Date: 11/10/19 11:45 am
From: Quinton Nice <quintonnice77...>
Subject: [obol] Hell's Canyon trip report

My daughter and I are just home this morning from elk hunting in the high
country between the Imnaha River and the Snake River. To the best of our
knowledge, no elk were harmed in the making of this story, although we
apparently scared one real good. I didn't see any birders up there, so I'll
pass on a report.

Bird numbers and diversity were both less than what you would expect in
spring/summer months. Ravens were prominent, as would be expected during
elk season. Still some jays and chickadee/nuthatch flocks around. Raptors
were scarce, along with woodpeckers.

The first three days we were on the Hat Point Road, mostly between Cayuse
Flat and Saddle Creek campground. There were multiple flocks of 30-50
Gray-crowned Rosy-finches circling in the treetops below our vantage
points. Not quite trash birds, but enough that I quit playing much
attention to them. A Canyon Wren came to check us out as we sat on the
point overlooking Freezeout Saddle. On the day we hiked down to Freezeout
Saddle and on into Saddle Creek, we heard devil-birds laughing at us more
than once and actually flushed one covey.

The last three days we were further south, around Puderbaugh Ridge,
Crazyman Creek, and PO Trailhead. We were treated to close looks at Pine
Grosbeaks in the brush in front of us (2M,1F), as well as a single female
in another location. We encountered multiple Dusky Grouse, including a very
trusting hen that sat in a tree just above our heads. One of these days
there will be a Spruce Grouse, but I found that no matter how long you
stare at a drab hen Dusky Grouse, it's still a Dusky Grouse. We found only
one flock of rosy-finches in this area, but my eyeball estimate was 200
birds. A goshawk finally made its obligatory appearance, bursting out of
some short pine trees over our heads with something in it's talons. I
didn't see it well, but what besides a goshawk makes you think about diving
for cover because it might drop the squirrel and carry you away, instead?

Of mammalian interest, no bears, no wolves. We saw elk everyday, but those
crafty buggers like to live in places that are nearly inaccessible. There
was one group of bighorn sheep high on the Imnaha side, feeding in an old
burn. We easily found 20+ mountain goats the final morning glassing across
to the Idaho side. The Oregon side of the canyon is steep and rugged, but
the Idaho side (Seven Devils) is a landscape of its own. I guess that's why
the goats are there.

Good birding,

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