A Gorge Photographer's Mini Field Guide
Jul 17, 2020 07:51PM
By Linda Steider
Mushrooms and Fungus on Pacific Crest Trail
When hiking Gorge trails, look closely at the conifers for interesting shapes and textures with a surprise fun-gi here and there. Wildflowers peek out between ferns while moss dangles from trees and carpets boulders.
Mushrooms and Fungus on Pacific Crest Trail © Steider Studios
Most creeks near the Bridge of the Gods are lush and full of moss-covered boulders that frame cascading water. Creeks are often furnished with downed logs and stray branches. Use care as you move closer and beware the rocks are slippery.
Herman Creek © Steider Studios
Difficult to see, Kinglets generally stay in the tops of mature conifers and travel in small groups. You'll sometimes see these small birds with Chickadees and Brown Creepers. Their song is a high pitched ss-ss-ss sound and not readily heard if you're not listening for it.
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Steider Studios
Chipmunk at Bride of the Gods Trailhead
Take your time in the parking lot at the south side of the bridge, at the PCT trailhead. Chipmunks and birds abound and you'll see them along the trail as well.
Chipmunk at Bride of the Gods Trailhead © Steider Studios
Heron in Mist
Look through the mist at Bonneville Dam to see gulls cormorants, eagles, herons, and more. During our winter months, thousands of interesting waterfowl move into the Columbia River and its tributaries.
Heron in Mist © Steider Studios
Red-breasted Sapsucker Pair
One of the more brightly colored woodpeckers, this pair of Red-breasted sapsuckers are working a tree for sap & in-sects in Marine Park in Cascade Locks. They also eat fruit. Among the less shy birds, you can get relatively close for a better look at them. Interestingly the Rufous Hummingbird will nest near sap wells and feeds at the sap wells that sapsuckers make.
Red-breasted Sapsucker Pair © Steider Studios
The sweet and constant song of the Red-winged Blackbird makes one feel as though you’re in a live nature documentary. About the size of a robin, you’ll find them in marshy habitat (this one was on the more arid Washington side of the Bonneville Dam). They eat seeds and insects and the females build their nests in dense marsh vegetation like reeds, cattails, and tall grass, weaving in wet leaves, decayed wood, and mud with a topping of grass.
Red-winged Blackbird © Steider Studios
Turkey Vulture on Gorge Trail 400 at Wyeth
While hiking most trails near Cascade Locks watch the utility poles for perched raptors including hawks, eagles, and Turkey Vultures.
Turkey Vultures usually return to the Gorge around the first of March. You’ll see them float effortlessly high in the sky, circling down closer to earth ever so gracefully. Most people refer to them as ugly birds, with their prehistoric-looking bald red head. Yet they serve a great purpose in that they clear out dead carcasses while scavenging their way through the Gorge.
Turkey Vulture on Gorge Trail 400 at Wyeth © Steider Studios
Found everywhere, you'll hear sweet songs of the Song Sparrow singing to attract a mate. Look for movement in shrubs and trees and follow their voice to find them. If you move slowly and cautiously you can get relatively close for a better view. They eat insects and fruit, especially berries, and will nest in flower beds or shrubs in your garden.
Song Sparrow © Steider Studios
Gorge Trail Bridge at Wyeth
Lovely little footbridges dot the Gorge trails for safe passage over creeks, rivers, and streams. Almost any hike you take will include one.
Gorge Trail Bridge at Wyeth © Steider Studios
Brown Creepers are difficult to spot because they blend in with the conifers they for-age on. They'll start near the bottom of a tree and work their way up almost to the top, then fly to the bottom and start over. They eat insects and larvae, and spiders and spider eggs. They build their nest between the trunk and a loose piece of bark on a large conifer. It was fun to try and keep up with this little bird as he worked his way through trees near Bonneville Dam.
Brown Creeper © Steider Studios
Many wrens look similar, but you can tell a Bewick’s by the wide white eyebrows over the eyes. A treat to find with a lovely song, I usually find them in thickets along a road or trail and sometimes in a forest near streams. They nest in cavities and habituate oak woodlands, mixed evergreen forests, willows, and elderberries. They eat bugs, seeds, and fruit and will hang up-side-down to retrieve a meal.
Bewick's Wren © Steider Studios
Rainbow Trout at Bonneville Fish Hatchery
The fish hatchery at Bonneville Dam is fascinating with its pools of fish including huge sturgeon. Surrounding the ponds are lush shrubs and trees, providing habitat for a plethora of birds and squirrels.
Rainbow Trout at Bonneville Fish Hatchery © Steider Studios
Fish at Little White Salmon River
During salmon runs it's fun to watch thousands of salmon swimming upriver in most of the rivers that flow into the Columbia, including this group traversing the Little White Salmon River.
Fish at Little White Salmon River © Steider Studios
Bald Eagle Pair
During my Winter Raptor Surveys for East Cascades Audubon, I always take my camera in case I have an opportunity to photograph. I was watch-ing one eagle on this snag when it’s mate flew in and landed next to it. Hwy 14 on the WA side has plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the eagles during winter months. Bald Eagles return to the Gorge around Thanksgiving and are readily seen along both sides of the Columbia River.
Bald Eagle Pair © Steider Studios
Salmon Spawning in Eagle Creek
In shallower creeks and streams the water is so clear you can watch salmon actually spawn.
Salmon Spawning in Eagle Creek © Steider Studios
Osprey with Fish
Watching Osprey in summer-time is mesmerizing. They can dive about 3 feet into a body of water to catch a fish then shake off excess water while simultaneously aligning the fish to fly aero-dynamically back to a perch. 90% of its diet is fish, but they will also dine on small mammals and birds.
Osprey with Fish © Steider Studios
Osprey are members of the hawk family and like many raptors mate for life. They are sometimes mistaken for Bald Eagles because of their white head. They return to the same nest and raise their young in platform nests throughout the Gorge, including man-made and tree snags. There are usu-ally 3 chicks per nest who fledge at about 8 weeks old usually in August.
Osprey © Steider Studios
Who's That There?
Typically seen at high altitudes, pikas are related to rabbits and can be found on the talus slopes on the west end of the Gorge, where they have lived for thousands of years.
PIKA on WYETH TRAIL - When hiking near talus slopes (rockslides) with boulders about the size of a basketball, keep a lookout for Pika, members of the rabbit family (sometimes called 'Rock-rabbits) and the cutest mammal on the planet. You may hear their call that has been described as a squeak before you see them. Solitary and territorial, each Pika has a range about the size of a football field.
Primarily found in higher elevations, our Gorge Pikas are the only population residing in low elevations throughout the North American continent and are being studied as indicators of climate change. They're about the size of a guinea pig with round ears, grayish to cinnamon-brown fur and no tail.
Herbivores, they eat ferns, leaves, moss, wildflowers, grasses, and fern needles.
The image to the left is a juvenile pika. It has a high-pitched call and a smoother, less-tattered appearance than an adult.
Featured photographer: Linda Steider|Steider Studios
Linda Steider is an award-winning photographer and artist living outside of White Salmon, Washington in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Her creative journey has included fiber, clay, beads, collage, pastels, and two decades working with glass, but it is photography that connects her with the natural world and allows her to share it with others.