Hardy Canyon, Wenas Wildlife Area
With our considerable lack of camping and getting out this summer, we took a late summer/early fall trip back to Hardy Canyon in the Wenas Valley. Our first trip to Hardy canyon was during the spring time and was very enjoyable and full of bird activity. I knew there wouldn't be as many birds in the canyon at this time of the year, so I didn't know what exactly to expect. The season change was pretty traumatic in the valley. All the grass was yellowed and dry and full of grasshoppers.
The downfall of camping during the fall was that it is also hunting season. One group was camping in the area and hunting for elk, so throughout the night they used their elk calls while moving around the riparian area around Wenas Creek. I don't know if they ever got anything, but we did see one elk cow and her calf coming down toward their commotion. Hopefully they are OK.
Thankfully, the nights were full of other more natural sounds. A young Great Horned Owl flew around the meadow calling insistently. I guess he wasn't quite ready to be on his own. Another Great Horned Owl hooted quietly in the distance and a Western Screech Owl also called from the aspens around us. The crickets chirped throughout the night and a pack of coyote would occasionally howl. At dawn, we were awoken by the sounds of a gobbling flock of Wild Turkeys.
The grassy valley was a great spot for the Western Meadowlarks and various sparrows - including White-crowned, Savannah, Vesper's, and Lincoln's. The birds were good at hiding in the tall grass. We took the day to hike up Hardy Canyon. At the mouth of the canyon, Western Bluebirds lined up along the fence. The trail, which was also a road, was torn up last May to close if off to vehicles. They did a great job deterring any ATVs, so much so that it made hiking up the canyon difficult. I would have thought a rock wall, metal fence, or large berm would have kept any off-road vehicles out. But the entire length of the road was scarred with deep berms - some were functional routing water to the creek, but others were not necessary. They also moved snags and large rocks over the portions of the road, so we had to straddle trunks and walk on rock fields. It felt like they didn't want anyone using the road - not even hikers.
Despite the obstacle course, we enjoyed the birds. The bird diversity was lacking, but the number of birds was high. There were large migrating flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Robins, and White-crowned Sparrows. Several Golden-crowned Sparrows, Orange-crowned Warblers, and a Townsend's Solitaire were mixed in the flocks.
Listen to the Hermit Thrushes: