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.
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.
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.
Here are some photos from a recent scouting trip to Mt. Hood for my upcoming Portland Audubon class.
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.
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.