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Corvus caurinus

Accipiters and a sparrow at Mt. Rainier

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On August 12th, I took a day trip to the Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier and birded up in the alpine and subalpine at 6000-7000ft above sea level. I have terrible blurry pictures of three birds where I think I know what they are but I want to have some extra eyes look them over just in case, especially because one of them is potentially a long-sought-after life bird. I haven't done any post-processing of the photos yet because I don't know how much good that can do for most of them, the subject is just too far away to be anything but a vaguely bird-shaped pixelated blob.

First up is a sparrow that is either a Chipping Sparrow in nonbreeding plumage or a Brewer's Sparrow. Chipping Sparrow would make more sense given the habitat; the last eBird report of a Brewer's Sparrow at Sunrise was in 2016. It's really looking like a Brewer's to me but because of the rarity I want to tread carefully. It was mixed in with a flock of juncos foraging and bathing just at the treeline.

1037027814_brsp139.png.b09605a7d5986c6d86d09144d3a0903a.png1678402400_brsp142.png.673cd26ed900ff6216f6af0336b49096.png1180892967_brsp145.png.36d50c6b707457de6a47b04c2b2e6fed.png681671234_brsp151.png.55883f27bab892ba7483d5186be9c3c5.png1534575246_brsp154.png.c2378745fa72b609f2ab72338104e0d1.png

 

The other two are large accipiters and I desperately want at least one of them to be a Northern Goshawk, but I don't want to trick myself into thinking I saw one if I didn't. Here's the one I'm 90% convinced is a goshawk, conveniently with the worst quality photos on this post:

457846606_gos21.png.42e76523b8419260577ae3371c5fd349.png1666120937_gos25.png.4e4a4cb433998d4564fb405482e9ea99.png65924489_gos29.png.f57b00cb009fcfd491ea0e4349a63e53.png1532938015_gos40.png.9303ab9c0c68dd3537afad223f84c237.png1418061740_gos47.png.ba4478bd14a920f41ee146ef69afa9db.png745851028_gos48.png.e67d037ea500480a9f23ec609f345c87.png

This was a BIG bird, at the very least red-tail sized, with fast, powerful flight over the treetops. Its flight pattern seemed like something between buteo and accipiter, with some flapping but also a lot of (very fast) gliding. Goshawks are hard to come by, especially in Washington state, but they are a resident at Sunrise and this bird was in the correct habitat (subalpine coniferous forest and parkland.) If you squint, you can just barely see a supercilium in some of the pictures. It had a noticeably long tail and pale underside.

 

This next one I'm thinking is just the biggest, baddest, beefiest mother of all Cooper's Hawks. She was also at or approaching red-tail size, which first got me excited and thinking juvenile goshawk, but what I can see of the field markings in the photos I took don't seem to line up. I really wish I had gotten a cleaner shot of the tail bands to see if the black is edged in white because that's a more precise diagnostic than a strong supercilium or streaky belly, because Cooper's can have those too.

1617800614_coop261.png.32c39915ef786b050694d5362f1d66c9.png413044234_coop262.png.a3cd755bce7b238ee87550927b99b85a.png109747846_coop232.png.8470b9d4a278eaaaf2d8aa0c88a86dd2.png

It's hard to tell from the terrible photo quality (and impossible in 8x binoculars, this bird was a good 300 or so feet away) whether or not the streaking goes down to her tail, but I'm guessing not, especially based on that last shot.

289589945_coop251.png.c59d8c127a37c1058a6921d629377201.png558530198_coop260.png.101a5b42e26f25789c85c3b2a34529aa.png239517926_coop269.png.36ebd00f1f8098751792e2875b94ff5b.png834055886_coop272.png.b7d1cda1b99f6f4e19cbe0378159dd62.png

801045259_coop273.png.c6a74eb36d45decebe0085dfd1639923.png

Nice long and broad tail, white supercilium (just barely visible,) and huge size point to goshawk, but I don't think I have enough evidence here to clearly call it. If a monster-sized Cooper's was going to live anywhere, a national park with large stretches of intact wilderness would be the right place!

 

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