Saturday, March 27, 2010

Introducing Idaho's State Bird

Not normally intimidated by the finer character-building miseries of inclement weather on Scouting adventures, I still got nervous as the weather on Thursday turned cold and wet.  Snow and wind was forecast for Friday in the Oreana area which persuaded me to look at alternative closer locations.  You pretty much need four-wheel drive to get to the Oreana Sand Caves, which is fun, but adding mud and slush doesn't sound like an enjoyable spring campout.  

I determined that we should try camping out at Avimor along the Spring Valley Creek Trail.  It is close to everyone and if the weather turned really bad, we could just go home.  Well, Friday morning it was snowing at Avimor.  Most of the boys had already bailed out on the campout due to athletics or family spring break travels.  This weather caused a few more to bow out too.  About 4pm, the weather broke, the Sun shone through the clouds and I knew I was going on the campout no matter what, and my nine year old Kyle was coming with me.  At 5pm only two other boys showed up, one with his father.  Oh, these brave souls!

We set up camp right where the dirt road ends on Spring Valley Creek Trail.  Not too far away was a Red-tailed Hawk nest where the momma hawk squawked at us to keep our distance.  We took a little hike up Spring Valley Creek Trail and everyone quickly learned that I was a birder.  We saw Canyon Wren, Rock Wren, Western Bluebirds, and several other usual species.  My guests were respectful and at least moderately interested in the birds I pointed out along the way.  That night we cooked our dinners on the coals in the fire.  If you have never eaten a hollowed out an onion, stuffed with chicken breast, cooked right on the coals, you haven't yet experienced life!

The three-quarter moon shone so bright that flashlights weren't really needed as we watched the fire die down.  Frost had already formed on our tents and equipment foreshadowing a long and cold night.  I was sleeping pretty warm and snug, but Kyle was shivering with cold and crawled into my double-wide sleeping back to mooch off of my extreme body heat.  The ground is not the most comfortable place to sleep, especially for a full-figured fellow like me.  Even though I tossed and turned, I slept fairly well by campout standards.

Another benefit of camping so close to my home was being able to prepare a pancake breakfast in my wife's kitchen with all its accoutrements.  After a hearty breakfast we headed back into the hills and went for another hike, but this time on a trail that took as straight north from our campsite.

The morning sunrise warmed the hill adjacent to us.  I noticed some "bluebirds" flitting among the tops of the sage and bitterbrush.  Putting my binoculars to my eyes I burst forth with wild excitement, "Those are Mountain Bluebirds!". 

Mountain Bluebird, photo courtesy of Bob Whitlatch

Another Avimor official first record.  I passed my binoculars around to everyone.  Finally, an electric-blue colored bird that really impressed them!  I asked each person if they had ever seen Idaho's State bird, the Mountain Bluebird before.  This was a first for all of them. Mr. Stokes even admired the Mountain Bluebirds beauty and replied, "I could see how someone could addicted to this."  Welcome to my world!!!

UPDATE:  How the Mountain Bluebird became Idaho's State Bird.

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