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The Equinox Project
Observations of the passing seasons
By Rob McNair-Huff
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Week Seventy-one, July 22-28, 2002

Sunday, July 28, 2002

W ell, we blew it. After getting home at midnight last night and rushing to bed and so we could get up at 5 a.m. and make it to the park-and-ride by 6 a.m. to meet the Audubon Society trip up to Sunrise in Mt. Rainier National Park, we sat in the parking lot this morning alone. It dawned on us that it was odd that the trip was being held on a Sunday, and sure enough when we gave up and came home, we re-checked the schedule and the Sunrise trip was actually yesterday. What a bone-headed mistake.

We promptly went back to bed and spent a relaxing day at home - a bonus of sorts. Maybe it is just as well that we missed the trip...

Saturday, July 27, 2002

I really need to start keeping up with this Weblog better. After a very busy week last week, Natalie and I headed back to familiar ground today for a high elevation bird research trip to Hurricane Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula. At more than a mile high, Hurricane Ridge is a great place to see all kinds of animals, and today was no exception. It was a sunny day, which translated into lots of wildflowers, six or seven species of butterflies, and some good birds that we hadn't seen yet this year.

First on the birding front, the Blue Grouse in the photo above was the mother to five or six young grouse we watched as they foraged along the ridge right near where we had parked the car. The grouse blend in so well with the background here that you have to be patient and catch the movement of the bird to even have a chance to locate one. And the young were even harder to spot than their mother.

Besides the grouse, we also watched a few American Pipit flitting among the gnarled high elevation trees along one of the ridge-top trails. And so we added two new bird species to the list of species we have seen in Washington state so far this year, bringing our total to 238 species.

Even more so than birds, we saw a ton of butterflies both along the road up to Hurricane Ridge and in the wildflower meadows at the top of the ridge. As we drove up toward the ridge I saw our most common Western Washington butterfly, the Cabbage White, flying along the road as our first species. But it was at our first stop at the roadside pull off at the bottom of Switchback Trail where we saw the greatest number of species. At least two species of Blue butterflies were landing along a trickling stream along with Field Crescent and Chalcedona Checkerspot butterflies while Western Whites flew erratically along the steep hillside - never landing for more than a second or two. We spent a half hour or so along the entrance to the steep trail that I walked once with a group of freshman students in college all the way back in 1985.

We arrived at Hurricane Ridge around 3 p.m. to find the place crawling with tourists. In the alpine meadows among the blooms of daisies, lupine, bistort and indian thistle, hundreds of Arctic Fritillary butterflies nectared and mingled in that twisting aerial acrobat style that butterflies do. The wild flowers on this visit were great, with glacier lilies faded and giving way to avalanche lilies, and as we spent some time on a side trail pishing for birds we spotted another brilliant butterfly, the Vidler's Alpine butterfly in the photo above. This butterfly stood out from the rest of the oranges and blues hanging around the ridge, with bright eye spots and steely bluish hues in the scales near the body of the butterfly that were amazing. Natalie and I briefly saw this butterfly species earlier this summer during our June birding trip in the Aeneas Creek area of the Okanogan, in the highlands areas that were full of butterflies.

In all, we saw at least eight species of butterflies today. Hurricane Ridge truly is one of the best butterfly watching spots in the state at this time of year!

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