I spent a few hours today on a hike up Verstovia.
Weather: Broken clouds started at about 800 feet. Winds were fairly calm and the temperature was in the upper 50s. There was some rain.
Birds: It was a pretty interesting day for birds on the mountain. There were several families with young that I saw and heard on the way up, including Winter Wrens, Townsend’s Warblers and Dark-eyed Juncos. I heard a bunch of Chickadees also, so I think they were probably with young as well. The young were begging with the loud continuous calling that they tend to use.
Just where the trail leaves the trees, I saw a family of Willow Ptarmigan, including the two parents and 8 chicks. I noticed they were eating vegetation and then coulde see where they had eaten ferns and hawkweed leaves.
Also right at the edge of the trees was a Fox Sparrow nest just a few feet off the trail. I could see two young in the nest, though it’s possible there were more.
As I was climbing up the last few feet up to Picnic Rock I heard begging calls. I didn’t think much of it since I had been hearing such calls a bunch already. Just a couple of minutes later I heard it coming from the same spot, and this seemed a little much to be coincidence, so I decided to check it out a little more closely. It turned out to be an Orange-crowned Warbler nest with 5 young. They were quiet until a parent came back with food.
I heard and saw a Northern Flicker across the flume from the gym on my way to the trail. It was calling loudly from a middle height in a tree. I couldn’t figure out what it was going on about, but it seemed like there was probably something that had its attention.
Flora: I saw a new-to-me plant today. Northwestern Twayblade (Listera caurina) was growing along the trail in the same areas where I had already noticed it’s close relative, Heart-leaf Twayblade (Listera cordata). Northwestern Twayblade apparently bloom distinctly later than Heart-leaf Twayblade, as they were only just now getting started and I had seen Heart-leaf Twayblade blooming a copule of weeks ago.
There’s been a lot of progress in the flowers above the treeline. Two weeks ago, it was clear that the snow had recently covered the plants in the open slopes below Picnic Rock, but the plants were well developed on this trip. I guess alpine plants don’t always have much of a growing season, so they must get to it quickly.
One plant I had not seen up there before was Marsh Marigold (Caltha leptosepala). It was blooming not too far off the trail a little bit below the final turn up to Picnic Rock.
The rains this month seem to have encouraged the fungi, as I noticed lots of mushrooms. Especially abundant in a couple of places were the small orange mushrooms that I think are probably a kind of Mycena.