Nature Notes

Volume XV No. 1 - September, 1949

Ornithological Notes Of Interest
By Ralph R. Huestis & Paul Shepard, Jr., Ranger-Naturalists

Passing observation was made of a number of bird species during the 1949 season. Rosy finches were seen near the top of Garfield Peak Trail and on Cloudcap on several occasions and during the last week of July a parent was seen feeding two birds of the year. The hunger cry of these proved to be quite musical and a pleasant change from the bleats of young robins and squawks of petitioning nutcrackers so commonly heard in the Rim Camp.

On August 4th two golden eagles were soaring over Garfield Peak and the next day an immature bird was seen over the rim drive behind Llao Rock. Golden eagles were seen over Garfield again on August 13 by the morning field trip party. When seen in the park, they are more often observed in the area along the rim between Garfield and Applegate Peaks than elsewhere. Consequently, this area is called Eagle Crags. Although both bald and golden eagles have been seen along the rim, recent nesting records here are of bald eagles which bred seven years ago on Wizard Island. No bald eagles were reported this year.

On August 5th a flock of about 20 large finches was feeding along the edge of the crater of Wizard Island. They moved rapidly but ultimately one bird perched within about forty feet and in full view of the binoculars. It appeared to be a female pine grosbeak, and the undulating flight of the flock as it crossed Skell Channel presented additional evidence in favor of the identification.

Rock wrens, unreported during the 1948 season, were present on the large talus slope underneath the Garfield Peak trail. Singing birds were heard there during the second week in July. In past seasons these handsome little rock dippers have been common inside the rim, their pleasant song rising to greet the Sinnott Memorial attendant on his arrival.

During our stay in the utility area at headquarters we heard more than the usual number of olive-sided flycatchers. In the same locality during the first week of July, Audubon Warblers were present in considerable numbers but no other warbler species were heard or seen.

From the rim viewpoint just west of Hillman Peak, ravens have been observed a number of times during the summer. Past observations strengthen an assumption that these large corvids nest within the rim. During June and July a company of four, probably a family group, have been seen casually along the rim from the lodge to the Devil's Backbone, sometimes flying over the Rim Village or wandering down Munson Valley. The hoarse croak and the long pointed wings distinguish the ravens from their close relatives, the crows, and the ranges of the two birds seldom overlap.

Besides those of golden eagles there have been some other interesting notes on birds of prey this summer. The red-tailed hawk has previously been reported nesting in upper Munson Valley, and evidently did so again this year. At least one immature red-tail wandered about the valley near park headquarters. It was seen several times during July and August, giving the hunger cry almost constantly and being besieged by robins, tanagers, and jays. The falcons reported annually to nest in Llao Rock are prairie falcons. A family group of two immature birds and an adult were observed near the base of the Rock on July 27, the young giving the hunger call. During the afternoon of Saturday, August 13th, one of the juvenile birds perched on a hemlock by the Sinnott Memorial for about 15 minutes. A crowd of park visitors collected on the walk in front of the Information Building, and there was ample opportunity to identify with field glasses this strikingly light-colored, dark-eyed falcon, whose plumage contrasts to the dark color of the duck hawk. Although the latter nests typically near a body or stream of water, the paucity of waterfowl and shorebirds on the lake would suggest that these falcons depend largely on small mammals for food, as would be expected of prairie falcons. One member of this family group was observed soaring on the outside of the rim on August 4th.

During the latter part of August and early September a rather extensive migration of hawks passed through the park. When northwest winds prevailed, creating thermals on the west slopes, the fire lookout on Scott Peak reported scores of hawks of several species passing all day long. Notable among them were goshawks, marsh hawks, and a number of eagles.

The handsome state bird of Oregon, the western meadowlark has been seen again in the meadow east of the lodge, this year on July 8th. Post nesting dispersal probably accounts for the singular appearance of the only member of the blackbird family that has been reported from the rim area during the summer. As winter approaches the meadowlark gathers in small flocks and move down into sheltered valleys. like the eastern meadowlark, it's mellow, fluted notes may be heard in fields any month of the year. It is not to be confused with the true larks, of which the western representatives are the horned larks. Another family, the pipits, have a member known commonly as the "American skylark."

