A group of Boy Scouts and leaders went to Leslie Gulch in Oregon Friday evening through Saturday afternoon for a campout and hiking. It is about two hour drive from Eagle, Idaho. Pictures from a pathetic wanna-be photographer can never convey the magnificence of such a place as this, so I post a couple photos just to whet your appetite to want to go there. As with any adventure I am always looking and listening for birds. Some of the people in our scout group loved to hear about what I was seeing and wanted to know more. Others mocked. Others ignored, but a few birds caught everybody's interest!
As we drove down the 25 mile stretch of dirt road off of Hwy 95, I saw Horned Larks, Meadowlarks, Starlings, and Killdeer. As we entered Leslie Gulch we could see and hear Western Meadowlarks and we were lucky to have three Chukars cross the road in front of us. As we cooked our tinfoil dinners on the coals, along with our campfire orange-chocolate cakes for dessert, we could hear a Great Horned Owl hooting from the rocky cliffs above. At one point we heard the owl screech. These rock faces are full of holes and crevices and I can only assume that the Great Horned Owl was up in one of them and perhaps nesting.
Around mid-night when we finally laid down to sleep, I enjoyed listening to the Great Horned Owl's prolonged hooting. After a few minutes I heard the distinct cry of a rabbit in pain (the reason I know this sound goes back 20 years and is a whole other story). The rabbit screamed in three rapid beats and was silenced. I never heard the owl the rest of the night, so I figure it was enjoying its rabbit meal.
This morning we took the scouts on a hike up Juniper Gulch, a side gulch off of Leslie Gulch. This was one of the most fantastic hikes I have ever enjoyed! I didn't take my new camera as I was afraid of damaging it, but the scenery and rock formations on this hike were awe inspiring. The hike is easy - mostly a sandy wash - and is accessible for active seniors and children. It is a must-see location for anyone living in or visiting the Boise area. We also saw the resident Big Horned Sheep!
We didn't see a tremendous amount of birds, but the ones we did see were good ones, in that I don't regularly see them in my normal birding jaunts. Bushtits, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Red-naped Sapsucker, White-throated Swifts, Chukar, Prairie Falcons and the highlight, a Long-eared Owl. Almost everybody in our group got to see it perched in the tree. This is the first Long-eared Owl I have seen perched and it was fascinating to see its elongated and almost disproportionate body. (Remember, my first Long-eared was only a month ago and since then I have found two more on my own without knowing they would be where I was looking! - the curse has been broken!)
It's just too bad Leslie Gulch is just a few miles across the Idaho border...I could have used a few of these birds for the Idaho eBird competition this year!