DNCB Outing No. 2014-35 to Mt. Baker in Washington, USA

RM_Mount Baker Birders

Mount Baker Birders at Picture Lake (RM) – click on photo to see large version

Ten DNCBers had another stellar “away” outing to Mt. Baker Park in Washington on Wednesday.  Lots of hi-lites and you can see the photo evidence on our DNCB Flickr site.

We met at and left from the Peace Arch Park parking lot (behind the Duty-Free Shop) at 7:30 a.m. in three vehicles; excellent car-pooling.  It was overcast, but we decided to believe the weatherman’s prediction that “it would be clear by 11:00 a.m.”   North Delta Jean took Marion, Pauline and newbie “No Bins” Kaling; Roger took Mike, Richmond Donna and PB Lorna; and Terry rode with me.  The Border was smooth sailing, and the leisurely drive through the Washington State pastoral countryside was very relaxing (Ironically, Terry said I was driving too slowly).  We got to the Mt. Baker Park entrance and Ranger Office in about two hours (~9:30 a.m.), stopping only once for a coffee and to photograph a flock of Cedar Waxwings.

Following intros, Park Fee payment, a pee break and a chat with the Ranger we took off on the climb up the mountain to our first stop at Picture Lake.  Surprisingly, before we could gorge our bodies with delectable Wild Blueberries along the lake trail, a mixed flock of little birds flitted in the bushes near the path.  Most of us got great looks at brilliant Townsend’s, Orange-crowned, Yellow, Yellow-rumped and Wilson’s Warblers with Dark-eyed Juncos and Black-capped Chickadees also there.  Terry photographed a Western Tanager.  The sun was shining, majestic Mt. Shuksan was reflecting brilliantly in the lake mirror, the blueberries were scrumptious, and with these amazing sightings, we thought we had died and gone to heaven.  A Common Raven’s cawing woke us up.  We continued to “feed” along the Picture Lake Trail until Roger corralled the bloated group by the entrance sign for the mandatory Photo.  Although some saw Gray Jays (aka Whiskey Jacks), none came to our hands for peanuts as in previous outings.

We drove up to our second stop at the Heather Meadows Visitor Centre.  From here we hiked for an hour or so along the Bagley Lakes Trail, most of us returning to the Centre on the Wild Goose Trail.  Near the start of the trail, a Hoary Marmot cooperatively posed before scurrying off to eat “our” berries.

Hoary Marmot (RM)

Hoary Marmot (RM)

American Dipper (RM)

American Dipper (RM)

Our search for an American Dipper was successful as we strolled beside the picturesque rippling stream.  He “dipped” on queue for the photogs.  We also saw some Sparrows (Golden-crowned, Song) and Finches (House and American Goldfinch) but a few American Pipits were more interesting.  And the Wildflowers were gorgeous; our “botanist” Pauline pointed out a few bright displays of lupines, arnicas, false hellebore, Sitka valerian and monkey flowers.  We got a bit spread out on the well-marked trail back to the Centre.  Most of us made it, except for two directionally challenged ladies.  One of several search parties finally found the lost souls idling on the main road, less than 100 yards from our parking lot.  Obviously, conversations during our parking lot lunch break focussed on the harmless yet comedic incident.

We moved on up to the top and Artists Point parking lot (5100 ft elevation).  There were small sporadic piles of snow still here which provided some entertainment for one of our inept baseball participants.  Rather than do the Artist Ridge Trail as we normally do, we decided to take the Chain Lakes Trail, perhaps to see White-tailed Ptarmigans or Mountain Goats as in past outings.

Bridge Over Troubled Birders (RM)

Bridge Over Troubled Birders (RM)

Visibility was still good, but waves of fog seemed to come and go every 15 minutes or so.  We were blanked on our Targets, the goats, ptarmigan and Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, but the several Pika sightings were fun, including the sighting that Roger tried to hog to himself.

Pica Boo (RM)

Pika Boo (RM)

We all got very excited when a Golden Eagle cruised by very close to us.  The Ranger had alerted us that Golden Eagles have been seen there recently but infrequently.  Unfortunately, on closer examination, this sighting was an immature Bald Eagle, providing another example of the elation to deflation of the Casual Birder.  When we got to the trail end for us (juncture of Ptarmigan Ridge Trail) there was a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and glaciers, however Mt. Baker itself was “fogged from view”.  It was just past 3:30 p.m. when we got back to Artists Point.  Many of us were worn out from the lengthy hikes, but we were all smiling and jointly proclaimed our satisfaction for having spent such a delightful day in the mountains.  It was almost a 30 minute Border wait on the way back to Canada, but I got home by 6:00 p.m. in time for Sandra’s new chicken pot pie recipe.

Next Wednesday, September 10 is our quarterly Birds on the Bay outing in Boundary Bay Regional Park.  We will meet at and leave from historic Cammidge House at 9:00 a.m.

Also, a reminder that our Nats Display will be at the annual Day at the Farm event on Westham Island this Saturday, September 6, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  And our first 2014/15 Delta Nats meeting is this Monday, Sept. 8 at Cammidge House at 7:30 p.m.  Delta Nat Anita den Dikken will give a pictorial presentation of her 2013 African adventures in Kenya and Tanzania.  All are welcome to these Free events.  As always, comments welcome, and let me know if you want off my List to receive these boringly long missives.  Cheers: Tom

Tom Bearss, President, Delta Naturalists’ Society, BC

About dncb

DNS: Delta Naturalists are a group of nature lovers whose aim is to foster interest in the natural history of the Fraser delta by sharing and enjoying nature and promoting environmental awareness and conservation. DNCB: Delta Nats Casual Birders is a group of Casual Birders who go Birding at different locations each week, usually within the Lower Mainland or in nearby Washington State.
This entry was posted in *DNCB, American Dipper, American Pipit, Bald Eagle, Gray Jay, Hoary Marmot, Mt. Baker, Pika, Townsend's Warbler, Western Tanager. Bookmark the permalink.

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