I never thought I could be so gleeful at the sight of an exotic (non-native) species like a Gray Partridge (sometimes known as 'Huns' or Hungarian Partridge) ... After all, as anyone's who birded with me knows, I have a great disdain for non-native species and the impacts they can have on native birds - and I can get downright whiny if I see too many non-natives (such as the growing number of Eurasian Collared-doves along the Snake River Plain in SW Idaho - and elsewhere - that we've been seeing in #s on virtually every birding trip this year). I should say that it's not the birds' fault and I don't blame them - I'm just not happy that, for example, the European Starling is now the most abundant bird in the US. ... Then why, you might ask, would I have been so pleased to see a group of 6 Gray Partidge in an agricultural field just S of Moscow (the destination for the TWS conference) on Monday afternoon? Because, after almost 2 months of playing catch-up in this year-list competition (I was 'out-of-bounds' in Venezuela until Jan 17) and after a fly-over Clark's Nutcracker along Hwy 55 earlier in the day, these Gray Partridge vaulted me into my first lead over the upstart challenger (otherwise known as Heidi) in the year list competition. "Woo-hoo!!", I thought to myself as my two Idaho Fish & Game traveling companions continued along completely unaware of this momentous event ....
As it turns out, this was just the start & Heidi now has some work to do to get even! On Tuesday morning, I was picked up at my hotel by the avid birder & photographer Terry Gray and another area birder, Diana Jones, for an AM of birding before I returned to my hotel (b/c I still had to practice the talk that I was invited here for ... but I couldn't miss this opportunity to get ahead, right?) around noon. I had met Terry briefly a couple summers ago and both he & Diana were great company and excited to be helping me find year birds as well as just enjoying a great winter day's birding.
We explored some areas E & NE of Moscow - including feeders and other birding areas that Terry is very familiar with. We saw a great bunch of very active birds - probably especially active b/c of the snowfall the night before - including an adult Northern Goshawk hunting California Quail (an exotic species - guess who I was rooting for!), loads of Varied Thrushes (at least 30 during the morning including 12 in one area!), and good numbers of finches, chickadees, and nuthatches.
One of many very cooperative, and sometimes vocal, Pygmy Nuthatches that we saw on Tuesday (photo by Terry Gray)
But, much as I was gleeful about the partridges, excited to see all the birds on Tuesday AM and finally be in the lead, (beware - Heidi might falsely claim that this is just a sympathy ploy on my part!) I did wish that Heidi could have been along and enjoyed the birds as well - especially because several species are would-be (and much desired - see her wishlist on the 'stats' link) 'life birds' for her and she would have been at least as excited as I was to see/hear them. She'll see them soon enough .... it just might take her a little while to catch up!!!