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Olympic Peninsula: Day 2

semi-overcast 69 °F

On Friday, July 15, my dad and I traveled around the Olympic Peninsula to hike & go birding.

Our morning destination was a drive-up mountain peak on the east side of the Olympics called Mt. Walker, where my target birds were Hermit Warbler and Sooty Grouse. The views from the summit viewpoints were spectacular, and we were even at could-level!

Although I failed to find my main target bird, the Hermit Warbler, I did encounter a family of SOOTY GROUSE, life bird! The adult female bird let me take her photo:

After lunch, we drove up to the famous Hurricane Ridge, which sits at over 5,000 feet above sea level and allows for fantastic subalpine and alpine birding, possibly the most famous highland destination for birders in Washington state.

We were worried it would be cloudy, as it usually is, at Hurricane Ridge; however, the views were panoramic and totally exceeded our expectations! It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

We hiked the steep Hurricane Hill, where there was a pretty good number of birds, including this super-cooperative female SOOTY GROUSE:

And the deer, as you can see, were extremely tame:

The wildflowers also put on a radiant display alongside the trail.

Nice photo of an uncommon GRAY JAY in front of the mountains:

HORNED LARK, by far the best photo I have ever obtained of this species:

Near the summit of Hurricane Hill, there was a rather large snowfield. Time to do an obligatory July snow angel!

This Mountain Goat, although a nonnative species, was super cool to see and allowed for some fantastic photo ops in front of the mountains:

This silly young deer obviously hasn't learned how to follow the rules:

It was another great day in the Olympic Mountains! What a fantastic place! I only obtained one life bird on July 15, Sooty Grouse, so that will be my bird-of-the-day. Runners-up to the Gray Jay & Horned Lark.

Good birding,

World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 09:26 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes mountains people trees animals birds snow Comments (1)

Olympic Peninsula: Day 1

semi-overcast 73 °F

Last weekend, my dad and I traveled to the Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington state for birding, hiking, and even whale-watching! I will split this trip up day-by-day since I have so many photos. Enjoy!

On Thursday, July 14, we took an early morning flight to Seattle. The views were quite scenic:

Obligatory Mt. Rainier shot on approach to Seattle:

We spent the day making our way over to Port Angeles, WA with stops along the way for birding. At the first stop, my target bird was Mountain Quail, a very uncommon and shy species at which Washington is the northernmost point in their range. This is a LINCOLN'S SPARROW:

Unfortunately, I never found the Mountain Quail; however, we did hear a more common CALIFORNIA QUAIL sing it's classical "Chi-ca-go!" song.

The next stop was Gardiner Beach on the Olympic Peninsula, where we happened to run into birder John Gatchet (who used to live in Wisconsin) who graciously gave us an impromptu afternoon birding tour of the northeast peninsula! Here is a BALD EAGLE and a GREAT BLUE HERON in the same tree:

My first photographed life bird of the trip, a RHINOCEROS AUKLET! This is a species of Alcid, which is a family of marine birds that includes the puffins and are thought to fill the niche that penguins satisfy in the Southern Hemisphere. Alcids were high on my "most-wanted" species list for the trip.


CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, which was my 900th life bird!


We then visited a spit near Sequim that is a fairly well-known place for watching seabirds, as evidenced by this sign:

It has a distant view of Protection Island, where everything from gulls to puffins nest:

We found my life-bird HARLEQUIN DUCK in the water:


Life-bird PIGEON GUILLEMOT, another Alcid species, flying away from me:

Olympic Gulls (hybrid Western X Glaucous-winged Gulls, common on the Olympic Peninsula) with a HERRING GULL:


On one road near Sequim, we successfully found two target life birds for me: Bewick's Wren & Bushtit. Although they were both secretive, I did eventually manage to photograph both species. Here is the BEWICK'S WREN:

And here is the BUSHTIT:


We searched for Varied Thush in this forest, but failed to find it. In its place; however, we had a calling WESTERN SCREECH-OWL and views of some beautiful woodland scenery:

I believe this was an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, female:

After dinner with John, we checked into our motel and settled in for the night. It was a fantastic first day! Thanks so much again to John for a superb afternoon of birding!

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Bushtit with runner-up to the Rhinoceros Auklet, both being successfully-found target life birds on Thursday.
Good birding,

World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 08:28 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes beaches people trees animals birds sky sparrow heron gull hummingbird bald_eagle rhinoceros_auklet chickadee junco harlequin_duck pigeon_guillemot wilson's_warbler bewick's_wren bushtit Comments (0)

Surprise Summer Visitor!

sunny 74 °F

Today after hearing it's distinctive piercing, high-pitched call, my mom and I tracked down a surprise Broad-winged Hawk sitting in a tree in our front yard! This is a big surprise because usually these birds are found in the deep woods during the summer, and I have never heard of one being seen in Oak Park during the summer before. Very cool!

