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, April 19, 2009

Heidi's weekend of birding!

No that’s not a type-o, I didn’t forget to include his name…I actually went birding without Jay for once!! (he was gone to a conference in BC...oh darn, no Idaho birds for Jay this week! :D)

My family and I spent the weekend in McCall with friends, so of course I took the opportunity to do just a little bit of birding :)
Friday evening we arrived just in time for dark, so after dinner the only birding I could do was owling. I headed up to Bear Basin with ‘the fam’ to listen for owls (and of course I was hoping for a Great Gray) but we were all kindof surprised when a Saw-whet responded to us! I’d heard one for a short time once before at IBO, but it was really cool to hear this little guy go on and on, and my family thought it was pretty sweet too! Not a bad start to the weekend. :)

Saturday morning, while my parents and our friends were prepping for a tasty breakfast (and my teenage brothers were still snoozing away) I downed a cup of coffee and headed outside. In the trees around the cabin I found plenty of BC and MO Chickadees, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, Siskins, Flickers, Cassin’s Finches, and Red Crossbills (including my first ever singing male!).

After breakfast I called up a fellow birder Bobbi Cross who was in McCall for the weekend with her husband Dean. I learned that Cheryl Huizinga was also in town, and we soon made plans to meet at the Cross’ cabin to check out some Pygmy Nuthatches. I brought my parents and my youngest brother Isaac along (because who can resist an adorable nuthatch?) and we arrived to see the trio of birders bunched around Cheryl’s scope. In an aspen tree in their front yard were two Pygmy Nuthatches excavating a nest cavity! (Lifer!!) They were both taking turns hopping inside the cavity, and we could see their little heads pop out with beak-fulls of wood splinters that they would toss out their door. They were busy! And sooooo cute!!

Hanging out with the Pygmy Nuthatches (that's their tree behind Bobbi's head)
Me, Bobbi, Dean and Cheryl!

After enjoying the nuthatches, Bobbi and Dean offered to take me around the area and show me where they had seen a Williamson’s Sapsucker. We didn’t find the ‘sucker, but I had a bunch of fun with these two driving around the back roads. We probably saw about 15 snipe in one field….the most I’ve ever seen at once!

After parting ways with the Cross’s I headed back to town for a snack of ice cream, and then absconded with the family car to head towards the Ponderosa state park area. I saw and heard a gazillion RB and Pygmy Nuthatches (yay!), more singing Red Crossbills, both chickadees, a RC Kinglet, and nutcrackers. Out over the lake, I saw an adult Bald Eagle flying with both a Raven and an Osprey chasing him at the same time! nice! After that adventure it was time for me to return to family and friends for the night.
After striking out on the sapsucker the day before, I decided to head out to check out the area again at 8:30 the next morning. Since we were leaving that day I had the deadline of having the car returned for loading at 10:00. I saw lots of snipe and violet-green swallows on the way out, and stopped to watch a pair of Red-tails before making it out to the power poles where the sucker had been. It didn’t take me long to hear the ‘bouncy-ball’ drumming, but it was far away into the trees! (with a fence and deep snow between us) I continued to hear some pretty distant drumming from both sides of the road for about an hour, but it never got any closer. (while I was listening though, I also heard a Screech-owl…year bird!) It was 10:15 (yes, I called my dad for an extension on the 10:00 deadline…good thing he understands how important a Lifer is!! :) when I decided to head back. I drove down to a wide place in the road to turn around, and after driving past a power pole or two, I saw a little sapsucker scoot around to the other side! I got out of the car and stood listening to the drumming coming from the other side of the pole, and then a little brown head appeared. Yes, a brown head…it was the female Williamson’s! I got to watch her drumming for about 20 seconds before she flew off to a farther grove of trees. Lifer!! I thought it was weird that the female had been drumming (though it did explain why I heard drumming from both sides of the road and didn’t see anything fly across) but when I got home and looked it up, I found that females actually will participate in territorial drumming too. Cool! And thanks to Bobbi and Dean for showing me the spot!!!
On the way home we decide to stop at Cascade Reservoir to check out the water birds. In a puddle on the side of the road we stopped to watch a snipe taking a very energetic bath! He was lots of fun, and turned out to be my brother Isaac’s favorite part of the trip! On the water (courtesy of Jay’s scope :) we also saw some neat birds like Green-winged Teal, 3 Trumpeter (?) Swans, Pintail, Common Mergansers, Bufflehead, Shovelers, Ring-necked Ducks, and my favorite, Ruddy Ducks, including 4 males swimming in a row. It was fun to show my family all these birds!
It was a great weekend with lots of cool birds! (including a few that helped me close the gap in the year lists!...well at least until Jay got back to Idaho and into the field) Not to mention 2 sweet lifers!

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