We really needed some mountain birds. In particular ones like Clark's nutcracker and gray jays. Where to go? Mt. Rainier National Park before the weather changed was the answer. I'd been wanting to go all summer but the weekends and even the weekdays were so crowded. So I'd waited until after Labor Day and Rudy and I took Wednesday off from work to find at least a Clark's nutcracker. I mean when have you even been to Mt. Rainier without seeing one? It was a lock. All right I should have known better than that but really, could my luck be that bad?
It started out with a beautiful day, blue sky, hot and the mountain standing out like a painted backdrop. Our first stop was Longmire and the Trail of Shadows. Unlikely but we saw a group of band-tailed pigeons claiming an area. We did see a few other smaller birds in the trees near the trail. I got one good look at them and saw a mountain chickadee (#150). They are a bit scruffier than our regular chickadees. I suspect a harder life. Well, we'll take any new bird. The only other birds we heard and saw were Stellar blue jays.
Next stop was Paradise, a stamp in my National Park passport and take a short trail at the base of the mountain. We decided to head over to Myrtle Falls. There were still amazing wildflowers and the sky was a brilliant blue behind the mountain. It could not have been better for a lovely day hike but we did not see many birds. We did see a bird of prey flying around-not sure which--and Rudy saw something unusual in a fir tree but we couldn't put a name to it. So a very nice hike but no new birds.
We headed to the picnic area. There are always those camp robber nutcrackers there and we had packed a lunch so now we'd have it. At the picnic area we chose a site near some trees and before we could get out of the car there were definitely some good size birds in the tree. I'm pretty sure it was our bird but I didn't get a good enough look. We got out to eat at the picnic table and took our time enjoying the meal, but nothing. What a beautiful day and what a view. Just no more bird activity. None. Are you kidding me? They were there. After this my confidence was waning. We checked out some other parts of the picnic area and saw a large hawk and off in the distance we could see some birds that could have been gray jays in the tops of some trees but again, we couldn't verify.
We decided to continue around the mountain and go to Sunrise. We headed down out of Paradise and along the road Rudy spied a cute black bear walking beside the road. All we wanted to see were a few birds and we saw a bear. Isn't it usually the other way around? Well, it was a thrill anyway.
All the best laid plans of mice and men....who knew...after Labor Day they closed the road that continues around the mountain. Our only option was to return the way we came or backtrack out of the park, head south, and then back up north. This was a lot longer but we decided to try it. It took a long time to do this, slow roads, way out of the way and such so we had to forget Sunrise. We did stop at Ohanapecosh campground but didn't see much. Then we took the Grove of the Patriarchs but no birds. By this time it was getting close to being dark so we just headed home. We took a full day off of work and only one new bird for the day. I was disappointed but really, could I complain when I got to see one of my favorite places on a such a gorgeous day? No I can't.