I spent a few hours birding above Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. It was cold and very windy when I arrived, but conditions gradually improved.
This is not a site to wrack up a long bird list. After three and a half hours of birding, I ended this trip with 12 species. The top eBirder for this site has only accumulated 33 species (I have 31). But I still try to visit at least once a year. The site is unique in that you can drive to the treeline on a paved road, and find high elevation species that you won’t find anywhere else so close to Portland.
The best bird of the day was this Black-backed Woodpecker, who made a brief appearance on this isolated snag before flying back down slope to the forest.
This Townsend’s Solitaire was near the woodpecker. I got two photos before the bird flew off, one blurry and one with the bird looking away.
With its gravel and fine volcanic ash, Mount Hood above the treeline would look much like the surface of the moon were it not for the abundant wildflowers and the occasional Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel.
still not on the moon
There are usually a couple of Common Ravens hanging out near the parking lot. This one was feeding on an apple core.
While photographers generally try to avoid harsh midday sunlight, the intense light brought out some nice highlights on this Common Raven.
It was another tough day above Timberline Lodge, but there is always something to see.
I hiked from Timberline Lodge to the snow fields above Silcox Hut. My main target was Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. I missed the finches, but there is always something fun to see on the mountain. There were a lot of skiers and snowboarders on the remaining snow fields. I don’t know how you expect to find Rosy-Finches while going that fast, but to each their own.
Several Clark’s Nutcrackers were hanging out near the lodge. This species can be quite tame, but the ones near Timberline tend to be shy and keep their distance. Perhaps I need to carry more snacks.
Lupines were one of several wildflowers that are currently in bloom.
A couple of Horned Larks were pretty cooperative.
This blurry creature is a juvenile Rock Wren. The pale sandy brown plumage had me stumped for a while, as the adults are more clearly marked with cold brown and gray colors and speckling.
No visit to Timberline is complete without Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, the Alpine Ambassadors of Cuteness.
Yellow-bellied Marmots reign over the higher slopes. The vegetation is so sparse here it is hard to imagine how these guys find enough to eat.
walking that fine line between majestic and adorable
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.
Timberline Lodge (Birding Oregon p. 74) is a great place to for some high-elevation birding in the Cascades. A good paved road leads right up to the treeline, and you can access the Pacific Crest Trail just uphill from the lodge. The parking lot is often full of tourists and skiers, even in late summer. But if you are willing to walk for a while, you can enjoy solitude and stunning scenery.
Brewer’s Blackbirds are common residents of parking lots in the Portland area, but it is nice to see them in a more natural setting here.
This female Brewer’s Blackbird is one of the small percentage of the population with pale eyes.
Mountain Bluebird, male
Mountain Bluebird, female
This pair of Mountain Bluebirds had built a nest in a gap under the eave of a small building above the lodge.
Lots of these little butterflies were feeding on the scattered wildflowers. My best guess is Acmon Blue.
The highlight of my long oxygen-deprived hike uphill from Timberline Lodge was this Yellow-bellied Marmot. He looks very regal in this pose.
I drove up to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood today. This is a great area to search for alpine species, and the paved road makes it easy to access. Autumn has settled in already, with a fresh dusting of snow on the mountain. The ground had frozen overnight, and the thawing this morning released a near constant stream of falling rocks on the gravel slopes. (While it looks very dramatic when covered in snow, Mount Hood is actually a big pile of gravel and fine volcanic ash.) Most of the birds seem to have left the area around the lodge for lower elevations. I found a couple of Golden-crowned Sparrows, Robins, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. A flock of ten Common Ravens rode an updraft around the summit.
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels are common on Mount Hood.
After descending the mountain, I visited the meadows and forest around Little Crater Lake (Birding Oregon p. 75). Gray Jays and a Pileated Woodpecker were the bird highlights. The color of this little lake is an eerie turquoise. Despite the near 40′ depth, you can see the bottom in great detail.