Monday, May 09, 2005

Mountain drive

Took a Sunday drive yesterday. Stopped for lunch in Sultan, then headed east over Steven's Pass, then south on state highway 97 over Blewitt Pass. Ate dinner in Ellensburg at the Valley Cafe, then hit I-90 westbound to finish the day.

Wildflowers were blooming everywhere, including trillium, lupin, and some kind of wild daisy that looked a little like black-eyed susan (but with a large orange center, rather than brown). Another unidentified flower was one that grew in pale clusters on the steep rocky hillsides along the river just west of Leavenworth. I noted with regret that my book of coastal plants was just that, and didn't include a lot of what we would see on the eastern slopes of the Cascades.

It was a good day for birding. Last summer we saw a pair of ospreys nesting across the river from a picnic area west of Leavenworth. A couple was there with their binoculars, watching them, and told us they had nested there for several years. Many of the people stopping at this spot seemed oblivious to the birds, in spite of the insistent keening sounds the female kept making from the nest. She was quite loud at times. Yesterday, the male was perched on a snag near the nest, preening himself, until she got loud enough to goad him to take off upriver, heading west. We only got a single glimpse of her head, but we could hear her just fine. A raven coasted overhead a couple of times, and a Steller jay approached the car, obviously wondering if the coffee cup we left on the roof while we watched the ospreys was worth investigating.

Also, along with the robins, Brewer's blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds, crows, swallows, and occasional hawks too far off to be identified, we also saw many kestrels, a pair of killdeer in flight, and what I think must have been a Swainson's hawk. We heard many songbirds as well.

We saw lots of other wildlife, and not-so-wild life. Just south of Blewitt Pass we sighted a group of 4 or 5 mule deer on the hillside on the north side of the road, looking like they wanted to cross, but thankfully the traffic spooked them back into the woods. We almost hit a gopher (why did the gopher cross the road?) a few miles northwest of Ellensburg. Big weasel-marmot-looking thing! At first we didn't know what it was, because you just don't see them in the open like that! I braked and the thing decided to run back where it had come from. We saw many beautiful horses during the drive, including some new foals on still-shaky legs. I missed the large herd of llamas, though.

We didn't hit rain until Ellensburg, after dinner and on the way home - just a few intermittent showers until then. We were surprised at the lack of snow in the moountains. There were a few deposits here and there in the shadiest spots, left over from our dry winter (snowpack only got to ~30% or so of normal this winter), but the summit of Steven's Pass was well below the altitude where larger patches of snow were seen.


Post a Comment

<< Home