Sunday, July 11, 2010

No Himalayan Snowcocks Today

My travel back from south TX to Salt Lake City was seriously delayed because of severe weather in Dallas. Instead of getting into Salt Lake at 11 PM I arrived at 1 AM. Other than a long travel day, it did not affect my schedule as I was still able to get over to Elko, NV by mid-afternoon.

I had decided to camp out overnite up at Island Lake in the Ruby Mountains above Elko. This is where most people hike up to in order to try to see the Himalayan Snowcock, a bird introduced into these mountains back in the 1960's. Before people found this site, the way most birders saw the snowcock was to take a helicopter ride even higher. The Ruby Moutains is still the only place it has become established in the US. Birders usually hike up before daylight to be at the viewing location by early light. It is only a 2 mile hike consisting of 10 very well laid out switchbacks. Most people make the hike in a little over an hour even though you start at 8600' and climb up to almost 10,000'.

I wanted to camp out and enjoy the beauty of the cirque surrounding the lake. It had stormed briefly in the afternoon, but other than a steady breeze, the weather was quite nice from late afternoon thru this morning. I spent 2 hours late yesterday evening scanning the mountainside for movement or shapes that might be the snowcock, but I only found a single mountain goat.

When I awoke at 1st light about 5 AM, I again spent the next 2 hours scanning for the bird, and again all I found was a mountain goat--probably the same one. Bob Ake and his friend John Spahr who are doing big years had been here 2 weeks earlier and did not find the snowcock either. Now I will need to do some more research to make sure the birds still are being seen at this site before making another trip here this summer.

Before hiking up to the lake, I stopped at the Power House picnic area to bird for awhile. It was a fine hour of seeing many birds including one of my favorites, the lewis's woodpecker. I have posted 2 shots of the bird especially for my sis who also is quite fond of this woodpecker ever since she first saw several a few falls ago when we were hiking in Zion NP. Other birds seen at the picnic area included american dipper, cordilleran flycatcher, lazuli bunting, house wren, black-headed grosbeak, warbling vireo, and a female merlin.

I finished up today by stopping outside of La Grande, OR to try to check out some nesting sites for great gray owls. I had been given specific directions to locate 3 different nesting platforms that had been used as recently as June. I scoured the area around the mileage I was given, but somehow could not find the platforms. So it goes. At least the drive as the sun was setting was beautiful featuring massive volcanic mountains rising above the horizon. Mt Hood, Mt Adams, and Mt Rainier looked like they were close by even though I knew they were more than 150 miles to the west.

Week #28 begins with a total of 52 birds seen so far. Tomorrow I will begin a 5 day swing thru Washington state in search of some key birds such as calliope hummingbird. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout out- nice shots on the Lewis's for sure, what a beauty. Be glad you are anywhere but here, it's just hot as hell! we'll see you in a week.