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? ;-)

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Jay and I returned to Boise after our week in the Sawtooths for the 4th of July weekend. After getting into town the evening of the 3rd, we rushed to our houses for a quick shower, and then headed for a gas station on Warmsprings Ave to meet up with my family. My cousins were in town from Colorado, and we had arranged that our MAPS banding day would fall during the days that they were in Boise. My two cousins Ben and Sam, along with my brothers Jake and Isaac and my Aunt Heather and Uncle Eddie piled into two vehicles and we all headed up the mountain to set up nets and camp for the night. We made it up the 'fun' dirt road okay, with only one lost hub cap and a little scraping from my Aunt and Uncle's Subaru during the process ;) (for those planning on driving to IBO sometime, don’t worry, their car and was weighted down with road-trip gear :)
Once at the top, we arrived to see that the party had already started without us! the group of campers that night besides my family included IBO friends Greg, wife Deniz and daughter Ayla. We all had a fun time eating pizza and hanging out before heading off to bed for an early start the next morning.

my family!

We had a fun time the next morning banding, and it was neat to show off all the cool birds to my family! The time went by too fast, and soon we were heading down to the Hilltop café just down the highway for some lunch before heading off for our respective 4th of July activities.
After a day off on the 5th, Jay and I once again departed from Boise to head out for some work, as well as some vacation (which to us of course means more birding!) Our first stop was some of the ‘just for fun’ part of our week:
Jay and I got up nice and early on the 6th to make a quick run up to Garden Valley to visit our birding friend Spencer. He was awesome enough to take us out and show us a spot to find Veeries, Red-eyed Vireos, and American Redstarts. We heard lots of Veeries right away, and with a little searching found a pair of Vireos in the cottonwoods. Spencer had to return to work, but Jay and I stuck around to search for a singing Redstart we’d heard earlier. Our patience paid off and we were able to see both the singing male and the female! They are sooo awesome!
Then we headed out to the teeny town of Grandview near Bruneau where a birder on IBLE had posted about seeing Black-throated Sparrows. We arrived at the described location next to a small cemetery and soon saw a BT sparrow fly overhead! As we continued to watch, we got great views of a pair of birds and were even able to see them go into a nest in a low greasewood and feed some chicks! Woohoo! We’d had good luck so far!

The Black-throated Sparrows! (photo taken by birding friend Jonathan Stoke about a week after we saw the pair...thanks for a cool photo!)

Black-throated Sparrow habitat :)

Next we headed farther south to the South Hills where we had done some Flammulated Owl surveys with Matt and Jack (the owl crew) during our first week of summer. During a survey of the South Hills, our crazy birding buddies Harry K. and Louie Q. had seen a pair of Blue Grosbeaks on Rock Creek road! We got to the spot right around sunset and were out of the car less than five minutes when we heard the male Grosbeak singing and saw him perched on a powerline. We were able to watch him for a while and got some awesome looks at that bright blue color! We have some totally sweet birding-tipsters for friends!
That night we camped near the Blue Grosbeaks along Rock Creek and in the morning woke up to drive to City of Rocks. We saw lots of cool birds and awesome scenery and habitats (including the only pinyon pine forests in Idaho!) but didn’t see any of our target birds (Scrub/Pinyon Jays or Juniper Titmice) My favorite bird there was a male Virginia’s Warbler…the best look I’ve ever gotten of one! :) What a cool place!

City of Rocks!

That evening we headed to Curlew National Grasslands in search of the same ‘target birds’ as well as Scott’s Orioles. (And in the process I got another type of ‘lifer’…the state of Utah!) At Curlew we struck out again on most of those birds, but enjoyed some close views of an angry Cooper’s Hawk that must have had a nest in the area. We also saw a pair of Long-eared Owls at dusk who were barking at us…the best looks I’ve ever had at an ‘awake’ Long-eared…it was so funny to watch their faces when they squawked at us! We camped there near Curlew, and in the morning returned to our search for Scott’s Orioles. We never saw one, but heard a torturously distant one singing in response to a playback! We spent the rest of the morning until almost 1 o’clock searching for the orioles without any luck, but were able to see some cool birds. My Lifer Juniper Titmice, who were sooo adorable!! I also got my best views yet of a Black-throated Gray warbler and its young fledgling! :)
After a few days of vacation, it was time for Jay and I to head back to work. We returned to the Wood river valley to finish up a few more days of vegetation work, and search for a goshawk nest--after being bombed by angry parents and not seeing a nest the week before while on point counts (a post about that story should be coming soon….we know, we know, we are slow-pokes when it comes to posting!) Long story short, the veg work got done, the goshawk nest was found (3 chicks!!), and we got to hang out some more with our Hailey-dwelling buddy Larry! :)
On our last day in the Wood River Valley we finished up work, and for the afternoon decided to go on a hike in search of rosy-finches. (We had come to Hailey in February this year and struck out on Black Rosy-finches)
We headed up the trail for Johnstone Pass, and after a few miles and a bit of ‘off trail’ hiking, we’d hit the snowline. As we arrived at the top of a bowl with some snowfields, we heard a finch fly over, and saw it land at the edge of a snow-melt stream. (a tiny rocky stream that was coming right out from under the snow, but eventually becomes the East Fork of the Wood River!) We didn’t get good enough looks to say for sure that it was Black…but it was definitely a Rosy! We hiked a bit farther and sat on a boulder to eat lunch as we continued to hear Rosy call notes (along with a Rock Wren and a couple American Pipits ...the only birds up that high!)…but couldn’t see them!! Finally, a bird landed on a snowy backdrop where he was visible, and we watched as he flew higher and higher up the rocky hillside away from us….it WAS a Black Rosy! Woohoo! We lingered a bit longer (but not TOO long, because I was freezing!! :) to see if we could get better looks, but eventually decided it was time to head back for Boise. 6 hours after starting our search, we returned to the highway…successful!!!
We were very disciplined birders ;) and in our rush to get home only allowed ourselves to stop once to bird: at Mountain Home reservoir. We spent the last bit of daylight there, and were able to see plenty of shorebirds, including new yearbirds/Heidi-lifers: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and a Baird’s Sandpiper! Sweet! I still need to work on IDing those tricky peeps, but what a great way to end a fun week of exploring! :D

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