OSU Fisheries and Wildlife
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Our morning started at the early hours of 3 AM in what still seemed like the witching hour with the silent fog brushing in from the surrounding woods. We headed South to a small trailhead to Irely lake that was located about 2 hours from our dorms. As the sun rose we began our hike through what I described as bear paradise due to the lush undergrowth of salmon berries and thimble berries for them to feast on after a long winter. After passing a boggy wetland by scaling overturned paths on the trail we started to hear a chorus of birds including chestnut-backed chickadees, Pacific-slope flycatchers, and a Steller’s Jay that was very confused about its song due to its awkwardly high pitched tone that sounded much like a clown child.
We ascended higher into the woods where a patch of rare ghost orchids were lurking in the shadows below while Pacific Wrens (the alleged Divas of the forest) sang high above in the canopy. After what seemed like an hour we made it to our destination, Irely lake which was breathtaking from the first glance and the birds seemed to share our appreciation because they were everywhere! As we set up the first mist net along a trail that was parallel to the water’s edge we observed a pair of Belted Kingfishers diving for breakfast while a family of common Mergansers lined up behind mom for a tour of the lake. Red-winged blackbirds stole the spot light as they belted out their songs in numbers trying to get one more clutch under their belt for the season. Trees rooted in the lake long deceased seemed to be floating while the fog made the lake seem unbounded to its surroundings. We called for the Song sparrow and finally gained the attention of a pair but they seemed to be on to us and would not come close enough to the net. We then tried for a pacific slope flycatcher but caught a giant dragonfly instead! The birds here were very stubborn and we knew it was going to be a long haul to catch enough for the day. A song sparrow finally was caught in its attempt to ward of the Swainson’s Thrush call we were playing.
During our descent we started to grasp that this was our last excursion before going home and became saddened to leave Olympic National Park but little did we know it had some farewell surprises in store for us. A Western toad saluted us along the trail and a black bear 400 feet away from us relieved a much needed itch on its rump for our viewing. If this wasn’t the full ONP experience I don’t know what else could have made it so, we packed up our gear for the last time and promised to visit once again to pay tribute to its extreme beauty and ever abounding life that it holds.