Mount Margaret Backcountry

In an attempt to escape the city for a weekend, my boyfriend and I headed to Mount Margaret Backcountry, a rugged and gorgeous setting north of Mt St Helens in the Blast Zone of the 1980 eruption.

Mt St Helens

We hiked 6 miles in to Panhandle Lake.

Panhandle Lake

It was here at our campsite that I was spoiled with an entire weekend of just the sounds of nature. One of the songsters that stood out was the Yellow Warbler! Yay! I was thrilled to spend more quality time with this one.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Another vocal singer I heard long before I spotted it on the treetops was the Slate-colored Fox Sparrow. The “chevrons” on the chest helped me narrow it down to Fox Sparrow, and the greyish upperparts and unique song helped me distinguish it from the four subspecies of Fox Sparrows.

Slate-colored Fox Sparrow Slate-colored Fox Sparrow IMG_9002

Many Flycatchers perched and sang near the campsite, including Olive-sided and Willow Flycatchers.

Olive-sided Flycatcher Olive-sided Flycatcher Willow Flycatcher

Near the lake I got up-close views of a Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper Spotted Sandpiper

And the millions of tadpoles in the lake. I’m glad we brought the water filter.

Tadpoles Tadpoles

And finally, one of the more common fellas, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, was fluttering around the branches and snapping up delicious insects.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

What a fun trip! And a great getaway. Some more pics:

Chipmunk

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Larch Mountain Part I

I hadn’t given up hope on finding a Hermit Warbler after my Johnson Road trip.

The following weekend, I conferred with BirdsEye and decided to try my luck at Larch Mountain. Funny thing about Larch Mountain, larch trees don’t actually grow there. Noble fir is the dominant species that was once marketed and sold by early loggers as the more profitable timber, “larch.” Hence, how the mountain got its name. Tsk, tsk.

Anyways, my love for abandoned logging roads is growing. I pulled over on the first one I could find.

There were Dark-eyed Juncos trilling.

Dark-eyed Juncos

And Orange-crowned Warblers trilling that sounded like Dark-eyed Juncos.

Orange-crowned Warbler

I got a better view of the MacGillivray’s Warbler.

MacGillivray's Warbler

And I saw some birds I didn’t recognize, like this one:

Western Kingbird (?)

Consensus on Whatbird was mixed, but the best guess (I think) is Myiarchus sp. possibly an Ash-throated Flycatcher (?), based on the pale yellow belly and dark upperparts. I didn’t get a look at its tail and didn’t hear a song. Western Kingbird was another consideration, however, to me the yellow on the above bird’s belly looks too pale in comparison with kingbirds. Toughie!

I was luckier with these flycatchers who identified themselves by song. I propose re-naming them according to their bird song to make their names easier to remember. I saw Fitz-bews, Quick THREE beers, and Tseet pwe-eet tsips – okay, maybe that one should remain Pacific-slope.

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Hidden in the trees, I’m glad this Pacific-slope Flycatcher sang!

Other lovely singers on the scene:

House Wren

House Wren

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

There were bugs, butterflies, and birds galore…it was just plain wonderful. Still though, no sign of the Hermit Warbler at this point, so I continued to the main parking lot area at the top of Larch Mountain, where…

Huzzah! The hermit finally came out of hiding.

Hermit Warbler

It’s funny how little effort it took once I got there. I exited my car, took two steps onto the trail, and bam – there it was, perched in the trees less than 5ft from my face (of course, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get that shot). I followed it as it flew back towards the parking lot area and I hung out for a while, listening to it’s chipper song, zee-zoo-zee-zoo-zeezee-zeet.

Hermit Warbler

What a sweet little bird!

Tweets and chirps!

Audrey

Johnson Road

Regardless of the grey overcast skies over Memorial Day weekend, I set out on an adventure to Johnson Road, hot with warbler fever. Johnson Road is in the middle of nowhere, but it was the center my universe this weekend since Hermit Warblers were sighted there recently. The forest land surrounding the road is owned by Weyerhaeuser who permits public day-use recreation. The road is also not far north from Stub Stewart State park, one of my favorite state parks and also the site of my first birding trip.

I arrived early on the scene.

Johnson Road

It was kind of eerie to be alone in the middle of nowhere…in a place where people leave the remains of…ceramic frogs?

WTH?

WTH?

Weird. But once I heard the birds chirping, I forgot about the remoteness and creepy frog head and it was game on!

Dive-bombing left and right were Rufous Hummingbirds.

Rufous Hummingbird

From the treetops fly-catchers chirped, sang, and chased after insects.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

This one above is an Olive-sided Flycatcher. How do I know that? Because it sang, “Quick, THREE beers.” I’m thankful for my Warblers and Flycatchers class and my birding by ear trips with Audubon. Also note, the bird’s bulky build and dark “vest.”

Here’s another flycatcher:

Willow Flycatcher

This smaller one with two light wing bars ( and sometimes a thin eye-ring- none in this case), sangFitz-bew” so I know it to be a Willow Flycatcher.

Also in the treetops (and more recognizable) were Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and a Bewick’s Wren.

A surprise treat low in the shrubs was a peek at this Swainson’s Thrush (I think it’s a Swainson’s – buffy eye-ring, lack of the rusty-contrasted tail associated with Hermit):

Swainson's Thrush

I also heard warblers, lots of them all around me. I had flash-backs of the Western Meadowlark incident at Coyote Labyrinth hike when I heard birds, but never found them, and I wondered if today would be the same.

Indeed, it was looking to be a repeat story for new warblers until far off I spotted it.

Far away

It never fails to spark that cheesy 1970s Carole King song in my head, “So Far Away”…

A teeny moving spec that my eyes and camera had to work really hard to see, but the payoff was worth it. A MacGillivray’s Warbler! Neat! Oh, you can’t see it? A closer look:

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler

Looks like he’s serenading the Rufous Hummingbird on the higher branch. Such a cool bird! I hope to hear and see more of these little fellas up close on future birding trips.

One last bird I came upon on the drive home was another flycatcher. I will share too many pictures of this one.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

While it did not sing, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m calling this one an Olive-sided Flycatcher based on its bulky build, large bill, and “vest.”. My best flycatcher sighting to date! Cheers to that!

FITZ-bew and more beers!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey