We overnighted in Corvallis (ask your Doctor – sorry, you see there’s this ad on Canadian TV for a treatment for erectile dysfunction with a similar name, and the tag line is ‘ask your Doctor’, it sort of stuck). We wanted to get up Mary’s Peak as early as possible (titter ye not), beating the traffic that would flush Sooty Grouse and Mountain Quail off the roads and off our lists.
We timed it perfectly for pre-dawn and so made our way steadily uphill flushing forms off the road as we went. Our suspicion that they were all Varied Thrush proved true as the light improved, and we got to have some great views, but no photo ops. We also stopped and listened and whistled and completely failed to interest a Northern Pygmy-Owl.
As we approached the last few bends before the top, although we didn’t know it then, we saw a grouse like shape by the roadside. Slewing to a halt – well not really we were barely doing 10mph, we got great views as the bird trundled over the road and into the side vegetation, it was a Sooty Grouse. Further up a short way one actually stood at the side of the car wondering what to do next. It took a good 29 seconds before it too wandered off, sadly extricating the camera from behind the seat took 31.
We got to the top where a large, open car park was initially devoid of anything. We paid the Iron Ranger and then enjoyed parks staff coming down a gated track to the washrooms. As all non-environmentally sensitive types do, they left the truck running, windows down and some awful music playing loud. We wouldn’t have been able to hear a Jumbo Jet, never mind a quail. Fortunately they understood my Anglo-Saxon over the blare and turned the radio right down.
The top remained quiet until the day caught up. A flock of noisy Evening Grosbeaks then arrived and a good spread of Violet-Green Swallows took to the air. They were well examined for Vaux’s Swifts but no joy. Ravens and juncos tried to entertain us, but quail were nowhere and we only had a few hours to explore. Disappointed but not despondent we started back down, passing yet more shy Varied Thrushes, another grouse and a couple of Hermit Thrushes. Part-way down we noticed a side road, gravelled but passable, so we tried it.
The sign said that by following the track it would return to the highway in 20 miles, but then the sign providers failed to add some important information when the road came to a fork, we were only 50% wrong. When the road became less obvious we turned and headed back. Rounding a bend we came across two quail on the road. The looks were brief but Mountain Quail became a reality, and there was me thinking I’d found a new Nemesis Bird.
It was time to check out and head back to Portland, tomorrow we flew home but there was still some time left, we just had to find a suitable spot in which to spend it until just before dusk.
I don’t have any photos from Mary’s Peak so I’ll just stick this errant Golden-crowned Sparrow here.