Sunrise Birding: Owsley Bridge & Snake River Trail

Moderate:  Explore sunrise birding!   An excellent opportunity to watch, listen and learn about our migrant species. This early morning walk is an excellent introduction to the birds of the region.

The early hours of the day are perfect for practicing birding by ear. Not only are birds actively singing near sunrise, but they often do so from exposed, visible perches, offering exceptional views and photography opportunities in the exceptional morning light. Because the chorus is most prevalent in spring, many of the singers are also in their bright breeding plumage, making identification even easier. Getting up to enjoy the dawn chorus can be an experience many birders eagerly anticipate. Target birds:  Lazuli Bunting, MacGillivary’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Yellowthroat, Black-headed Grosbeak, and many more. Bird friendly coffee and light continental breakfast items will be made available. Please bring your own cup, water and a snack for the walk.  This walk is rated moderate due to unleveled terrain and proximity to falls.


“Birding by Ear” at Hagerman WMA

Easy/Moderate: The Hagerman WMA, Idaho’s first WMA, was established principally to provide habitat for waterfowl and upland game birds, in 1940.  Today it includes 880 acres devoted to wildlife habitat.  Riley Creek, Tucker Springs, and Anderson Ponds(1-4), the Bass  Ponds, Goose Pond, and Riley Creek Ponds  and the extensive interior trail system provides the opportunity for birders to experience more than the wintering views of thousands of waterfowl on the Ponds, on this guided tour.  Birders may well see or hear , Black-crowned Night Herons and Great Blue Herons and a few resident waterfowl.   Screech  owls, short-eared owls, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers nest and raise their young here.  Marsh wrens and numerous warbler and sparrow species are common.  A varied thrush has been seen here and soras, Virginia rails, and American dippers have been spotted on these trails.  While not all of these species are likely to be seen, with our collective sharp eyes and ears, we’re bound to have a good time enjoying the expected species, and perhaps finding a few surprises as we enjoy the nature.

Vardis Fisher “Behind the Gate”

Easy: The Vardis Fisher bird walk is an easy short walk in a micro-climate created by the warmth of the basalt canyon walls of Billingsley Creek and the 58 degree springs. Public access is limited but the area can be accessed for birding with permission of the current lessee for the festival. This trip with the crystal blue lake, and the old Vardis Fisher home site also becomes a historic tour. The riparian area along the meandering Billingsley creek offers the prospect of seeing or hearing Soras, Virginia rails, Ruby-crowned  Kinglets, Belted Kingfishers, and various warblers and sparrows.

The Magnificent Malad Gorge State Park

Easy/Moderate: A walk along canyon rim and into the interior ponds and water diversions into song bird habitat. Local birders are quick to call this area Raptor Alley! Southern Idaho’s Malad River, crashes down stairstep falls and into the Devils Washbowl, then cuts through a beautiful 250-foot gorge on its way to the Snake River, 2-1/2 miles downstream. People pass the park in an eye blink, never suspecting the spectacular canyon views that await them just a mile off the highway. Here in the canyon, birders may be able to spot resident kestrels, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, rough-legged hawks, prairie falcons, and just possibly a sighting of a peregrine falcon. In addition, you will see spring song birds.

South Hills Cassia Crossbill

Easy/Moderate:  We will be traveling to the Cassia Division of the Sawtooth National Forest, locally known as the South Hills, to observe the Cassia Crossbill.   The travel time from Hagerman is approximately one hour and 15 minutes. The Cassia Crossbill is endemic to southern Idaho and found nowhere else in the world.  Although not guaranteed, we are very likely to observe Crossbills on this tour. We will be birding in Lodgepole Pine forests at elevations above 7000 feet, however the walking will be only short distances on mostly flat surfaces.  Bring binoculars and water, and plenty of warm clothing. After we are done observing crossbills we will drop down to lower elevation and look for Greater Sage Grouse.  This is an excursion field trip into the South Hills of Idaho.

Niagara Springs/Crystal Springs

Easy/Moderate: Niagara Springs Wildlife Management Area is managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to provide unlimited wildlife experiences. Over 5,000 ducks and hundreds of Canada geese winter along this portion of the river annually. Many of the wood ducks, green-winged and cinnamon teal nest here in the spring along with the mallards and geese. You will drive into the Snake River canyon bottom to access many easy trails which traverse diverse terrain along the Snake River among ponds, meandering spring waters, old cotton woods, and some sagebrush habitat. Along with waterfowl, the expansive area is frequented by upland game birds, many sparrows and warblers, thrushes and an occasional species unusual for this area. The group will then drive down to Crystal Springs to view birds in that riparian habitat.

Billingsley Creek Hidden Springs “Behind the Gate”

Easy/moderate: There will be a short steep climb into the Billingsley Creek Canyon. This area is a prime birding habitat. Due to the 58 degree waters from the several hidden springs there is a micro-climate that makes the riparian area a birding paradise. Generally yellow-rumped warblers, sparrows and many other species can be heard and seen.