Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sawtooth National Recreation Area

Over the Independence Day weekend we took a trip out to the Sawtooths. This was our first time visiting this part of the state, and we had big plans to track down all of the area’s specialties. We were lucky to find some, such as Black-backed Woodpecker and American Three-toed Woodpecker, earlier in the week at Ponderosa State Park. Others, such as Spruce Grouse, Great Gray Owl and Gray Jay, we prepared to find by checking eBird for locations they have been seen in the past.

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eBird map of Great Gray Owl sightings near the Sawtooth National Recreation area.

We didn’t anticipate how many great places there were to bird between Boise and the Sawtooths, and were sad to have to hustle by lots of great habitat on the way so we could get to our destination before dark. We’ll make another trip sometime to explore the road on the way out.

Our first stop was a nice stretch of meadow along Cape Horn Road where we hoped to find a Great Gray Owl. The views were wonderful, but we did not find our owl on this trip.

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Cape Horn Road north of the Sawtooths, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

We did, however, see plenty of Great Gray Owl food, such as this fuzzy snack.

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Columbia Ground Squirrel near Cape Horn Road, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

We did see a lot of active logging in the area, which may have reduced the suitability of this area for Great Gray Owls.

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Logging cleanup on Cape Horn Road, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

Between fantastic views of the Sawtooth mountains, we did manage to see a few birds.

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Sawtooth mountains from Cape Horn Road, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

A few sparrows were around, including White-crowned, Brewer’s, and Savannah’s.

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Savannah Sparrow on Cape Horn Road, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

We also had quite a few Swainson’s Hawks hunting over the meadows.

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Swainson’s Hawk near Cape Horn Road, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

Western Meadowlarks seemed to be finding plenty to eat in the meadows as well.

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Western Meadowlark at Cape Horn Road, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

We couldn’t get enough of the views towards the Sawtooths, which were a little different everywhere we went. We stopped for dinner at Bridge Street Burger & Brew in Lower Stanley and enjoyed some great birds and fantastic views from their upper deck.

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The Sawtooths from Bridge Street Burger & Brew in Lower Stanley, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

We camped that night at Glacier View Campground on Redfish Lake. We had a few good birds in camp, including a possible Gray Jay (heard only, and not for very long), Mountain Chickadee, Cassin’s Finches, and several others.

Glacier View 1

Our campsite in Glacier View Campground, Custer County. July 5, 2013.

In the morning we drove around several of the lakes in the area hoping to find places where the mosquitoes weren’t too thick to get out of the car and the birds hadn’t already been spooked by the holiday weekend crowds. It was a little frustrating trying to navigate around all the other recreationists enjoying the area, so our finds were fewer and farther between than we had hoped. One good find was an Western Wood Pewee near Redfish Lake.

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Western Wood Pewee near Redfish Lake, Custer County. July 6, 2013.

Near Alturas Lake we enjoyed a Green-tailed Towhee and Red-naped Sapsucker, among others.

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Red-naped Sapsucker near Alturas Lake, Blaine County. July 6, 2013.

Rather than backtracking north up Highway 75 and then driving Highway 21 back to Boise, we headed south on Highway 75 over Galena Summit and through Sun Valley.

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The view from Galena Summit, Blaine County. July 6, 2013.

We enjoyed a quick drive along Harriman Trail at Prairie Creek, where we enjoyed some nice birds such as Mountain Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Whit-crowned Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, and this young Mountain Bluebird.

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Mountain Bluebird at the Harriman Trail at Prairie Creek, Blaine County. July 6, 2013.

We saw lots of young birds on the rest of our trip as well. We stopped through Cat Creek Road on the way home, and enjoyed quite a few young Tree Swallows that appeared to have recently fledged.

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Tree Swallow on Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. July 6, 2013.

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Tree Swallows on Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. July 6, 2013.

There was also an awkward looking young Western Meadowlark that was still begging for food from its parents.

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Western Meadowlark on Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. July 6, 2013.

Further into the wooded portion of Cat Creek Road we spied this wasp’s nest about ten feet from the road. We’ll be keeping our windows up near this spot from now on.

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Wasp’s nest on Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. July 6, 2013.

We spied one tree that was being shared by a Lewis’s Woodpecker on one side, and a House Wren on the other.

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House Wren on Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. July 6, 2013.

After checking Cat Creek Road we road down the east side of Bennett Mountain and enjoyed some new scenery. We had a few good birds out in the sage brush and rocky ravines, including this Lark Sparrow and Rock Wren.

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Lark Sparrow on Bennett Mountain Road, Elmore County. July 6, 2013.

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Rock Wren on Bennett Mountain Road, Elmore County. July 6, 2013.

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