More Wonderful Wildlife Sightings at Hills Peak

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

Having finally seen my first pika of the year on my trip to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, I was reminded that I had never gotten to Hills Peak last year—my favorite pika-viewing site. With the flowers fading, I decided that would be a good destination on July 23, 2015. I’d also been wanting to try climbing up to the base of the cliffs on the left side of the talus slope for several years, but I’d had friends with me on my previous trips and didn’t want to drag anyone else up such a steep slope or make them wait for me, although hanging out on the lower rocks, watching for pikas is an enjoyable way to pass the day. And in fact that’s what I did for most of the day after I finished checking out the cliffs, where most things were finished except the Scotch harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). I also checked out the small bog and lake to the west, but there were only a few things left in bloom, so I went back to visit some more with the pikas. Since I’m so far behind on my reports, I’ll just share some photos of the wonderful wildlife I saw.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

A view of the completely snowless south side of Diamond Peak from the top of the slope. It's amazing to see the snow gone so early.

A view of the completely snowless south side of Diamond Peak from the top of the slope. It’s amazing and disturbing to see the snow gone so early.

Another of several pikas I saw on the talus slope below the cliffs on the north end of Hills Peak.

Another of several pikas I saw on the talus slope below the cliffs on the north end of Hills Peak.

A great arctic (Oeneis nevadensis), the only one I've seen this year. They seem to be more prevalent on alternate years, usually even ones around here, I think.

A great arctic (Oeneis nevadensis), the only one I’ve seen this year. They seem to be more prevalent on alternate years, usually even years around here, I think.

A curious golden-mantled ground squirrel

A curious golden-mantled ground squirrel

My most exciting discovery of the day turned out to be as I was just walking back to my car to head home. I came across a pair of a species of woodpecker I'd never seen before. They turned out to be black-headed woodpeckers. This must have been a female.

My most exciting discovery of the day turned out to be as I was just walking back to my car to head home, as seems to happen quite often. I came across a pair of woodpeckers of a species I’d never seen before. They turned out to be black-blacked woodpeckers. This must have been a female.

The male black-headed woodpecker has a distinctive yellow cap instead of the red markings seen on most of our woodpeckers. Apparently they are uncommon and usually found near burned areas. Thankfully, the Hills Peak area hasn't burned recently, but the Tumblebug fire left numerous dead trees not all that far to the west.

The male black-backed woodpecker has a distinctive yellow cap instead of the red markings seen on most of our woodpeckers. Apparently they are uncommon and usually found near burned areas. Thankfully, the Hills Peak area hasn’t burned recently, but the Tumblebug fire left numerous dead trees not all that far to the west.

Below is a rather amateur 1-minute video (still trying to figure out how to shoot video on my camera) of the pair of black-backed woodpeckers.

2 Responses to “More Wonderful Wildlife Sightings at Hills Peak”

  • sabine dutoit:

    Wow Tanya, Loved the woodpecker sighting. I must be more aware of woodpeckers. I usually sort of glance at them as pileated, downey, red breasted sapsuckers or acorn forgetting that there are several others I could be seeing. Finding a new bird is always to exciting. Of course all the other photos are artistic masterpieces too. You always find the unexpected and record it for us mortals who do not have your talent for catching that “magic” moment. Thank you for that, Tanya. S

  • Kristy Swanson:

    Your pictures help me remember how great it is to be out in the woods with you. I love the video shots. I usually only see squirrels and a few of the birds in my yard. Your pictures of picas and other creatures are always amazing. Thanks!!!

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