Yesterday, under smokey skies, WC and Mrs. WC took a drive east of Boise, through the Danskin Mountains along Blacks Creek Road. The road runs from the Snake River Plain, over Three Points Mountain Pass and down into the South Fork of the Boise River. The river canyon itself is pretty impressive.
This part of Idaho was buried in volcanic ash, and the the ash was later buried under thick layers of basalt. The result is these kinds of spectacular rock formations.
Very hot ash from nearby eruptions piled up in thick layers, welded together and became rhyolite. Deeply buried, the rhyolite was later twisted and distorted, turning the neat layers into the folded and multiply-bent mess here. And then hot basalt, the black rock to the right, intruded through the rhyolite. A messy business, geology.
But the primary purpose of the drive was to look for lingering birds. We did pretty well.
This is a larger cousin to the Interior Alaska’s uncommon Red-breasted Nuthatch. It was a 500 foot drop from where the bird was to the river below. WC declined the opportunity to get a closer shot.
It’s always a treat to see Mountain Bluebirds and we saw a ton of them, big flocks in migration.
It was a little hard to find – the call echoes among the rocks – and pretty far away, but unmistakably a Canyon Wren, a specialist in sheer cliffs and rocky slopes. Obviously, earlier that year something larger was roosting or nesting where this little bird was.
Despite what you may have heard, WC does stop and look at, and even photograph, things besides birds. This handsome young Gopher Snake was slowly working his way across the road.1 We made sure he made it. Watching a snake move is among nature’s best treats.
We came around a corner and found a flock of 18 Wild Turkeys, a complete surprises in that habitat. For all of the hunters we saw along the road, this might have been a missed opportunity.
This was a final treat, just before the loop road met U.S. 20. It caused us some head scratching, but we settled on a juvenile Northern Shrike, as opposed to its more common Lower 48 cousin, the Loggerhead Shrike.
We saw 28 birds species in all, one snake and a small herd of Pronghorns (often mis-identified as Pronghorn Antelope). An altogether excellent day of birding and exploring.
- This may be the first snake posted in a blog entry here at Wickerhsam’s Conscience. WC apologizes for the speciesism. ↩