If you’ve followed my blog for a while and have a photographic memory, this picture will seem a little familiar. It certainly seemed familiar to me when I took it. This view of a sooty grouse is very similar to a picture I took last year of a dusky grouse while in the Tetons. Not exactly the same of course, the head is turned at a different angle and the light and colors are different, but I certainly had the older picture in mind when I took this one.
Sooty and dusky grouse used to be considered two races of one species, blue grouse, but were recently split into separate species. Here in the Northwest, the sooty grouse tend to be in the areas from the Cascades and west to the coast, while duskies tend to be in the eastern interior.
This picture is from the Sourdough Ridge Trail in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park, the trail where I saw grouse the most often. I also saw them down by the Paradise Inn, and saw one in Olympic National Park at the end of my trip.
That last encounter in the Olympics was the most like my experience with the grouse I photographed in the Tetons, I was driving out of the park when I saw one in the road in front of me. I stopped the car and turned on my hazard lights, as the bird was moving slowly and in no hurry to get out of the way. I got out of my car and encouraged it to hurry across the road, which is fortunate as a pickup came driving past right afterwards.
That’s twice now I’ve played crossing guard for grouse.
When I think of bird feathers, I usually think of the large wing feathers. But birds have feathers of all sizes, and one of the fun things about close-up pictures like this is getting to see the individual feathers of all sizes. For example, although the eye ring of this sooty grouse looks like a solid band of white from a distance, up close you can see that it is actually a ring of tiny little white feathers.
I got to photograph grouse on several occasions on this trip, but this picture is my favorite.
I played around with some headshots of wildlife this past winter and decided to do the same while hiking on my trip to Washington. Since I was out on the trails the whole time (and usually without my longest lens), most of my headshots were of mammals like marmots, squirrels, deer, and elk. I didn’t see too many birds on this trip and the ones I did see were not close enough to isolate just the head.
After driving in the rain all day to get to Mount Rainier, I had a couple of hours before sunset. I started up the Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake, hiking in a cold wind and rain and sometimes snow, fearing that the weather had turned and I had waited one week too long to start my trip.
But then I saw a hoary marmot near the trail and my mood brightened considerably. After reaching Frozen Lake I headed back down the trail and saw my second surprise of the short hike, four sooty grouse that were near the trail. They were remarkably tolerant of my presence so I knelt or sat on the ground to get at their eye level and slowly moved with them as they fed along the trail. At times they literally walked beside and around me, I’d be photographing one of them and would turn around and see another just inches away from me.
You can see the drops of water on the grouse’s feathers, although nothing in the shot indicates how cold it was getting. My gloves were the one part of my outfit that weren’t waterproof, so by this time my hands were wet and cold enough that I fumbled a bit with my camera. Knowing that it was about to get dark and needing to warm my hands, I reluctantly said goodbye to the four and headed back to the car.
I’d see them again the following morning and get pictures I like even more than this one, but I’ll save those for another post.
The waters of the mountain stream in this tranquil scene are moments away from plunging over Multnomah Falls, the best known of the many waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. After reaching the bottom of the falls, they will flow into the Columbia River that divides Oregon and Washington and continue their journey down past Portland before finally emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
I like to shoot handheld whenever possible but needed a tripod here since I used an exposure of 15 seconds. In addition to the tripod, to minimize camera shake I locked up the mirror on the camera and used a remote cable release to trip the shutter.
The trail above Multnomah Falls follows the stream for a while, leading past other beautiful falls (real ones, not the baby falls shown here). A real treat was getting to see an American dipper both on the hike up and the hike back down. At one point on the trail on the hike up, a log had dammed up the stream, and a dipper was diving down into the clear still water to feed. I’ve seen dippers dipping in streams before, both in Oregon and in Wyoming, but this was the first time I had seen one swim. I was surprised at how easily and gracefully the little gray bird could swim, whether paddling on the surface or swimming underwater. It was too far away for a picture but I watched it for several minutes and it was a highlight of the hike.
A killdeer walks along the white mineral deposits at Mammoth Hot Springs at Yellowstone National Park. Elk had walked through a neighboring section and left hoofprints in the fragile crust, the killdeer would sit down in them for a while like they were its own personal sauna.