuts, young forest, and groves of mature trees. While not nearly so scenic, clearcuts are often very productive for certain species of birds and other wildlife.
Forest Service roads that are too rough for vehicles provide easy hiking routes.
The Bear Grass was in full bloom.
Pileated Woodpecker feeding site
A pair of Gray Jays responded to a pygmy-owl imitation. Despite their reputation for stealing food from picnic tables, I usually find Gray Jays to be rather shy.
This is the meadow near Little Crater Lake.
A pond in the meadow, with Mt. Hood peaking over the trees.
Always check muddy areas for tracks, like these from Black-tailed Deer.
Little Crater Lake