Not Endemic

A male dark-eyed junco perches in a subalpine fir in Olympic National Park

While some species in Olympic National Park are endemic to the peninsula, others like this dark-eyed junco can be found elsewhere – including my backyard. The junco in the top picture is perching in a subalpine fir at Hurricane Ridge, the one on the bottom in a dogwood in our backyard. Earlier this week one was flitting about in a tree just a few feet away as I walked to the cafeteria at work, while others were feeding on the ground near the track across the street from my office where I walk when I need a break from programming.

Junco in the Dogwood

Birds of a Feather

A close-up view of the feathers of a sooty grouse

I’m amazed by how diverse the feathers on a single bird can be in size and shape and color and function. The feathers in the upper left are wet with rain, it was pouring up at Hurricane Ridge when I came across a handful of grouse that were huddling near some trees for a little protection from the elements. I had on a full complement of rain gear and was nice and dry, and thankfully my camera and lens had enough weather-sealing that they shook off the rain as well.

Birth of a Cone

Water droplets cover the needles of a subalpine fir

While the previous day poured rain, sunshine arrived in the morning. I spent the early hours looking for marmots on Hurricane Hill but found none, and as the sunny Saturday attracted crowds, I decided on one last loop around the Meadow Trails before heading over to the western side of the peninsula.

I stopped when I found one small section of trees still in shade and noticed their needles were covered in water drops and tiny little cones were beginning to grow. Normally I’d use a macro lens for shots like this but you can’t leave the trail in this fragile environment and the needles were too far from the trail, so I used my 500mm lens, teleconverter, and extension tubes instead. My tripod isn’t sturdy enough for this much weight but I used a remote release and hoped for the best.

I had to work quickly as the sun was lighting up branch after branch as I photographed them (it’s even lighting up a drop on this branch). It was the last of my pictures as after this all the branches were drying in the sunlight. I didn’t notice it at the time I took the picture, but I love how the two small needles look like arms cradling the small cone. I think this is a subalpine fir but don’t quote me on it.