10 November 2009

Himalayan Snowcock expedition

Last weekend I joined 11 friends in Wendover for a night of gambling to celebrate my friend Ian's birthday. While I was there, I thought it would be a good chance to look for Himalayan Snowcocks. The Himalayan Snowcock is a large grouse that is native to the alpine habitat of the Himalayas. In the 1960s, the Nevada Department of Wildlife decided that it did not have enough species for its citizens to hunt in the high mountains. Arrangements were made to acquire several individuals of this species from Pakistan, and after several introductions and much captive breeding, a total of about 2,000 birds were successfully introduced into the Ruby Mountains of NE Nevada and the nearby East Humbolt Range. The Himalayan Snowcock is a dream bird both for hunters and birders. It's preference for steep alpine cliffs and its wary nature make it very difficult to find, and it is considered the most difficult bird to hunt in the U.S. Birders do not have much more luck, and many hire helicopters to take them into the steep terrain where this bird lives.

On Saturday morning four of us left Wendover for the two hour drive to the Ruby Mountains. We parked at the trailhead at the top of Lamoille Canyon and hiked two miles up to Island Lake, at an elevation of just under 10,000 feet. As soon as we arrived, I set up the spotting scope and started scanning the hillside. I started at the bottom of the slope and scanned up towards the rocky ridgeline. I got very lucky and spotted one bird walking along a ledge almost at the top of the ridge. The views were very distant, but the bird was moving slowly and eventually we were able to find two others with it. Everyone in the group got a look (photo below, bird is the blob at center), and it was a lifer for all of us! This exciting and rare bird almost made me forget my gambling losses from the night before.

1 comment:

Arthur said...

Email me at artrw@comcast.net. I am a young birder from Cache Valley and want some tips from the expert :)