Himalayan Snowcock – Island Lake, Nevada

Chris Feeney and I decided in 2015 to try for the Himalayan Snowcock, a bird we both wanted to see before we were to old to make the climb.

I spoke to many people about the climb asking if it was it harder than the Colima Warbler climb?  Which is a  3 hour 1800 foot uphill climb in sweltering heat.  Most said easier, but staying hydrated was important.

On the drive from Salt Lake to the Ruby Mountains we had

Many Black-billed Magpie

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Harlan’s Hawk

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Chris and I arrived at the trailhead at 1pm and headed up the 2 mile trail to Island Lake.

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The photo below shows the trail approximately 3/4 of a mile from the car, a steady uphill grade.

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It was rough at first but once We started pacing ourselves and stopping for frequent water breaks it got a bit easier.   Chris was a trooper on this climb, he has a few years on me and trouble with his knees, he was slow and steady.

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We passed the wooden bridge over the water fall that people told us was a bit over the half way point.

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From this spot it was 6 switchbacks to the lake…

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Once you cross over the culvert your about a minute from the lake, you should really start listening and looking from this point on.  We met a couple who had 3 Snowcock’s fly over their heads at the lake.

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The scenery was pretty impressive…

We started scoping the hillside from this spot but soon realized the climb wasn’t over and crossed the creek again, heading uphill another 1/2 mile.

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Look for the tallest trees you can see up hill and head for them, another 3/4 hour found us at the spot.  A large flat rocky area, perfect for scoping the cliffs and meadows.

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We stayed until 7 pm and while we did hear a male calling, we just couldn’t get any views.

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We took the next day off and birded locally, I don’t think either of us wanted to redo the climb without resting up.   We were in bed by 6pm that night, waking up at 1am so we could arrive at the trailhead by 2pm.  With headlamps and flashlight we headed out and made very good time arriving at the viewing area by 4:30am.

It was cold, if your planning on doing this trip dress in layers it was about 4C (38F) and we couldn’t wait for the sun to make it over the horizon.  The moon wasn’t providing much heat.

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Shivering, we scanned the mountain top for any movement, praying that we’d see a Snowcock, neither of us wanted to redo this climb anytime soon, at 5:15am I spotted a rock on the crest of the hill that wasn’t there moments earlier.  Our quest was over, one Snowcock had made an appearance.

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We stayed on site for another 3 hours hoping another bird would make an appearance.

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Looking down mountain…

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We headed for the car, with lots of time to smell the flowers.

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On the trip down I found another life bird, I had searched for in South Dakota only a few short months ago…Dusky Flycatcher.

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I think both of us were asleep, as soon as our heads hit the pillow that night.

 

 

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2 Responses to Himalayan Snowcock – Island Lake, Nevada

  1. Dan Brown says:

    Glad you got the bird, Paul! We actually saw our birds from the lake itself but we ended up walking all the way up to the cirque without seeing them again!

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