World Life List: 896 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 16:52 Archived in USA Tagged me trees animals birds sky yard hawk oak_park Comments (2)

Indiana Dunes State Park

overcast 88 °F

Back to a regular post...yesterday my family and I visited Indiana Dunes State Park. I was hoping to find Cerulean, Prothonotary, and if I was really lucky, maybe my hoped-for life bird Prairie Warbler.

Upon arriving at Trail 2, I immediately found ACADIAN FLYCATCHERS to be quite common:

This damselfly was nice:

At one point there was a pretty stream crossing:

Suddenly, from the treetops I heard a buzzy song: "zeer-zeer-zeerzeryy!" It was one of my target birds for the day, the sky-blue Cerulean Warbler! This is a bird of the canopies of mature forests, and he lived up to his reputation, only allowing for this one distant photo:



There were a lot of these beautiful flowers along the trail, thanks to my Uncle Mory for the identification of this as an Upside-down Lily:


It got my hopes up for a Prothonotary Warbler when a bright yellow bird flew across the trail, but it "only" turned out to be this pretty male YELLOW WARBLER:

And finally, some nice RED-HEADED WOODPECKER shots:

Unfortunately, I never found my hoped-for Prothonotary & Prairie Warblers, but one target bird out of three is better than none! It is also getting to be a quiet time for birders in Illinois because the peak of the breeding season has passed and the only migrants coming through at this point are the first few autumn shorebirds.

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Cerulean Warbler, with runner-up to a gorgeous male Ruby-throated Hummingbird that flew up to me and then hovered five inches away from my nose for about three seconds! How cool is that?! I didn't raise up my camera for a photo for fear of scaring him off, but it sure would have been an awesome photo!

So...plans for the rest of the summer are as follows: Next Thursday my dad and I will fly out to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State for a 4-day birding trip. Then, after about a week and a half in Chicago I will be out in Idaho July 26 - August 20 for my family's annual trip there. That trip will be a bit different than in past years; however, because for the first two weeks I will be attending an intensive opera camp called "The Encounter" which means I will not be posting for the first two weeks of the trip. The last two weeks will be free for me and I have many exciting birding day and overnight trips planned! Stay tuned!

Good birding,

World Life List: 897 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 15:16 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes children trees animals birds sky woodpecker hummingbird eastern_phoebe indiana_dunes acadian_flycatcher cerulean_warbler phoebe yellow_warbler Comments (0)


all seasons in one day 94 °F

Very early this Monday morning, I returned from my choir's week-long tour to Havana, Cuba. It was possibly the most eye-opening trip of my entire life, and the entire choir was changed by this tour.

As the first youth choir to travel to Cuba from the USA, it was an immense privilege for my choir, the Voice of Chicago, to travel to a country with such a vibrant culture and that has had strained relations with this USA for sixty years.

Although this was truly an amazing tour, I will be honest with you, it was not all fun and games. We had 16-18 hour days, sweated through our uniforms during every concert after a full day in the blazing heat, and many, including my, hotel rooms were not in good shape. These hardships; however, made all of us think about our daily lives and I think that we can say that we now have a greater appreciation for everyday things such as air conditioning, plentiful clean drinking water, reliable toilets, etc. that many people around the world unfortunately do not have - which is the case for many Cubans.

This trip was all about experiencing the culture of Cuba, so it will not be bird-focused; however, I did take a few bird photographs and I did get a few lifers.

We spent one day in Florida before spending a week in Cuba, and once we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, we immediately headed to the beach:

In the afternoon, we split up into three groups and took a "gator tour" by airboat:


Beautiful PURPLE GALLINULE, life bird:

Family of LIMPKIN, life bird:

On the tour, I also gained my life bird BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE.

The next day, we flew to Havana, Cuba on a charter flight out of Miami. I luckily got a window seat and it was cool getting our first views of Cuba - a land so mysterious, so unknown - but enchantingly beautiful:

After waiting through many long lines in the airport, we sat on the air-conditioned bus and I spotted my life bird CUBAN EMERALD hummingbird. Unfortunately, I did not see its smaller cousin, the Bee Hummingbird, which is the smallest bird in the world, a Cuban endemic species.

The experiences we had on tour were just phenomenal. From just seeing the country from the bus to numerous cultural exchanges with choirs and musical groups, we really experienced the best of Cuban culture. It was astounding to meet such pure, happy people who enjoy life with such kindness and pride in their culture - and it really made us thing about how we live our lives.

Now I will leave you with these photos, and my only "talking" will be naming birds that I have included. The Cuba tour was a truly awesome experience and it changed my life.

World Life List: 897 Species (10 life birds on the Cuba trip)





Posted by skwclar 13:37 Archived in Cuba Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises beaches buildings skylines people children animals birds sky planes Comments (3)

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