Birding Pinnell Mountain Trail
The Pinnell Mountain Trail is a 27-mile trail through the alpine ridges of the White Mountains, looping from Twelve Mile Summit to Eagle Summit on the Steese Highway. It’s one of the few road-accessible stretches of high alpine tundra, and a pretty amazing bird habitat.
The best birding is at the Eagle Summit end, where the trail climbs through wet and dry alpine tundra, and rocky scree slopes. So WC headed up there this weekend and in very hot, breezy conditions, found some birds to photograph.
The Steese Highway is in excellent condition. It’s paved now past 81 Mile, and the gravel stretch to Eagle Summit at 107 Mile is in great shape.
The Northern Wheatear is the world champion passerine migrant. This small songbird winters in sub-Saharan Africa, but breeds on the dry alpine tundra and scree of the White Mountains. Eagle Summit is the most reliable place on the road system to find this pretty species. The birds had just arrived. The males were doing courtship flights and singing to establish territories.
In addition to Wheatears, the wetter areas support American Golden Plovers. The Plovers arrive earlier – they have a shorter flight, after all – and were already on eggs. The males were doing their best to entice me away from the nests.
And there were Lapland Longspurs everywhere. The males were singing and courting.
The females were interested, and responding to the males songs with chip notes and nearly undivided attention.
All in all, a successful day and a very nice trip. Amazingly, WC didn’t even have to use mosquito repellent.
By 1:30 PM, the temperatures had climbed into the mid-80s. The birds were quiet. WC was badly overheated. This is not a common occurrence on Eagle Summit. But any morning with good birds, decent photographs and spectacular tundra flowers is completely acceptable to WC.