Birdwatching on the PCT

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Birdwatching on the trail was amazing. Being from Europe I saw a ton of birds I didn’t even know existed. The first weeks I was overwhelmed with all the birds out there….. Not only the birds. Also the other wildlife. Allthough the other wildlife I could not always identify 100% correctly.

Before I got on the trail I purchased the Sibley birdwatching guide app. The Sibley birdwatching guide, the paper book, is considered to be a very good one. The cool thing about an app vs a book is that the app contains sounds. I was very pleased with the app, it helped my identify the birds on my journey, so I was able to upload my observations on www.observado.org

Some of the highlights on my trip were the greater roadrunner, the sooty grouse, osprey, bald eagle and the mountain bluebirds. Just after mount San Jacinto I saw the magnificent greater roadrunner. My hiking companion who was in front of me was looking at the trail and missed the bird and possibly scared it away. I saw it however. This was a bird high on my wish list.

When leaving Kennedy Meadows we heard strange noises in the forests. First I thought it was something rubbing it’s back against a tree. It was to consistent however. Maybe an owl. Shadowhawk said it could because grouse. I looked up the sounds. Yes! Sooty grouse. At the foot of mount Withney I had an encounter with a mom with two baby chicks. The mom was a bit alarmed with my presence and moved towards the water and flew over the river. I was thinking she had left her babies alone. But the chicks could fly and followed.

Just after the Hat Creek Rim, Northern California, there was a fish hatchery. This attracted many birds even seagulls and cormorants were flying over. Here I got amazing views on ospreys, a saw about 4 here. The day after I saw more ospreys and the bald eagle. Amazing!

I loved the mountain blue birds. They are so colourful. I saw many woodpeckers that I always enjoy. In northern Oregon and all through Washington there were grey jays. These birds fly through complete silent forests in small groups of 3 or 4  and show up like little ghosts. Also they are very tame. Once they sat on my tent. One of the trailangels told me, that if you are patient they will land on your hand.

I really missed my binoculars. The reason I didn’t have them was because I wanted to save time and weight. It’s time consuming to locate, observe and identity birds I’m not familiar with. Even in the Netherlands it takes time. I was out here to hike. I had to make my miles each day. However I did want to do some birdwatching. My solution: a compact camera with 20x zoom. I could take a photo and identify the bird in my tent in the evening. The cool thing about my camera was that I could crop the picture and send the pictures to my phone with wifi. Now I could log the picture with the observation on my phone. Less work back home.

Sadly my camera broke within a 1000 miles. I continued without and saw (well…recognized) less birds. If I would do a (long-ish) hike again, I would bring a small binoculars and a camera. Have backup and all the means (comfortably for hiking, a scope is a bit heavy) to successfully identify the birds I encounter.

In Canada I was so happy to have my binoculars again. I had high hopes for all the birdwatching I could do now, but was a little disappointed in the birdwatching on the places we went. I expected more. I did see some new birds and was obsessed with seeing ducks, loons and gulls since I hadn’t seen many of them on the trail. The ones I did see on the trail I couldn’t identify because they were too far away.

In total I saw 119 different bird species on my travels through North America. 8 of these I have not yet fully identified, and at least one of them I probably won’t identify given the quality of the picture. 98  were species I had never seen before. Click here to see all my observations.

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