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? ;-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wishlist for the rest of 2009 ;-)

As we head into the 2nd half of October, we've already far surpassed expectations. It's been a really fun year of birding & fieldwork - I mean, how could a year full of bird surveys for work and birding trips to almost all corners of the state not be fun!?! We've both seen more bird species than we realistically expected and Heidi's already seen 130 life birds!

I originally predicted a year-end total somewhere between 260 & 280 and now we stand at 290 and 293 with over 2 months to go! Our ability to exceed our own expectations is due to several factors:
  1. the help & generosity of many other Idaho birders
  2. conducting bird surveys across a broad spectrum of habitat types
  3. (last but not least) a shred of craziness that drives us to bird as much as possible ;-)
Big Wood River riparian habitat, June 2009
(where we conducted bird surveys this summer ahead of habitat restoration efforts)

A skein of American White Pelicans over American Falls Reservoir, September 2009
(where we took a birding trip last month)

Our new goal is to both see at least 300 species in Idaho in 2009 and that means finding 10 more species for Heidi (actually, maybe 11 since the unique taxa known as the "South Hills" Crossbill - which we've both seen this year & hoped might be 'split' by now - is still considered to be conspecific with Red Crossbill). CAN WE DO IT? As we look ahead to the rest of 2009, here are some of the bird species that are regular in occurrence in Idaho (or at least somewhat regular; species in italics & parentheses are less likely) that we will be searching for:
  • Pacific Loon (check!)
  • Surf Scoter (check!)
  • White-winged Scoter (check!)
  • American Golden-plover
  • Short-billed Dowitcher
  • Barn Owl (check!)
  • Pinyon Jay
  • Western Scrub-jay
  • Blue Jay
  • Lapland Longspur
  • (Black Scoter)
  • (Red-shouldered Hawk)
  • (Gyrfalcon)
  • (Mountain Quail)
  • (Western Gull)
  • (Black-legged Kittiwake)
As you can see, it'll still be an uphill battle to reach 300. Much as I loathe to 'chase' introduced species, maybe Heidi'll hold a gun to my head & force me to look for one of the Gambel's Quail now established in the Salmon area (or maybe even make a big effort to find her a Gray Partridge ;-).

Of course, we're hoping we'll continue to get lucky with some out-of-range species (such as the Glossy Ibis, several rare warblers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks we've seen earlier in the year) so feel free to send us any tips on the above species or anything else that shows up!

Thanks & happy fall!


Friday, October 16, 2009

What we've mostly been up to for the last 3 months

Here are a few pictures to give a sense of the work we've been doing and fruits of our labor from the last few months up on Lucky Peak ...

The office @ Lucky Peak

A closer look @ Stephanie & Heidi entering some data on an
afternoon after songbird migration banding in August

Stephanie & Jay taking birds out of a mist-net (the method we use at IBO to capture landbirds during fall migration)

Least Flycatcher captured/banded on Sept 15

White-crowned Sparrows of two subspecies - Mountain (oreantha) on the left and Gambel's (gambeli) on the right

The first Indigo Bunting - an adult female - ever captured (or seen) @ Lucky Peak - on Sept 12

An adult female Cooper's Hawk we trapped (photo by Rob Miller)

Heidi holding a cute young male Townsend's Warbler (photo by Stephanie Coates)

Jay holding a male Wilson's Warbler (photo by Stephanie Coates)

Songbird crewmember, Nathan, with our 2nd ever White-breasted Nuthatch on his back!

Jay with an Adult male Sharpie on a stormy day of trapping!

The songbird crew (Stephanie, Jay, Caroline and Nathan) on a cold day in the hawk blind


Heidi & Jay

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blue Creek

with school and IBO work going full blast over the past few weeks, Jay and I haven't had much time to do any 'serious' birding...so, at the first chance we got we decided to make a 'quick' run to Duck Valley reservoir (only a few hours drive from Boise, heehee :) near the Nevada border.
Fellow crazy-birder Harry K. had first told Jay about this spot, and after seeing how great it was when we made a trip there 2 weeks ago, we knew we had to go back! We set out around lunchtime after finishing with songbird banding and Entomology lecture :)

When we first arrived, we checked out the reservoir itself and found a Common Loon among all the ducks there...too bad it wasn't a Yellow-Billed!

Next we drove to the Blue Creek area past the reservoir, and found two Cackling Geese (likely the minima subspecies) hanging out with all the Canada's...I'd never seen the uber-cute minima subspecies before, so that was a special treat; especially seeing them in comparison to their giant cousins!

One of the cute Cackling Geese!

We drove along the water and stopped to check out the gazillions of shorebirds along the way. We couldnt believe the numbers of birds, including both Yellowlegs, almost 70 Pectoral Sandpipers, around 275 LB Dowitchers, a few Sanderlings, and a Dunlin! We also got to enjoy watching a Peregrine Falcon chase around many shorebirds and ducks...though he didn't ever catch one.

While we were scoping out all the shorebirds (still hoping for a Short-billed Dowitcher) we suddenly heard a different call-note. A "Big Plover"!!!! We scanned around frantically to find out where the call had come from, and soon Jay spotted it! I checked it out with binoculars, while Jay set up the scope. A few seconds after I scoped it, it took off. oh no!.....but actually it was perfect timing, because in flight we were able to see it's very black 'armpits' and white rump. It was a Black-bellied Plover! woohoo! A lifer, yearbird, and the species we had come searching for on this trip! sweet :)

We used the remaining sunlight to check out the shorebirds coming in to roost for the night, and had fun hearing their fighter-jet 'whooshing' noises as they came shooting down across the water. As we got ready to leave, a lone White-faced Ibis flew slowly overhead to check us out before heading to his grassy island to sleep.

A cool day of birding at a very cool spot!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

(Unsuccessful) parula stake-out

On Tuesday, Lew Ulrey (a Boise birder) saw & photographed a new warbler to him, an immature Northern Parula, in his backyard. Thus, instead of going looking for shorebirds (a regular activity of late), we decided to head to Lew's in the hopes that the bird would still be around on Wednesday pm ...

The songbird crew, including Stephanie, Caroline, Heidi, and Nathan (far right) hangin' with Lew (2nd from right) on his back porch

More chatting as we await the bird's arrival ....

As time wore on, enthusiasm diminished a bit & we settled in for the long haul ...

After 2+ hours, the ladies were getting ready for a nap and Lew was amused ;-)

We were not fortunate enough to see the bird on Wednesday and figured the bird had moved on .... until Lew saw it again on Thurs, his wife saw it Fri morning, and Lew saw it again early afternoon on Friday. As Heidi might say, "What?!? That's dumb!" but that's the way it goes sometimes when you 'chase' birds and we've been mostly very fortunate this year. We did end up spending another hour+ in Lew's yard on Friday late afternoon (along with Mark Collie) and, once again, no luck ... :-(. Who knows, maybe it'll stick around thru the weekend and give us another shot ...

Either way, a great find (and life bird!) for Lew . Though he's feeling badly that 'his' parula hasn't rewarded the visiting birders, he's been a great host and is a fun person to stand around waiting for a bird with ;-)

Crossing my fingers for the next year bird ....