Adventures With Park Amphibians
By John W. Funkhouser, Ranger-Naturalist


The average visitor to Crater Lake National Park is oblivious of the amphibian population in the vicinity of the lake; and the statement that frogs are numerous behind park headquarters or that salamanders abound at the lake edge seldom fails to bring an expression of surprise. "I'd have thought it was too cold up here for frogs and salamanders." Amazing as it may seem, Crater Lake has a large representation of these lowly creatures that seem to thrive in the cold, for several of our species are found only at high altitudes.

Soon after my arrival in the park I was surprised to hear croakings coming from the marsh behind park headquarters. The marsh was still largely covered by snow and it was difficult to believe that frogs were active so early in the season. I fitted myself with a light and investigated. Following up the course of one of the streams, I discovered a female frog squatting in a hole under the opposite bank. Later I located two males by their croaking. In spite of the cold that numbed my hands these amphibians were quite agile. I collected them, and then, to my utmost surprise, I found several egg masses. These frogs were not only out and active, they were breeding! Identification showed my specimens to be Cascade frogs, Rana cascadae, an inhabitant of high altitudes in the Cascades.

I revisited the egg masses the following day. Each egg was about one-third inch in diameter, with transparent coats and a dark embryo in the center. A single mass consisted of several hundred eggs, all encased in jelly. I watched their development during the next few days as the embryos increased in size and became motile within their coats. On the 9th day the tadpoles freed themselves of the encumbering egg coat to take up a free life in the stream.

The same night I found the Cascade frogs, I flashed my light into a small burrow in the marsh and saw a white throat swelled out to the size of a marble. I recognized a Pacific tree frog, Hyla regilla. It was truly a shock to find this pretty little fellow out so early in the season, for I was accustomed to collect them in the San Francisco region in temperatures far higher than those associated with freezing nights and melting snows. This Hyla is a jewel among frogs with his vivid green back, white throat and belly, and black eye patch. On the end of each toe is an adhesive disk to serve in climbing, enabling him to walk up a pane of glass. In spite of his small size, only an inch from snout to vent, Hyla has a mighty voice. He puffs out his throat and emits a bleat that may be heard a half mile away. Later I saw several of these frogs among the boulders in Wizard Island, but they were so adept at diving into crevices that I was unable to capture a specimen.

The common northwestern toad, Bufo boreas boreas, is abundant in the Rim Area, but this member of the clan is so familiar to most everyone that it is unnecessary to discuss him here.

The salamanders of Crater lake are probably the most interesting of the Amphibian inhabitants. Although salamanders show a superficial resemblance to lizards it has been said that they are no more closely related to them than we are. The more apparent differences between the two is that a lizard has scales and lives in dry places, whereas a salamander dies if subjected to drying. Salamanders are more sluggish than most lizards and must deposit their eggs in water and pass the first stage of life as gilled larvae. The anatomical differences between them are most striking of all, but are principally significant to specialists.

The two species of salamanders found at Crater Lake are taken under stones at the water's edge where they live, apparently harmoniously, together. The more numerous type is the Crater Lake newt, Triturus granulosus mazamae, which has been taken only at Crater Lake. He is black, about eight inches long, with granular skin and a brilliant orange underside. His less-common companion is the long-toed salamander, Ambystoma macrodactylum, named for his unduly long digits. He also is black except for a line of yellow down the back; his skin is smooth and glistening.

In the middle of July an overturned rock revealed these animals in knots of five or six individuals all clinging together. The ratio was about ten Triturus to one Ambystoma. Considering the greater agility of the latter, I had far more Triturus to show for my efforts than Ambystoma. It is of interest to note that a search under the rocks on the first of July had failed to reveal any specimens. Thus, they must have congregated there sometime between the first and the middle of the month. It is my presumption that they winter under logs, rocks, and other objects away from the lake shore, and gather nearer the water for breeding.

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