Sunday, June 30, 2013

Birding Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the US, with a variety of landscapes ranging from temperate rainforests to alpine tundra and prairies.  This juxtaposition of habitats makes it a great place to find many species of birds I have never seen before.


I missed you, Glacier.


The Avalanche Lake trail, which works its way through a verdant cedar forest up to a spectacular mountain lake, was the first trail I hiked in the park on this trip.  The moist coniferous habitat is ideal for Pacific Northwest birds, and my goal on this hike was to spot some.

In the parking area, I spotted my 300th lifer, Vaux's Swift, the West's version of Chimney Swift.  The forested trail was alive with the alien calls of birds I have never heard before - Townsend's Warblers, Varied Thrush, and Pacific Wrens.  A Townsend's Solitaire, a drab, reclusive relative of the bluebird, lighted in a tree just off the trail.  I somehow managed to catch a glimpse of all of these species, and still arrive at the lake before the crowds.  Onshore, an inquisitive Steller's Jay flitted around, hoping to steal someone's snack.  Nearby, I spotted the western subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler, the "Audubon's Warbler"(the eastern subspecies is the "Myrtle Warbler").  New studies suggest that these two subspecies are and example of divergent evolution happening before our very eyes - these birds are becoming more and more genetically distinct as time progresses.

Audubon's Warbler at Avalanche Lake

Today I got my alpine fix by hiking up the snow-covered trail to Hidden Lake, climbing above 7,000 feet.  Few birds live up that high, but I did see several American Pipits, one of the biggest holes on my 2013 list.  The pipits were cool, but the highlight for me was a Gray-crowned Rosy-finch, high up on a snowfield.  I got the birding full package:  I heard it singing, saw it well, and photographed it!

Gray-crowned Rosy-finch above Logan Pass

A small pond off the trail to Hidden Lake

I'll end this entry with some non-birds:

A mountain goat up at Hidden Lake that started licking the sweat off of my binoculars.  We chased it away and I thoroughly wiped down my beloved optics...  definitely a unique experience!  

Two grizzly bears swimming in the Many Glacier area of the park.


1 comment:

  1. Glad you had fun birding in Glacier! If you go back, take a look at the Birder's guides at http://www.gnpbirds.net . And, post your sightings there, too, if you'd like!

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