Pioneer Mountains, ID
Monday 19 August 2019 92 °F
Today, I hiked with my family into the Pioneer Mountains with one clear purpose: to find my life bird Rosy-Finch. I didn’t care if it were a Black or a Gray-crowned; I just wanted to see and identify at least one of them! This hike was to Hyndman Basin, high above the valley & above the tree line — these elusive finches live in only the harshest, most inaccessible alpine climates.
My Dad spotted a good amount of wildlife on the drive in to this hike, including a Coyote:
And a Jackrabbit:
And some Elk:
The first thing evident on this hike was the profusion and diversity of wildflowers. STUNNING!
My mom and Pearl posed for the camera shortly before turning around; Pearl was beginning to feel a smidge under the weather and understandably wasn’t up for a mega-intense hike high into the mountains.
As my Dad and I hiked up and up and up, the views got progressively more astounding:
And the closer and closer we got to the treeline, the more we noticed a change in wildlife. Here is a ground squirrel:
Then, my dad spotted this female DUSKY GROUSE! Jeez, quit stealing my “wildlife spotting thunder,” Dad!
Another higher-mountain speciality, the CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD, was a treat to see:
More stupendous views.
And amazing wildflowers.
Then, I spotted a furry head poking out of the rockslide in front of us and I spotted this Long-tailed Weasel! How cool is that?!?!?! I have only ever seen one once before, and that sighting was a split-second look.
And its less-common cousin, the ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER:
RED-TAILED HAWK soaring high overhead:
Then, after five hours of hiking and scrambling above treeline, I spotted a small group of birds calling and flying overhead. I made the classic birder sound “spish” rather violently and they circled around us a few times — at this point I had my suspicions as to their I.D. — and then landed a bit further up the slope from us. I zoomed in, and there they were, my life bird BLACK ROSY-FINCHES!!! Too cool, this is an extremely hard bird to find in the summer due to their inaccessible habitat! Here is the adult which was quite far away:
This immature bird with its black feathers just starting to come in, perched a bit closer:
WOW is all I have to say! I really wanted to see Rosy Finches this summer, and see them I did!!! The fun didn’t stop there, though, the rugged alpine walls of the highest peaks of the Pioneer Mountains did not disappoint with their beauty:
Around mid-day, we ended our strenuous hike at this high alpine tarn (“tarn” means a glacial-fed, alpine pool). The climate up here was definitely harsh, even on a summer day, very windy and cooler than the valleys below! The vegetation was accordingly scarce in this fascinating world at & above the treeline.
The scramble down was filled with even more wildflowers, and even a waterfall!
As well as another ground squirrel:
My Dad rejoicing after yet another 45-degree angle boulder field to scramble down.
Then, I heard some screams from the forest canopy, and after a bit of searching through the dense pine & fir forest, I spotted this SHARP-SHINNED HAWK! Too cool! A juvenile of its kind was also nearby.
And only a little while later, it’s much-bigger Accipiter (bird-eating hawk) cousin, the NORTHERN GOSHAWK, also stopped by to join the fun! Super super cool! This is an immature bird so I can safely say that both of these hawk species probably nested up here in the Pioneer Mountains this summer!
13.9 miles later, my Dad and I were back to the trailhead! Whew! What a hike! Bird-of-the-day to the Black Rosy-Finch of course, with runners-up to the Dusky Grouse, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, & Northern Goshawk. AMAZING! Thanks so much to birder Brian Sturges for giving me this tip to find the Rosy Finches.
Stay tuned and good birding,
World Life List: 973 Species (1 life bird today: Black Rosy-Finch)