Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Great Gray Owl on Gold Fork Road

In early October a family of Great Gray Owls (including two unusually late-season juveniles) were found on Gold Fork Road near Donnelly. After getting just a brief glimpse at a long distance of our lifer Great Gray Owl earlier in the year near Cape Horn, and seeing all the nice photos others were getting, we were optimistic at our odds of getting a more satisfying view.

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Nora trying to get in on the bird-finding action on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

We made an overnighter out of our trip up to the area, and started our search at the same location most everybody else had seen them with no luck. There was a ton of traffic coming and going from Gold Fork Hot Springs just down the road, so perhaps that kept the owls a little further from the road. We spent another hour and a half looking for them the next morning when the hot springs weren't open and the traffic was way down. We made 8 passes by the main location and finally gave up, and as I sped away in a disappointed fit Ellen saw one of the owls in flight along the river. I slammed on my brakes (luckily before running another birder off the road) and pulled to the side of the road to get some better views.

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Great Gray Owl on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

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Great Gray Owl on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

While our views were much more distant than what some others were getting, and we just had one adult rather than the whole family, we were still thrilled regardless. I did however get distracted by a group of Gray Jays that flew right to where we were parked, and the Great Gray Owl slipped away and we couldn’t re-find it. It was still fun to see the Gray Jays though, because although we’d seen them before in three different states, we had still not been able to get good pictures of them in Idaho.

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Gray Jay on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

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Gray Jay on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

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Gray Jay on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

On the way out we also got nice close looks at a Pileated Woodpecker that was only 10 feet or so away from the road on a mossy snag.

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Pileated Woodpecker on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

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Pileated Woodpecker on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

We also had another mossy snag that a group of Cassin’s Finches plus a lone female Red Crossbill were resting on.

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Cassin’s Finches on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

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Cassin’s Finches and a Red Crossbill (bottom) on Gold Fork Road, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

After grabbing lunch in Cascade, we headed up Snowbank Mountain to hike into Blue Lake. There were just a few Common Goldeneyes on the lake, but the scenery was too beautiful to not at least include a couple of photos.

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Panorama of Blue Lake, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

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Common Goldeneyes on Blue Lake, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

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Nora and Ellen at Blue Lake, Valley County. October 12, 2014.

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