Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bushtits at Leslie Gulch and McBride Creek

Towards the end of March we enjoyed a trip out through the canyon lands of Owyhee and Malheur (Oregon) counties. We didn’t really have a specific route in mind, we just headed out for Succor Creek and then wandered around a few other places as we had time to explore. We ended up driving quickly through Succor Creek, seeing Leslie Gulch for the first time, having a picnic at Dago Gulch, and then tacking on a sunset drive on McBride Creek.

Succor Creek, Leslie Gulch, McBride Creek map

Map of our trip through Succor Creek (B), Leslie Gulch (C), Dago Gulch (D) and McBride Creek (E).

This was our first time back to Succor Creek since 2011, but we cruised through fairly quickly because Nora had just fallen asleep for a much needed nap. If you’ve ever seen the movie Speed, you have an idea of what it can be like for us when we’re driving around with Nora. She’s an amazing little travel companion and sleeps through most of our drives, but she has this uncanny ability to sense when we’re slowing down or stopping, and wakes up quite grumpy if she wasn’t ready for her nap to be over.

Most of the time, if we’re careful, we can figure out how to time our days around her naps, such that we do the longer, less interesting legs of our trip while she’s sleeping, and then arrive at our destination or at least a reasonably interesting stopping point by the time we think her nap might end. When she wakes up from a nap she’s usually ready for a change and a meal, or at least some attention (I can’t blame her, I wouldn’t want to be alone in the back of the car all day!), so it’s nice to get to a safe and enjoyable place where we can get her out and play around for a little while.

On this trip, we thought she’d sleep all the way from Boise to Succor Creek, and then we’d get her out at Succor Creek, but she had other plans. She stayed awake in her car seat all the way to the Oregon border, and then finally fell asleep just as we reached Succor Creek. We decided we’d better not interrupt her nap, and just drove on through. We did still manage to see some fun birds as we cruised by, like a few Sagebrush Sparrows, a handful of Rock Wrens chasing each other back and forth on a hillside, and this Red-tailed Hawk with a tasty little morsel he must’ve just recently captured.

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Red-tailed Hawk near Succor Creek State Park, Malheur County (OR). March 24, 2014.

We took advantage of the extra drive time to go check out somewhere new, and went out to Leslie Gulch for the first time. I’ve heard quite a few outdoorsy people from the Treasure Valley rave about Leslie Gulch, so our expectations were high, and it didn’t disappoint.

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Leslie Gulch, Malheur County (OR). March 24, 2014.

Succor Creek certainly has some visually striking scenery, but the rock formations at Leslie Gulch were on a whole different scale.

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Leslie Gulch, Malheur County (OR). March 24, 2014.

We made it all the way through Leslie Gulch, to Lake Owyhee, and halfway back out again before Nora woke up. When she was ready to get out and play we pulled in to Dago Gulch for a little family picnic.

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Dago Gulch, Malheur County (OR). March 24, 2014.

I’m sure as Nora continues to grow and change from week to week I’m going to keep having different “favorite” things she does all the time, but one of my favorites right now is how blissful and content she can be when she’s just woken up from a nice long nap. She always seems just thrilled to see us again, and her little giggles and squeals can sure make you feel like a million bucks.

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Nora showing off her balance and trying to blend in at Dago Gulch, Malheur County (OR). March 24, 2014.

While we were enjoying our picnic and Ellen was feeding Nora, we heard a little flock of birds moving their way down the gulch towards where we were sitting. It didn’t take long for them to get close enough for us to recognize the faint wispy notes of Bushtits in the nearby sage brush and juniper.

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Bushtit at Dago Gulch, Malheur County (OR). March 24, 2014.

We also had a Townsend’s Solitaire and come through and perch on a fence near by.

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Townsend’s Solitaire at Dado Gulch, Malheur County (OR). March 24, 2014.

The rocky edges of the gulch had quite a few Chukars, a couple of whom were calling and counter-calling to each other.

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Chukar at Dago Gulch, Malheur County (OR). March 24, 2014.

After our picnic at Dago Gulch we packed up and headed out, and took a detour through McBride Creek on the way home. Our best find there was another flock of Bushtits, the first we’ve been able to photograph in Idaho. We looked for these guys at Swan Falls Dam a couple of times last year, and heard, but didn’t see them on one trip, so it was nice to actually lay eyes on them and come home with some semi-decent photos.

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Bushtit at McBride Creek, Owyhee County. March 24, 2014.

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Bushtit at McBride Creek, Owyhee County. March 24, 2014.

One of my favorite parts of any day trip is the sunset on the way home. I loved seeing the way the sun highlighted the different layers and textures of the Owyhees.

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Sunset from McBride Creek, Owyhee County. March 24, 2014.

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