Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dusky Grouse in the Lick Creek Mountains

For a long time, every time I looked at a map of the McCall area trying to pick out new places to explore, Lick Creek Road kept catching my eye. You can see on the map below how the long, steep valley stands out, and we hoped to find out what the views were like from the middle of those steep slopes.

Map 1

Google map of the drive from McCall to the Duck Lake/Hum Lake trailhead.

During our anniversary trip to Valley County in August, we set a day aside to explore the area and do some birding and hiking. For much of the drive, you really couldn’t see the forest for the trees,but there were definitely plenty of patches where the road broke away from the trees to provide a glimpse at the impressive granite cliffs rising on either side of the road.

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Lick Creek Mountains, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

On one of Nora’s feeding stops, we tried to track down some birds. In those dense woods it was much easier to hear birds than it was to see them, but we did track down this Hairy Woodpecker, working the underside of a fallen tree.

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Hairy Woodpecker on Lick Creek Road, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

The road climbed in altitude until the summit, where the trees thinned out and the views opened up even more. I really like the contrast of the evergreens against the gray granite and black and white burned timber.

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Lick Creek Summit, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

Near the top we had a handful of birds, most too far from the road to photograph, but we did catch a quick shot of this female Black-headed Grosbeak. I always keep a close eye on these guys, as we found our lifer Northern Pygmy-Owl by taking a minute to investigate what a couple of female Black-headed Grosbeaks in Colorado were making a big fuss about.

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Black-headed Grosbeak (female) at Lick Creek Summit, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

As we headed north over the summit the scenery greened up again, and the views just kept impressing at every turn.

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Lick Creek Mountains, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Lick Creek Mountains, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

We let Nora nap in the car as we continued on down the road a little further. When she woke up, we circled back to go for a hike to Duck Lake. While not a long hike (it was about 2.5 miles round trip) the terrain was fairly rough, and there was a pretty steep grade in the middle of it, so I wouldn’t quite rate it as “easy” like the trail guide we looked at did.

Map 2

Trail map of the Duck Lake area from Trails.Idaho.Gov.

With Nora and a big jug of water on my back it was definitely a bit of a workout. Good thing she’s such a good sport for all the fun outings we take her along for!

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Stoddard (and Nora) hiking to Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Ellen (and Nora) hiking to Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

The scenery along the hike was some of the best we enjoyed all summer. Huge mountains in every direction, bright blue skies with puffy white clouds, mirror-smooth water, and rainbow colored wildflowers along the whole path.

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Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Wildflowers along the hike in to Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

We really wanted to track down Spruce Grouse on our hike, and we tried to keep a close eye on everything that moved, or on every black lump or outline we saw. We got excited when we were almost back to the parking lot and spotted a few grouse quickly scuttling off of the trail in front of us! However, when we caught up to them it turned out to be Dusky Grouse, a hen and a few chicks, rather than Spruce Grouse. Still a fun bird, but after hearing (but not seeing) Spruce Grouse a couple other times this summer we’re really itching for a good soul-satisfying view.

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Dusky Grouse near Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Dusky Grouse near Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Dusky Grouse near Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Dusky Grouse near Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Dusky Grouse near Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Dusky Grouse near Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

The area should definitely be good for Spruce Grouse, so we’ll just have to make another trip next summer. With views like this, it won’t take much persuasion to get us back there.

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Hike to Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

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Hike to Duck Lake, Valley County. August 19, 2014.

We had a total of 10 species in two and a half hours along the trail. Click here to check out our full checklist on eBird.

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