Posted by: atowhee | August 12, 2009

Hot valley= hot mountain birding

It was hot in the flatlands, so young Andy Kleinhesselink and I headed up Mount Ashland early today. Andy grew up around here but didn’t get into birds until he’d gone away to college.  Against all odds, we learned that we’d both graduated from tiny Carleton College back in Minnesota.  One degree, not six, of separation.  We met through birding, not Carleton.

 Birds may be smarter than some people we know, because even lowland birds like the Black-headed Grosbeak have re-located to the forest uphill.  Of course, they don’t have air conditioning either.  BH Grosbeaks and warblers were in feeding flocks.wh woodpecker1 I’d managed to miss these birds all year, not today.  Family of three feeding in the trees at the hairpin turn just .5 miles before you hit the big parking lot at the Mt. Ashland Ski Lodge It was a family group with at least one juvenile.  The White-headed is in the Picoides  genus along with the much more widespread Hairy and Donwy plus other scattered western woodpeckers like Arizona and Black-backed.  More pics:wh woodpecker2

WH WOODPECKER PAIRCassin's IDWe got good looks at a family of Cassin’s Finches, with the young still begging for food.  These birds can be elusive at this “low” elevation, below 7000′.  And sometimes they all look alike, Purple=Cassin’s?

More Cassin’s pictures, check out the primaries, those long wing feathers.CASSIN'S FINCH

CASS FINCH SIDEVUBut young Andy, he thought seeing a Northern Goshawk, a couple times, he thought that was pretty noteworthy.  Ho-hum, another Goshawk in the Siskiyous.  No pics, of course.  The first one I caught streaking across the highway at about forty MPH just over the top of our car.  This was the same place we were watching the WH woodpeckers, a half mile before we hit the ski lodge parking lot. Andy missed seeing him. But then, later, on the open slopes of Mount Ashland, there was this huge accipiter just soaring around.  Nary a wing flap was seen.  And those telltale white feather puffs showed clearly at the base of the wedge-shaped tail.  The bird soared above the firs and pine, landed, took off, soared some more.  Never saw a wing-flap.  Man, that is flying!  We were standing in the steep meadow just past the camp grounds and toilet building on FS Road 20.

Mountain beaver (aplodontia), MacGillivray’s and Hermit Warblers, Green-tailed Towhee, Lincoln’s Sparrow.  Lupine and mint in bloom.  Warblers in willows along the road.  Nuthatches performing their little tin horn concertos.  One adult MacGillivray’s was feeding a juvenile.  GT TOWHEE LABELD

GT TOWHEEMT BLUE--YNGThe lone Mtn. Bluebird in the ski lodge parking lot: a juvie.







RB NUTHATCH 8-12-09Horn player in the tin orchestra, a Red-breasted Nuthatch.






 This secretive western rodent is ground-hog sized and lives in forests and mountains of the west.  Andy and I could see one chewing off 18024 inch tall alpine plants at the base, then hauling his haul downslope to his hay cellar.  Laying up food for the long, snow-topped winter on Mount Ashland.  The mountain beaver, aplodontia, has very dark fur and a cylindrical body with no known neck.  I understand how they can store enough greenery for winter, but how do they get air buried beneath ten feet of snow? 

Location:     Mt. Ashland
Observation date:     8/12/09
Notes:     Birded with Andy Kleinhesselink, formerly of Medford, now at Sonoma State in grad school
Number of species:     39

Northern Goshawk     2
Red-tailed Hawk     6
Rufous Hummingbird     2
Red-breasted Sapsucker     3
White-headed Woodpecker     3
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     8
Olive-sided Flycatcher     1
Western Wood-Pewee     1
Willow Flycatcher     1
Dusky Flycatcher     1
Cassin’s Vireo     2
Steller’s Jay     3
Western Scrub-Jay     2
Common Raven     1
Mountain Chickadee     4
Red-breasted Nuthatch     15
House Wren     4
Golden-crowned Kinglet     1
Mountain Bluebird     1
Hermit Thrush     1
American Robin     5
Orange-crowned Warbler     6
Nashville Warbler     5
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)     12
Hermit Warbler     10
MacGillivray’s Warbler     2,   Wilson’s Warbler 1,  W. Tanager 6, GT Towhee 10,  Spotted Towhee 8, Chipping Sparrow 4,  Lnc. Sparrow 1, Junco 50, BH Grosbeak 20,  Lazuli  4,  Cassin’s Finch, Purple Finch, Lesser Goldfinch.


  1. Harry- Nice birds… i have been seeing some good mixed flocks near my place on lower Mt. Ashland Rd. and on dogwalks especially near the top of the Colestin along the ski rd. near the gated private roads below the PCT. Where was that first NOGO that you sped under? In years past i have seen one up the road past the 4 mile mark.

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