Mountain Birds


Mount Hood, July

Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood at 8:30 on a bright late July day. It’s warm up here, maybe 75 degrees, but skiers are already on the slopes of the volcano; one trudges past me towards the chair lift. I’m thinking – what, you’re going back up? But they’re all young and full of enthusiasm. It’s great. Me, I’m looking for birds. I pick my way over flower-strewn pumice, filling my shoes with grit at every step and wishing the management had thought to install a water fountain somewhere close.


Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge was used in the movie The Shining – the exteriors anyway. We stayed here once and the scariest thing I saw was the look on my wife’s face when she saw the bunk bed dormitory room I’d booked us into. No ‘redrum‘ written on any mirrors now.



The  day really is marvellous. Alpine flowers splash the slopes with vivid colour; chipmunks dash about stocking up their larders; mountain birds flash through the conifers. And the vistas – wow! I find all the birds I came for – Hermit Warblers with their bright yellow faces, sleek Townsend’s Solitaires, raucous Clark’s Nutcrackers and the beautiful stone-gray and azure Mountain Bluebirds.


Mountain Bluebird

I’m just about to start down the mountain when a chipmunk crosses my path. He pauses and I pause. For a few minutes we look at each other. I wondering how he can take the time off and I imagine he’s wondering what I did with my snowboard. Of course I may just be flattering myself, a side effect of the thin mountain air perhaps.


Chipmunk with a Question





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