Now I can finally finish this trip report!
It was our last day on the Olympic Peninsula, and we had a very ambitious plan for the day. We left Lacey early and drove north to our first stop- Hurricane Ridge, a spot up in the Olympic range outside of Port Angeles. After a long drive we entered the National Park and began climbing upward into the mountains. It was on this road we sighted one of the the best birds of the trip. My dad has to get the credit for spotting it- SOOTY GROUSE! There it was, a hen and 3 chicks foraging right on the roadside. We watched for a while as the birds slowly made their way into the woods once more. It was an incredible sighting. For those of you that don’t know, Sooty Grouse was a recent split from Blue Grouse, which also included the Dusky Grouse of the interior west. Now these birds are 2 seperate species.
Leaving the grouse we kept climbing up to the real alpine slopes of Hurricane Ridge. The view was incredible, and it felt like you were in the Alps- fields of grass and wildflowers with patches of snow, and lines of snowcapped peaks all around you. On one side you could see out over the strait of Juan De Fuca and see Victoria, British Colombia.
Also were present were Gray Jays and American Pipits, plus some very tame Mule Deer.
We spent a while at Hurricane Ridge, but we knew we still had a lot of ground to cover, so we had to get moving. For hours we drove north, on roads that led along the strait, and after a long while we reached the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula- Cape Flattery. We took a boardwalk out to The observation platform, and set up our scopes. It was an incredible landscape- huge sea cliffs, foaming seas ribboned with kelp beds, and more birds than seemed possible. Hundreds of Glaucous-winged Gulls were present, flying and sitting on rocks. Pelagic Cormorants were everywhere too. There were Black Oystercatchers on the Rocks, Common Murres on the water, and 3 new life birds. They were:
Pigeon Guillemot: These Black Guillemot Look-alikes were nesting on the sea cliffs in burrows. We got great scope looks at them sitting in their homes, flying in with catches, or sitting close up on the water. They were also in High Breeding plumage, which upped the ante on the show.
Rhinoceros Auklet: Another very cool bird, a few of these were hanging out in the kelp beds, showing off their horned beaks. They were diving constantly though, which made getting a good look difficult. It was good to see they always came up with a beak full of fish.
Tufted Puffin: By far the star bird of the cape. How could they have not been? They look unreal, they gave great looks, they were close, and they were all in perfect breeding plumage. They seemed to always be in and around the kelp beds, where they would dive down and come up with fish. One of the very close ones dove and we could see it foraging underwater because of it’s bright colors. One indiviual bird sat on the water for about 5 minutes, allowing incredible looks through the scope.
California Sea Lions on a rock was another nice suprise.
Soon the sun began to sink low and we knew we had to get started on the long ride home. We had to get up early to catch a plane back to NY the next morning.
So that was the end of an amazing trip to the Olympic Peninsula. Thank You! to Margaret Ardwin for organizing the trip and dad for chaperoning. Also thank you to the other kids for making the trip so much fun (besides birding) and making me laugh more than any other time of my life.
I love the northwest, and with the added fact I missed a bunch of birds, I will definitely be coming back!