Posted by: atowhee | August 8, 2009

Birders get to grousing































There were almost twenty birders on the Klamath Bird Observatory’s Mount Ashland walk this morning.  And when we got to grousing, it went on and on.  This female Sooty Grouse posed atop her granite boulder in the flower bedecked meadow, and then she posed some more and slowly turned her head for better views and then pivoted on her rock to face uphill.  We stood, gawking, along the forest service road about forty feet downhill from her.  There was  speculation that she might have had unseen chicks in the brush below her rocky lookout.

We looked with binoculars, with scopes, with naked eyeballs, marvelled, compared here to the various field guides we toted, looked at range maps.  Still she posed.  Cameras were used.  I got about ten pretty good pics myself.  There was time for jokes about old field guides with “Blue Grouse” but no “Sooty.”  Still she lingered in the morning sun after what must have been a chilly night.  Finally our attention was drawn to a pair of her neighbors:SOLITAUIRE YNG  8-8-09

An immature Townsend’s Solitaire, one of two above the road at about 6500′.

After our fill of Solitaire visions, the grouse was still seen on her granite boulder.




CHIPMUNK, LEAST This was a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel near the Mt. Ashland camping area.  He was watching folks eat lunch, aware of hand-out possibilities.  Frank Lang, local biologist, alerted me that I had incorrectly though this was a Least Chipmunk.  They’re more likely in the Cascades but not in the Siskiyous.

We saw a young Golden Eagle with the white band its upper tail.  Soared majesticallhy up Grouse Gap and further west.  Our accipiters on the day: a Sharpie chasing a Cooper’s.  As usual, there was a family Mountain Bluebirds near the ski lodge. No White-headed Woodpecker was seen, and our glimpse of Green-tailed Towhee was brief.  The Lazuli Buntings were all young or female.  Like their cousin, the Black-headed Grosbeaks, the males may have moved away from the nesting grounds?

Dendragapus fulginosis

That’s the Latin name of this newly split species, formerly grouped with the more inland Dusky Grouse.  The Sooty’s range is a narrow strip of coastla and near-coastal mounatains from Sonoma County north to Alaska.  The “Birds of North America” online still lists them as a single species.

Says BNA: in the fall they move from the more open breeding grounds–like the slope where we saw our Sooty–to denser forests for the winter.  Lower elevation coastal populations may not move at all. Most banded birds that are recovered are less than thirty miles from where they were first found.  Not long-distance migrants.

They actually eat pine needlkes andbuds along with berries, forest fruits and some insects, especially devoured by fast growing chicks in summer.  The Sooty Grouse can live more than ten years and raise one brood each summer, with up to twelve eggs laid and hatched.  Nestling success highly variable depending on habitat, food supply, predators, weather and other variables.  Sooty Grouse are widely hunted by humans and not classed as endangered.

Location:     Mt. Ashland
Observation date:     8/8/09
Number of species:     25

Sooty Grouse     1
Turkey Vulture     2
Sharp-shinned Hawk     1
Cooper’s Hawk     1
Golden Eagle     1
American Kestrel     1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     2
Western Wood-Pewee     1
Dusky Flycatcher     1
Cassin’s Vireo     1
Common Raven     1
Mountain Chickadee     4
Red-breasted Nuthatch     2
House Wren     1
Mountain Bluebird     4
Townsend’s Solitaire     2
American Robin     2
Orange-crowned Warbler     2
Green-tailed Towhee     1
Chipping Sparrow     8
Lincoln’s Sparrow     1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     40
Lazuli Bunting     4;          Purple Finch     6;        Pine Siskin     4


  1. Think your photo is of a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel. No head stripes as far as I can see that would make it a chipmunk. In any event, I think Mt. Ashlandd is too far west for a Least Chipmunk

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