While exploring areas around Mt. Hood, my Portland Audubon class encountered a flock of Gray Jays at the Little Crater Lake Campground (Birding Oregon p. 75). When I find this species in the woods, they seem rather shy to me. But when the birds have been enjoying the easy pickings at a campground, one can quickly see how they got the nickname, Camp Robber. Jays were landing on fingers, binoculars, and hats in hopes of getting a handout. Their efforts were rewarded with nuts and crackers, a small price to pay for such an enjoyable close encounter with a beautiful bird.
I drove up to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood today. This is a great area to search for alpine species, and the paved road makes it easy to access. Autumn has settled in already, with a fresh dusting of snow on the mountain. The ground had frozen overnight, and the thawing this morning released a near constant stream of falling rocks on the gravel slopes. (While it looks very dramatic when covered in snow, Mount Hood is actually a big pile of gravel and fine volcanic ash.) Most of the birds seem to have left the area around the lodge for lower elevations. I found a couple of Golden-crowned Sparrows, Robins, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. A flock of ten Common Ravens rode an updraft around the summit.
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels are common on Mount Hood.
After descending the mountain, I visited the meadows and forest around Little Crater Lake (Birding Oregon p. 75). Gray Jays and a Pileated Woodpecker were the bird highlights. The color of this little lake is an eerie turquoise. Despite the near 40′ depth, you can see the bottom in great detail.