Over the summer I went to VENT’s Camp Cascades. We birded the Puget Sound area, Mount Rainer NP, and the east side of the Cascade Mountains. Despite a large wildfire that limited our time in the east Cascades we broke the camp list record, totaling over 180 species.
We started out with several days at Fort Casey, a historic park on the coast. From there we tallied a decent yard list and went on daily excursions for other specialties. Hikes around Fort Casey provided California Quail, Olive-sided and Pacific-slope flycatchers, and Red Crossbills. Seawatches from nearby parks were also productive, with several White-winged Scoters, Red-necked Grebes, Pacific Loons, and Marbled Murrelets. The real highlight of our time in the Puget Sound region was our boat trip to Protection Island. Here we had great views of Tufted Puffins in addition to several Harlequin Ducks and a few Black Oystercatchers.
After the boat trip we enjoyed watching several migrant Mew Gulls at Hudson Bay.
Mew Gull Digiscope.
After driving east towards Mount Rainer NP we set up camp at Cougar Rock Campground. Every morning we woke up to the songs of Varied Thrush, and every evening we settled down to the calls of a distant Townsend’s Solitaire. Hikes around this area provided great scenery, a juvenile American Dipper, and a Black Swift. Our two hikes at Paradise were definitely the highlight of our time here, with point blank views of a male Sooty Grouse and several Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches above the treeline. The scenery here was absolutely breathtaking, from the misty glacier-passes to the crisp mountain views.
On our hike at Sunrise we were determined to find the White-tailed Ptarmigan, a bird that this camp had missed in previous years. I had just seen this species in Colorado, but that one was half a mile away and backlit. I was really hoping to get better views of this cryptic species. On the way up we passed families of Hoary Marmots, Pipits, and Horned Larks. We also scoped out a distant mountain goat, a few Mountain Bluebirds, and a fly-by pair of Prairie Falcons. The trees here were full of small flocks passerines, and we were able to pull out a few Hermit Warblers. Once we got to the spot it didn’t take long to get on a female ptarmigan with four chicks! We watched the family for about an hour, showing them to interested hikers that passed by.
We spent the next two days at white pass on the East side of the Cascades. The rain shadow effect creates a much drier climate, which in turn hosts very different bird life. A trip to Oak Creek Canyon yielded a completely different variety of birds than we had seen before. Lewis’s Woodpeckers were abundant, and at one point a group of Chukars crossed the road as a pair of Golden Eagles soared overhead. A few Brewer’s Sparrows popped up into some sagebrush on the slope, and two Canyon Wrens called nearby. After Oak Creek we birded Wenatchee National Forest, where we had Williamson’s Sapsucker and White-headed Woodpecker.
Our second to last night was spent at Ohanapecosh Campground. We birded the cascades a little more and swam in a frigid mountain stream. The stream was about twenty feet deep, and there was a rock ten feet above the water that you could jump off of. I couldn’t get enough of this, and eventually most of the our group joined in. there was a twenty foot jump that I desperately wanted to try, but the leaders wouldn’t let us. After dinner we concluded camp at a nearby pizza restaurant, where we had another Black Swift.
There were several Gray Jays and Evening Grosbeaks around the campground.
I’d highly recommend this camp; it covers a lot of ground and we got all of our target birds. The leaders (Glenn, Michael, and Louise) were also dedicated and highly experienced.
For more photos from this trip, feel free to check out my Flickr album here.