A 15 mile drive south of Pocatello, to the Mink Creek area will take you from 4,500 feet in elevation to Douglas-fir Quaking Aspen forests at 6,600 feet, and offers incredible birding along the way. Park at the Kinney Creek parking area on the way to Justice Park Campground, and follow the two-track road across the highway to a rich birding habitat of dense Juniper and Sage. Species of note are Western Scrub-Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Mountain Bluebird and Green-tailed and Spotted Towhees. Calliope Hummingbirds are quite common as well. When you tire of Kinney Creek, head on up the road for 3/4 of a mile and pull over at Cherry Springs Nature Area. Nice paved hiking trails head through overgrown Red-osier Dogwood and other riparian vegetation. There is a restroom here and it is handicapped-accessible. Just a few of the common species found here are: Gray Catbirds, Yellow-breasted Chats, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, Bullock's Orioles, Virginia's, Yellow, MacGillivray's and Black-throated Gray Warblers. Back on the road take the turn to Scout Mountain and Justice Park Campground at the base of Scout Mountain. There are many hiking trails in the area, and species of note include Flammulated Owls, Northern Pygmy-Owls, Ruffed & Blue Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Mountain Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Red Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak and Red-breasted Nuthatch to name only a few.
Mink Creek Subloop map:
American Falls Reservoir:
"For its size, American Falls Reservoir has the highest diversity and abundance of birds in Idaho, and one of the highest in the Intermountain West... with an annotated list of over 270 bird species..." (Taylor, D. M., Burrup, D., Trost, C.H. & Porth, A. Birds of the American Falls Reservoir Area, Snake River, Idaho. 1999. Journal Of The Idaho Academy Of Science, 35.2:1-37). Good birding prospects occur near the American Falls Dam, the State Fish Hatchery along the West bank of the Snake River below the dam and at Willow Bay Marina. During late summer and early fall huge mudflats are exposed, attracting over 30 shorebird species, while fall and winter bring a variety of ducks and gulls to open water below the dam.
Camas National Wildlife Refuge:
This 10,578 acre refuge is located 36 miles north of Idaho Falls (take Hamer Exit on I-15). Trumpeter Swans and Peregrine Falcons nest here and the refuge provides excellent moose forage. Many of the same species that nest and frequent Market Lake and Mud Lake can be seen here along with Long-billed Curlew. The prime waterfowl viewing time is usually late March or early April when breeders and migrants combined seem to fill the skies, with the Tetons as a back drop to the East. Hard to spot, often rare, migrating warblers can be seen in the shelter belt trees near the refuge headquarters starting in late May and early June.
Market Lake Wildlife Management Unit:
This wildlife management area, located in the Upper Snake Region, just a short drive north of Idaho Falls (exit I-15 at Roberts), was designated in 1998 as a "Globally Important Bird Area" by Partners in Flight." More than 1% of the biogeographic population of Snow Geese use the Market Lake area during the spring, and more than 1% of the biogeographic breeding populations of White-faced Ibis nest in the surrounding area" (Hanauska-Brown, L., O'Neill, J., Windows to Wildlife, 2002. Publication of the Idaho Watchable Wildlife Committee and Idaho's Nongame Program) To put this in numbers, more than 50,000 Snow Geese migrate through each year, and more than 500 pair of Ibis nest here! In addition to these species, more than 4,000 Tundra Swans and 100 Trumpeter Swans migrate through the Market Lake area. There is a quarter mile physically disabled access trail that runs though a bird-rich poplar and willow shelterbelt. In addition there is more than two miles of hiking trails.
Grays Lake Wildlife Refuge:
Located 27 miles north of Soda Springs, this large shallow marsh, lies in a high mountain valley at an elevation of 6,400 feet. Pairs of Greater Sandhill Cranes arrive in April and soon nest. Two hundred pair nests have been recorded, forming the largest nesting population of Greater Sandhill Cranes in the world! The refuge also serves as a fall "staging area" for cranes and in late September & early October up to 3,000 cranes can be seen, prior to migrating south to New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico. Among other wildlife, Franklin's Gulls have a huge nesting colony, often over 10,000. There are also nesting colonies of Eared and Western Grebes and Black Terns.