Monday, July 15, 2013

Idaho Bird Observatory’s site on top of Lucky Peak

On June 13 we took an evening drive up to Lucky Peak to visit the Idaho Bird Observatory’s site. The Idaho Bird Observatory (or IBO) runs a banding station and hawkwatch on the summit of Lucky Peak each year from July to October. They are not in operation yet this season, but we wanted to get familiar with the road up and see the view of town.

UPDATE: We visited the IBO in September while their songbird banding and hawkwatch efforts were in full swing. Click here to to learn more.

Lucky Peak Map 1

The road to Lucky Peak, Ada County.

The road is fairly steep and windy, so it’s best to go slow and drive something with high clearance. The views are incredible though, and make the trip worthwhile even if you aren’t interested in birds.

Road to Lucky Peak 1

Looking north over the last stretch of Shaw Mountain Road below Lucky Peak, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

The habitat on the way up is mostly shrub-steppe, though there are a few stretches with views of cottonwoods and willows where the road follows creek beds. This road is good for lots of passerines, raptors and upland gamebirds typical of this habitat. On this trip we spotted an Eastern Kingbird. This was the closest we’ve seen them to the Boise area.

EAKI 2

Eastern Kingbird on Shaw Mountain Road, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

As we neared the parking area just a hundred yards or so below the summit, we saw a Red-tailed Hawk perching on top of a pine tree, leaning in to the breeze.

RTHA 1

Red-tailed Hawk at Lucky Peak, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

From the parking area, it’s a fairly short walk to get into the woods where the IBO crew sets up their mist nets. The walk goes through some interesting vegetation. I’m not sure what it’s called, but the birds seem to love it.

Lucky Peak 1

Walking from the parking area to the banding site at Lucky Peak, Ada County. June 2013.

We saw lots of colorful birds in this area, including a Black-headed Grosbeak and a Western Tanager.

BHGR 1

Black-headed Grosbeak at Lucky Peak, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

WETA 1

Black-headed Grosbeak at Lucky Peak, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

After 100 yards or so the trail leads to a camping area where the IBO crew and some of their visitors set up for the season.

Lucky Peak 2

Camping area at Lucky Peak, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

The view over the back side of the peak is quite impressive. It’s a mix of pine forests, sagebrush fields, and wildflower meadows. During this trip we could see a herd of sheep that was being tended to one one of the hills further north.

Lucky Peak 4

Looking north from Lucky Peak, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

On the way back out we saw a family of Red-Tailed Hawks soaring by on the breeze. It was easy to see how great of a location this site is for running a hawkwatch.

RTHA 2

Red-tailed Hawk at Lucky Peak, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

The view on the way down is better than on the way up, and the view of the Treasure Valley below is phenomenal. On clearer days the view goes all the way to the Owyhee mountains in the south.

Lucky Peak Pano 1

Looking south over the Treasure Valley from a viewpoint on Shaw Mountain Road, Ada County. June 13, 2013.

We’re looking forward to visiting again soon when the banding season begins.

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