Spring Birding on Mt. Rainier

Its mid-April, we’re in Seattle and sixty miles away stands Mt. Rainier . . . Clark’s Nutcrackers, Canada Jays, Ptarmigans, and many many more.  We’re in the Pacific Northwest for vacation, a vacation we designated as non-birding, but we took our cameras and binoculars along.

Our van tour picked us up just southwest of the city and for the next two hours our guide regaled us (and 20 others) with stories about Washington State and “the mountain.”

After several stops for coffee (this is Seattle after all), we finally arrived at Rainier.

Our first stop was a gravel stream bed where we walked for about a half mile, looking for American Dippers . . . a legendary song bird that jumps head first into fast moving stream looking for bugs and small fish.

We didn’t see Dippers, but we did see six Vaux’s Swifts, similar to the east coast Chimney Swift, but perhaps not as tied to human masonry.  The Vaux’s Swift was a life bird for us.

As we continued up the mountain, we were amazed at the spectacular views (and the amount of snow).

At a gift shop stop we saw dozens of Varied Thrushes (another lifer).

And several very tame Steller’s Jay, including one working on his grooming.

After that our climb to the highest visitor’s center was snow, snow and more snow.  It was actually snowing at 5,800 feet (the mountain’s summit is 14,400) so we were pretty much done with birding for the day.

Still we had great fun and will return in the summer during our ABA Big Year. 

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