Sunday, August 25, 2013

Subalpine Hiking

By Cory DeStein

Currently there are nearly 11,000 acres of forest burning in the hills above Lolo, where I live in Montana. Before the blazes started up I was able to get some subalpine hiking in throughout the Bitterroots in Idaho.

I climbed nearly 1,000 feet on foot before reaching roughly 7,000 feet. The hike along the forestery roads was littered with Red Crossbills. Recordings obtained of the birds verified a majority as type 2 with a lone recording as type 5. White-crowned Sparrows were numerous along the hike along with Cassin's Finch, Brewer's Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker and Gray Jays, with many of the sparrows scolding a pair of Townsend's Solitaire that swooped down the mountain.
Townsend's Solitaire
Cassin's Finch
At the top of the hike I birded a subalpine meadow where a family of Steller Jay's began scolding me as I ate lunch. My first and only warbler of the trip, a male Townsend's Warbler was drinking from a nearby creek before the loud scolding of the jays scared him off. I could hear multiple Clark's Nutcrackers calling from further up the mountain, but everything but the Steller's Jay went silent with a flyover Northern Goshawk.

Inbetween the scolding calls of the jays I began to pick up a new call, I was certain it wasn't a bird note, but it was brand new to me. Based off the habitat I was in, with some nearby boulders I climbed over to investigate. The calls continued to ring out from the rocks, and within 5 minutes I was rewarded with a lifer mammal, Pika! The small rodents whom do not hibernate gather grass through out the summer to feed on the hay during the winter. It was hard to get an idea of how many there were, but I had at least 3 with many calling from further along the ridge. Easily the cutest animal I have ever seen. Very cooperative subjects, except for the occasional Clark's Nutcracker spooking them.

Clark's Nutcracker

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Elk cow with twins on the drive up the mountain.

1 comment:

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