As Friday continued, our next stop was the Sunrise Ski Resort, which is absent of all snow at this time of year, but the ski lift was in use for those that wanted to get to the top without hiking. We opted to stay down closer to the beginning of the lifts as we had seen some reports in the past month of Pine Grosbeaks near this area. We hiked uphill on the west side of lifts and then towards the area south of the lodge. Their call was quick to be heard and singled out of the several other birds that were singing. We knew they were there, but getting a good view of them proved to be a bit more of a challenge. Finally one male did fly to the top of a nearby tree for us to get a good look. Unfortunately, my photography skills decided to take a nap as I found myself having a bit of difficulty of finding the bird in the viewfinder and my lens. Feel a bit like an idiot as I was focusing on pine cones on the branches just above the bird. So my photos leave a lot to be desired. Guess I will have a make another trip back there for hopefully some better photos. That definitely will not be a problem, as this place is an awesome place to visit.
To finish out the day we headed into the community of Greer to do some birding on the trails around the town. While exploring the church campgrounds on the southern end of Greer, a Rufous Hummingbird paid no attention to me and landed on a small limb just a few feet from me. Guess it must have felt sorry for me and my failed attempt of photos of the Pine Grosbeak!
After leaving this campground sight, we were treated to an odd behavior by some Violet-green Swallows. This species was fairly common in this region and we were seeing them at just about every stop we made, but in this case they were landing on the dirt road in front of us and then leaning over on one side. I don't believe any of us had seen that behavior before on this species. We have come to the conclusion that they were possibly sun bathing. They were not trying to roll or fluff their feathers which would be a sign of maybe a dust bath. They would just roll over on their sides and lay there. Looked a bit like they were injured, but was definitely not the case as they quickly took flight if we approached them.
We took a hike along the Butler Trail and so glad we did. We discovered 3 recently fledged Northern Pygmy-Owls. This owl is diurnal and will sometimes forage in daylight. They are a fairly small owl at just under 7 inches and many times they show very little fear of humans. We watched as one of them flew from a perch in the trees to the ground and then returned with its prey and actually landed in a tree very close to us. It casually watched us as it slowly took it time to devour its catch; most likely an insect of some kind although we were not able to see it. As adults, these owls can be quite aggressive as they will take on prey almost the same size as them. When a young owl allows this kind of close-up study and picture taking, all one can do is enjoy the moment and create as less stress as possible for them. (Kind of made up for my poor Pine Grosbeak photos!)
Found a few butterflies to add to the color scheme. Finally purchased a butterfly field guide, so hope to be able to identify some of the butterflies I do happen to stumble on.
Small Wood-Nymph - best ID to my knowledge
Northwestern Fritillary - best ID to my knowledge
Of course, what would a log post be without a photo of a couple of our team.
Day number 2 was very different as we put in a lot of miles for naught, but on the way back we stopped off at a spot that was quite entertaining. This will all be covered in the next post.