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? ;-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

To the Canadian border! (almost ...)

Before beginning Idaho Bird Observatory 's fall migration study on Lucky Peak (started on Thurs, July 16), Heidi & I decided to use a few days of well-deserved vacation time to - what else? - BIRD!! Figuring that our only chance of approaching 300 species on our Idaho year list would have to include a summer trip to northern Idaho, we opted to go for a 3-day whirlwind tour leaving from Boise at 530am on Sunday. Pretty much all we did was drive, bird, and sleep but we had fun and it was worth it!

Our first stop was the Lochsa River upstream from Wilderness Gateway campground (along Hwy 12) - what a beautiful area! Though we spent hours looking along the main river and a few tributaries, we were not lucky enough to see a Harlequin Duck (probably on nests still and/or further up the tributaries??). We finally gave up and headed towards Moscow where Terry Gray (always generous with other birders) met us and took us to a spot to look for Clay-colored Sparrows (rare in Idaho, especially in the breeding season; click here to see a picture of one of the birds on Terry's site). We got lucky and saw 2 adults - and also enjoyed getting to see & hear the closely related Brewer's and Chipping sparrows at the same site! Before dark, Terry escorted us to a spot near Harvard where we were able to hear & see a calling Northern Pygmy-owl! Then at 2am (while camping on USFS land near Harvard) I was awoken by the repeated "hooo-awww" of a Barred Owl (only my 2nd for Idaho!) and was able to call over to Heidi to say, "Hey, that's a Barred Owl!!". In the morning we awoke to a flock that included Chestnut-backed Chickadees and a Western Flycatcher that did not sound like all the Cordillerans I've been hearing all summer - Pacific Slope?

Our first stop on Monday was the Sandpoint city beach where we saw a single adult Common Tern (seems early for a returning fall migrant) roosting among all the California & Ring-billed Gulls (that included some young of the year of both species). We then pressed on to the Selkirks to look for Boreal Chickadees ... we headed to the end of Trout Creek Rd (W of Bonners Ferry; an area where I'd seen this species 2 years ago - about 20 miles shy of the Canadian border) and were able to hear & see one calling bird as well as singing Pine Grosbeak, Varied Thrush, Winter Wren, and more! Near the beginning of Trout Creek Rd was a family group of Western Flycatchers, of which the male sounded very Pacific-slope-like, that included 3 recent fledglings! Also saw several Vaux's Swifts here.

We then headed to a spot on Forest Service land NE of Couer d'Alene to look for Black Swifts which we enjoyed good looks at on Tuesday morning - another beautiful area with diverse conifer forest (including hemlocks & cedars) and lots of rain (which would feel pretty good about now down here in hot Boise!).

Heidi on the trail to the falls ....

The falls where we saw one Black Swift on a nest!

On the return trip we stopped at Mann Lake (E of Lewiston) and saw several shorebirds, including Western (20), Semipalmated (2), and Least (1) Sandpipers as well as Long-billed Dowitchers (5).

We then headed to the Riggins/Pollock area and tried a couple of short walks in hopes of running into the rare & elusive Mountain Quail - no luck but we did see family groups of Ruffed Grouse, California Quail, and Chukar. And, we saw more Vaux's Swifts as well as 10 or more White-throated Swifts - thus, a 3-swift day in Idaho!!

I think we left Pollock at around 830 pm and still had 3+ hours to drive - got back to Boise close to midnight!! Fortunately, our work day didn't start until early afternoon the next day so I was able to sleep in until 10am!

As usual, a fun trip and some great birds! Wish there was more time to explore the awesome habitats of northern Idaho ... next time, I guess.

Now off to Lucky Peak ;-)


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