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? ;-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lava Lake birding class ....

Thanks to some organizing and scheming by Tess O'Sullivan and Chris Gertschen, on June 23-24, I was teaching a class called 'A Central Idaho Birding Adventure' through Idaho State University and the Sawtooth Science Institute on the Lava Lake Ranch (a beautiful place run by great people where I've done some bird survey work in recent years). The class was full (16 or 17 participants, including Brian Bean - one of the ranch owners) so I was very glad to have Heidi along as an unofficial but valuable TA (teaching assistant) and it was a really fun couple of days!

Here's Brian (sporting his spiffy red Lava Lake hat) and Molly checking out a distant Great Blue Heron while Robert, Rose, and Allen look on and Kim takes notes (yes, they were diligent students!; photo by Kathleen Cameron)

It was a great group of students that ranged in age from 9 to the mid-70s and in bird ID experience from ZERO to decades of birding years. I knew a few of the folks previously, including Brian, Tom McCabe from Boise, Kathleen Cameron from Bellevue, and Danette & Iris Henderson from Boise. All students were awesome but one I especially appreciated is Rose, a hearing-impaired student from Gooding (teaches at the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind). She was fun, witty, and very patient during times when I was working on bird vocalizations with the other students. She hopes to bring her students to our Lucky Peak migration study this fall.

Robert, one of Rose's translators (though she could read lips amazingly & we had several conversations w/o a translator - I was very impressed!), passing on something I was saying ... (photo by Kathleen Cameron)

Both days of birding were a lot of fun ... there were of course many secretive birds that didn't show themselves but also many that were very cooperative - including a Dusky (aka Blue) Grouse perched in an Aspen, Western Wood-pewee and Willow Flycatcher that both vocalized and perched in the open within 30 minutes of each other - providing a very helpful comparison, many Lewis's Woodpeckers, Sandhill Cranes, a Moose that some of the group saw, several Lazuli Buntings, a Red-tailed Hawk carrying a young (& recently dead) American Crow (!!), and much more.

Pointing out a singing Sage Thrasher (photo by Kathleen Cameron)

The camping group (11 of us) had a lot of fun, including an evening hike up Fish Creek Rd, great food shared all around, a great history of the area from Brian, and a fun bird riddle game that Molly turned us onto.

I think my biggest internal challenge (before & during) was how to tailor the class to such a wide range of experience levels but everybody was really patient & worked with each other really well. My sense was that everyone enjoyed it & learned some valuable things ... Also, it was really helpful to have some other experienced birders along (such as Tom, Kathleen, and Kim - and Heidi, of course) who could help point birds out and answer questions when I was otherwise occupied. In the end, we all had something we could teach each other and it was a great balance ;-).

What raptor flight profile is this? ;-) (We had just seen a Red-tail and I think I had moved on to comparing the dihedral pattern of Swainson's Hawks; photo by Kathleen Cameron)

The whole class (minus Rose's interpreter, Robert, who was kind enough to snap this shot)!

This was the first time this class has been offered and all agreed it was a success - maybe something to repeat in future years. To see a slightly different story, visit the Lava Lake blog

Next up? On to some higher elevation bird surveys in the Wood River Valley and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area ...


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