Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Birds of Black Mountain, a deadly mushroom and a harmless snake

One of my favorite walks is going up the trail to the top of  Black Mountain. It's an easy walk of just about 20 minutes.

The trail runs on smooth ground as it first traverses deciduous forest, then makes a sharp  uphill turn into rocky terrain of white pines and hemlocks. Mountain Laurel thrives on the acidic soil under the dappled shade of these trees. Toward the top the forest lightens. Crooked Pitch Pines and low brush of Bear Oak, growing between the fractured sheets of granite, take over. It looks like Sierra Nevada in miniature.

The needles grow directly from the trunk allowing the Pitch Pine to recover and regrow rapidly after a fire.  Its pitch was formerly used in ship building and the wood was favored for rail road ties since the  abundance of resin makes it very resistant to decay

The warm granite polished smooth by glaciers in the ice age feels good under bare feet. You can still see where those glaciers, pushing big boulders along, ground the edges into the surface. These semi-circular indentations show the direction of the glaciers' travel.

Yellow-rumped Warbler foraging in a Pitch Pine. 

A couple of days ago I heard Black-throated Blue Warblers singing at the lower level where the deciduous and the coniferous forests overlap.

But they are mostly occupied with finding food for their young.

As I was approaching the top I could hear a solitary Pine Warbler sing its rapid trilling song. At first I thought it was a Chipping Sparrow or Junco, but the location wasn't right.

My dog Chance, of course, loves these walks. He is a good dog,  sticks mostly to the path and does not go off hunting unless he sees a squirrel, though he often gets bored during my slow stop-and-start progress, as I listen and look for birds, and heads back to wait for me at the car. .

After a good look around on top we headed back down and found on the way

a couple of deadly Amanita mushrooms. The color of Amanitas range from pure white (the "Angel of Death") over buff to bright red. They are fairly easy to recognize by the warts on their cap and the bulbous bottom of the stem.

We also encountered a harmless Garter Snake. It apparently felt threatened as it flickered its long tongue every time I moved my foot.

I am going to stay inside today in front of a fan with the drapes closed, as it's just too hot and humid outside, and read Kenn Kaufman's "The Kingbird Highway, the Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder" on my iPod. It's a GREAT book, inspired and inspiring. I would love to travel to the many places he is writing about, particularly Gambell Island in the Bering Sea.

Cheers! Now head over to World Bird Wednesday for a fantastic variety of birding blogs from all over the world!

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment.



  1. Black Mountain looks like a fascinating plce to visit.
    Beautiful captures and Chance is lovely.
    Take care of those snakes.

  2. great blog posting Hilke! I love that hike too.

  3. Great hike!! Also wanted to say thanks for the ID on the Alder Flycatcher. I knew I could count on you it was driving me crazy!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  4. What a great place to walk. Beautiful birds, interesting vegetation and even a snake! Lovely series of photos.

  5. Great post! I really enjoyed your photos from your beautiful nature and wildlife!

  6. Looks like a fantastic spot to hike and explore. Great photos!


  7. Beautiful scenery and birds! Wonderful captures Hilke!

    The Kingbird Highway is indeed a great read.

  8. Great post Hilke! Wish I could enjoy that hike.

  9. Wonderful post. What a hike. A very beautiful set of images. Great work.
    Thanks for your comment.
    (the narrow road is not leading down to the fjords. If you like, you can see more of this on my post the 1. July. Shows the view from the hotel, the valley and the Nærøyfjorden, which is one the list of protecting places in the world. If you ever thinking about visiting Norway, I am happy to give you some good advise. A nice day to you)

  10. Beautiful scenery, a lot of cool birds and a great dog beside you - what more could anyone want! Fantastic post!

  11. Lovely to visit the other side of the world.
    Your birds are different to Australian birds, and your snake is non-venemous apparently.
    Many of your Fungi have been introduced here, via plants and soil brought by the early settlers.
    I got here via Mick from "Sandy Straits and Beyond"
    Denis Wilson

  12. Excellent post Hilke. Those Black-throated Blue Warblers look quite similar to our Pied Flycatchers and I'm glad that snake was harmless.

  13. Premiers pas dans ton blog et grand plaisir de découvrir ton travail de photographe, amoureuse de la nature.



  14. What great birds you saw! I am still trying to discern the difference between the pine warblers and the chipping sparrows! Love the snake. Amazing mushrooms!

  15. A nice and informative post Hilek. I did not know about the needles of that Pine. But it makes sence.
    Lovely birds to. :)

  16. Sounds like you had a nice walk with your dog. Love the birds shots and the snake. Wonderful series of photos, Hilke! Happy Birding!

  17. Many thanks for your visits to my blog and your thoughtful comments!

  18. Marvelous photos! Would love to hike with you guys and watch those birds and the nature!
    I feel your pain with hot and humid - add dust to the mix and you are in happy Kuwait paradise ;-)

  19. Great series, makes me want to come south to visit the southern woods

  20. What a lot of wonders you saw on the way and so kindly shared with us. I do love the snake to finish off the post!

  21. Hi Hilke

    It looks like a great place for a walk and you saw lots of warblers that is really nice. Chance is a handsome fellow, I always think a good dog is a real joy.


  22. Such gorgeous pictures!!!! I loved the Black Throated Blue Warbler and the Pine Warbler!
    They're so delicate!


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