Yesterday, Kathleen Cameron, Poo Wright-Pulliam, and I had our last shot to find the elusive Spruce Grouse or “foolhen!” This would be a lifer for all except Kathleen, and she had never even seen it in the state.
We started the day at 7am and birded our way up the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, state highway 75.
We started off by birding Baker Creek Road, where we quickly picked up two RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS including this one:
A western race of FOX SPARROW was a great surprise to see, here posing with an immature SONG SPARROW:
Next, we stopped at Billy’s Bridge to see if we could spot any Mountain Goats climbing in the Boulder Range. Although we didn’t see any goats, we did find this beautiful male WESTERN TANAGER posing in the morning light:
As well as a nice OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER:
Next, we birded a road north of the Galena Lodge in search of Spruce Grouse, since we knew they have been sighted in that area in the past. We immediately found a huge flock of sparrows and other passerines, including this VESPER SPARROW:
“Whoa!” This immature RED-TAILED HAWK didn’t expect its sibling to make such a close landing!
Unfortunately, no Spruce Grouse.
After a few quiet stops over Galena Pass, we birded Forest Road 199 in the Sawtooth Valley. BREWER’S SPARROWS were nice:
As well as a WARBLING VIREO:
And many MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, including this pale one:
My favorite bird there was this GRAY FLYCATCHER, an uncommon find this far north in Idaho!
Seeing a herd of Antelope was also nice.
A flyover PEREGRINE FALCON was a great surprise:
Then, it was off to Pettit Lake because the Spruce Grouse have been seen at the campground there recently. This Red Squirrel was cute:
As well as this DUSKY FLYCATCHER:
But once again, no grouse. Next stop: Little Redfish Lake! It sure was beautiful there:
A couple COMMON MERGANSERS resting on a log close to shore were nice to see:
Then, we birded near the Redfish Lake Visitor Center where Poo pointed out some uncommon orchids to us — these are called “Lady’s Trusses,” and they grow strictly along streams and water bodies in mountainous areas.
Kathleen shouted, “I’ve struck gold!” and she pointed out a SOLITARY SANDPIPER, a fairly common migrant out east but definitely uncommon for Idaho.
Poo and I discussed the difference between a spruce cone (left) and a pine cone (right).
A RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET put on a nice show for us:
As we were driving out of Redfish Lake, Kathleen received a text from one of her friends, Gary, and he said he had heard a report yesterday of a family of Spruce Grouse on the other side of the lake. So, we accordingly raced over to the appropriate boat launch area where the Grouse had been seen just a few hours earlier.
We walked into the appointed trail, and within a minute, Kathleen pointed and said “there it is.” Sure enough, this fluffy, black, chicken-like bird was sitting underneath — you guessed it — a spruce tree! SPRUCE GROUSE! An unbelievable life bird for which I have been waiting for years! Poo had been trying to find this bird for 25 years, and it was a life bird for her too! Kathleen, as well, had never seen the bird in Idaho before so it was a first for her. How absolutely incredible!
Here is a photo Poo took of Kathleen & I photographing the Spruce Grouse with our matching Nikon P900’s:
And Poo’s excellent sketches of the grouse:
With high spirits, we continued on to Stanley Ranger Station Sewage Ponds, which also did not disappoint! This LEAST SANDPIPER posed splendidly for us:
As did a WESTERN SANDPIPER:
Female LESSER SCAUP:
The views of the majestic Sawtooth Mountains and their snowfields throughout the day were spectacular.
At the end of the day, we birded Cape Horn Road northwest of Stanley in search of Great Gray Owls, which we have seen there before. Here is a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, a common breeder there:
And we were overjoyed to finally find an AMERICAN DIPPER, a bird all of us were wanting to see today:
Unfortunately, no owls were found but we saw dozens (I believe near forty!) SANDHILL CRANES, with young! So great to see these as they definitely had some successful breeding this year. (no photos since I was saving my camera battery for possible owls)
Bird-of-the-day fo the Spruce Grouse, of course, with runner-up to the Fox Sparrow. Such a joy to bird with Kathleen and Poo — thanks Kathleen for driving!!! The full species list from the day is attached below. Stay tuned: I have a great report coming for today’s birds!
World Life List: 974 Species (1 life bird today: Spruce Grouse)