By Year
By Type
By Destination
Bird Gallery
Backyard Birds
Winter Creek Birds
Left Coast Birder

Hardy Canyon, Wenas Wildlife Area
September 2010


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:

When we reached the ridge above the canyon, we decided to hike along the ridge to the next canyon with a road. Then we wouldn't have to hike through the hazardous obstacle course of Hardy Canyon again. Good in theory, but...

Along the Cleman Ridge, we were rewarded with great views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. The weather was perfect for the hike. We found a Short-horned Lizard along the trail. It must have been born earlier in the month, because it was so tiny (and cute). After a short while on the ridge, we turned down the road to Big Barn Canyon. We found 3 more tiny horned lizards along the way. As the road decend from the ridge, it entered a forest of Ponderosa pines. A couple of groups were camping along the road, we stopped to talk to one group who said the road below had been closed for several years. We were halfway down to the canyon floor, so we continued on and hoped that the road would still be usable by hikers.

To close the road, they had dug deep berms in the road like they did with Hardy canyon, but with weather and age it was more easily passable on foot. We followed the road down to the canyon floor, where the road was a field of waste high grass. We tried to follow game trails on the unused road, but the going was slow without an established clear path. Walking in deep grass with rocks lurking underneath was challenging. About half way down the canyon, I stepped on a rock and sprained my ankle. Ouch! I still knew we had a ways to go too. We continued on and I hobbled behind, both exhausted and in pain at this point. Thankfully the road got better, flatter, with a more established game trail. We finally made it to the road on the valley floor, but still had to trek back along the road to the campsite - about 2.5 miles away. Wouldn't have been such a problem if it weren't for the sprained ankle and having already hiked 12 miles that day.

Within the last few 100 feet of the campsite, we spotted a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake warming himself on the road. It curled itself in a rabbitbush as we neared. I was happy to be back at camp, too tired to worry about the nearby elk hunters, and too tired to go look for the Western Screech Owls.

I'm not sure when or if we'll return to Hardy Canyon. It's a great place to bird, but with the road being torn up it makes walking and birding difficult. I hope with continued hiker use a path will become evident and allow better passage.


Pictures (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bird List

Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Perigrine Falcon
American Kestrel
Wild Turkey
flock with young
California Quail
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
1 young calling at night, 1 heard calling
Western Screech Owl
2 heard
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Steller's Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
large flocks
Townsend's Solitaire
Western Bluebird
small flock near Hardy Canyon mouth
Hermit Thrush
2 flocks
American Robin
large flocks
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
1 small flock
Yellow-rumped Warbler
everywhere, flocks
Orange-crowned Warbler
Lincoln's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
in grass
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
large flocks
Song Sparrow
heard near Wenas Creek
Spotted Towhee
Dark-eyed Junco
large flocks in pines
Western Meadowlark
numerous in grass
Other Critters:
Pacific Tree Frog
Short-horned Lizard
4 very small
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Least Chipmunk
California Ground Squirrel
Douglas Squirrel
Mule Deer
1 cow with young
Flowers in bloom:
Tumble Mustard



Wenas Wildlife Area


All material on this website copyright
Do not use without author's consent
Email: Birder AT NWBirding.com
page updated: 9/26/10