|A juvenile red-tailed hawk poses for a photo before being released atop Lucky Peak. (Courtesy IBO)|
This is a great educational activity for kids, families, seniors and adults. Pairing the trip to the top of Lucky Peak with a hike or bike ride just adds to the overall experience. You can drive to the top with a 4WD vehicle, if need be. I'll provide directions and a map for doing either below.
I've always been fascinated by birds of prey since I was in college, when I first saw bald eagles swoop down and catch kokanee at West Glacier in Montana. I took hundreds of photographs with a long lens, and sent framed photos to all of my family for Christmas that year.
|Morley Nelson with a golden eagle and his first wife, Betty Ann, with a prairie falcon on her fist|
"You've got to show people how they can feel being a part of the environment," he always would say. "That's a beautiful thing.
|Looking for raptors in the sky ... (courtesy IBO)|
"It's hugely important that kids get outside as much as possible because we're losing that with our culture," says Greg Kaltenecker, executive director of the Idaho Bird Observatory.
|A young girl gets ready to release a sharp-shinned hawk.|
A friend of mine, Paul Hilding, volunteered at the bird observatory last week. He had a great time.
"For raptor fans, last week was a very good one, and this week should be great as well," Hilding says. "If you like to see raptors up close, IBO in September is the place to be!
|Northern pygmy owl (courtesy IBO)|
"Also fun to watch were a peregrine falcon, a couple northern harriers, and numerous kestrels that dove and swooped on the bait birds, mostly avoiding the nets and tormenting the trappers in the blind. The Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks did not share their skill, and seemed to be, by far, the most common catch. We saw at least half a dozen migrating broad-winged hawks, some ospreys and Swainson’s hawks, and a few large kettles of turkey vultures and red-tails, soaring high on the afternoon thermals."
If you drive to the site, Hilding recommends bring binoculars, a lawn chair, sun block, and some treats for Josh and Teague, the two skinny HW staffers who are out there counting birds 7 hours a day, rain or shine. "They seem to be particularly fond of cookies, sun flower seeds, chicken chili and bacon," he says.
|Typical scene on top of Lucky Peak, looking for raptors in the sky ...|
Nowadays there are two ways to get to Lucky Peak on foot or by bike:
1. Easiest way - Take Idaho 21 east of Boise to Highland Valley Road, a left-hand turn before you get to Hilltop Summit. Drive 1.3 miles to the intersection with Trail E. Park your rig and either hike or bike to the top of Lucky Peak from here. It's another 4 miles to the top and more than 2,000 vertical feet of climbing to the top. Good workout.
|Easy way to the IBO|
|Hard way to the IBO (from Boise Trail Guide)|
If you're interested in volunteering at the Idaho Bird Observatory, Kaltenecker suggests that you visit the site and see what goes on. Volunteers working at the site can help you get signed up.
Have fun! I hope to take my kids up there on Sunday.