Alex and I have been living at the Boise River Wildlife Management Area just a few miles east of Boise, Idaho. Our camper is only about 2 miles from Lucky Peak Hawk Watch, run by IBO in the fall. Any time of year, the trail starting at the WMA up to Lucky Peak is a great hike. A few days ago, our co-worker Eddie Shea found a male Dusky Grouse (formerly Blue Grouse) off trail in the sage brush. We didn’t realize we had them almost in our back yard, so Alex and I also decided to do the hike the next evening.
To see the Dusky Grouse, you either have to get lucky like Eddie and see one strolling out in the open, or flush one as you are walking. To find the Dusky Grouse on the hike to Lucky Peak, find your inner mule deer and head off trail at the first open gate to the left, following a well-worn mule deer path. The path soon turns into hundreds of smaller ones, but just pick one that heads up the very steep slope. For us, on the third ridge in, we flushed a female Dusky Grouse, but I am sure they are hiding amongst the brush all over the steep slopes. The grouse took off flying to a new location ahead of us, and Alex was able to track her down again. This time, she flushed more downhill, not allowing for photos, but a quick view as she flew low over the brush.
We continued on mule deer trails, crossing the main dirt trail and the river onto another steep slope. Since it was late in the evening, we didn’t see many birds, but did see many Spotted Towhees, Vesper Sparrows, and Common Ravens. Back on trail, almost to Luky Peak, we rounded a corner where there was still snow left on the ground around scattered pines. Alex yelled “OH MY GOD,” and, thinking he saw an awesome bird in a tree or in the sky, I looked up, missing a massive mountain lion bounding away from us, less than 50 feet away. Alex left me in the dust as he scaled a steep slope to get a better look at the big cat, but we didn’t see any sign of him again. He was likely on his way down the trail for the evening following mule deer that come into the lower elevation valleys for the evening.