A (mostly) friendly competition between 2 avid birdwatchers that are also friends/co-workers. Who can observe more bird species in Idaho in 2009? Will they still be friends at year's end? ;-)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jay pulls even! ... but Heidi regains the lead

Headed out birding on Saturday, Feb 21 along with Heidi, Louie Quintana, and Tom McCabe from Boise and we met up with Gary Robinson (Mountain Home, a long-time MVP volunteer with IBO) at Ted Trueblood WMA near Grandview.
from left: Heidi, Louie, Tom, & Gary plying the waters of CJ Strike Reservoir (probably trying to find gulls to make me happy ;-)

Our main target birds for the day were a couple of White-throated Sparrows (that Cliff, Darren, and Steve - E Idaho birders - had found the weekend before), gulls, and anything else fun. After scoping the main pond at Trueblood and enjoying a variety of waterbirds (including hearing a Virginia Rail) but very few gulls, we moved onto Riverside Rd in Grandview where we searched in vain for White-throated Sparrows (would have been a lifer for at least Heidi, Louie, & Tom) - we'll have to keep searching. But, at one of the spots we ran into 100+ White-crowned Sparrows and, while chatting with the friendly nearby homeowner, we noticed a female Varied Thrush that had perched up pretty high in some dead branches. I was definitely a bit surprised to find this species here (b/c the vegetative cover is not very extensive).

We moved on to the dam at CJ Strike Reservoir where the sometimes elusive Great-tailed Grackles were very cooperative - including a singing male and this silent male that was out in the open.
Great-tailed Grackle male (photo by Louie Quintana)

Much to Heidi's chagrin, this pulled me even with her in our year list competition since she had already seen it in January!!
Heidi looks on disapprovingly while Jay enjoys close views of a cooperative Great-tailed Grackle (photo by Louie Quintana)

In spite of the strong winds, we enjoyed good company and several more birding highlights interspersed throughout the day. Possibly most exciting was a pretty close view of a Long-eared Owl in a Russian Olive thicket (no photo - we didn't have cameras handy and were trying not to harrass this bird). This was a life bird for Heidi and it's always fun to enjoy the excitement that a new species brings - especially something as cool as a Long-eared making itself as long and thin as possible to avoid detection! Other highlights were a Common Loon on the reservoir, a few Red-breasted Mergansers (swimming right behind some Commons offering a nice comparison - according to Tom, the first of this species he'd seen well in over 30 years!!), both Western and Mountain Bluebirds, and - always a favorite for me - an adult male Merlin that was burning some ground.
Western Bluebird female at Bruneau Dunes SP (photo by Louie Quintana)

One of the last birds of the day - and one of the most exciting for Heidi - was an adult Northern Shrike (too distant for photos) that flew across Hwy 78 as we were heading towards the dunes. It took a while to re-find it once we'd turned the car around but it cooperated by perching up at a distance and allowed us to study its features through the scope. I'm always excited to see a shrike of any kind (I became obsessed with shrikes when I studied Loggerheads in CA years ago) and, especially since we'd been aiming to find one for Heidi for months (and I'd heard, "we need to find a shrike" many times ;-), this was no exception. BUT, because I had seen one on the way back from a solo snow-shoeing trip back on Superbowl Sunday, this was a new year bird only for Heidi which means that by day's end she had regained her slim lead (she was pretty pleased about this part!).

Happy birding & blog-reading ;-)


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