This week’s photo, taken August 17, 2014 in Mount Rainier National Park, WA, features an immature COOPER’S HAWK.
On Sunday, I’m one of 12 participants on a Seattle Audubon hike along the lower slopes of Mount Rainier. After a 2 1/2 hour drive from the city, we reach the Sunrise parking lot: at 6400 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point in the park that’s reachable by car. As we gather together to begin our 8-mile hike, our leader mentions some birds we might encounter today, but I’m not listening very well. I’m majorly distracted by the incredibly fresh mountain air, the gorgeous green meadows, and the elephant in the room – also known as Mount Rainier. If I don’t see a single bird today, I’ll be ok because I’m just thrilled to be in the presence of the highest volcano in the contiguous United States.
I try to focus solely on the magnificence of the area, but a few birds do manage to appear in my line of vision. Close to the parking lot, we spot MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES, CHIPPING SPARROWS, PINE SISKINS, CASSIN’S FINCHES and one CLARK’S NUTCRACKER. Later, when we hike above 7000 feet, we spot a few HORNED LARKS and AMERICAN PIPITS, and a dozen or more MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS.
It’s a good day for raptors. Soaring RED-TAILED HAWKS, AMERICAN KESTRELS, PRAIRIE FALCONS and COOPER’S HAWKS inspire us to keep trudging up the trails. When I’m in need of additional motivation, I glance up at Mount Rainier, and instantly the going gets a little bit easier.
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