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? ;-)

Friday, November 6, 2009

return to Mountain View and CJ Strike Reservoirs

On Saturday morning earlier this week, Jay and I met up bright and early and headed for CJ Strike Reservoir. Our goal birds are still the loons, scoters, and gulls, so CJ Strike is definitely a great place to check these guys out.
We arrived as the sun was coming up, and were sad to see that the water was all covered in a thick fog! We waited around at the base of the dam, watching the flock of gulls that was visible from there, and soon we watched the sun hit the fog and burn it all off.

Fog on the river below CJ Strike
We scanned from a few places along the shore, and saw plenty of birds, but mostly Western/Clarks Grebes and TOO many Common Loons! where are all our Yellow-billed and Pacific Loons? ;)
We then hit the highway again to reach Mountain View reservoir, knowing that we'd return to CJ Strike at the end of our birding day.
We got to Mountain View, and the bird community had changed a lot! Almost all the shorebirds were gone, and more waterfowl had come in to replace them!
We stopped first at the actual reservoir itself, before heading to the productive 'Blue Creek' area below the dam.
Of course there were plenty of loons here too, and we drove to several different vantage points to check out what turned out to be Common's....but we tried our best to make them into something else! :)
While walking to another spot to scope, Jay glimpsed a bird just as it dove underwater....a Scoter!
I'd never seen ANY scoter species before, so I knew whatever popped up would be a lifer! It took a while, since the bird kept diving, but soon we got the scope on it and could see that it had the white patch on the back of its head and no white on its wings...it was a Surf Scoter! We also ended up finding another scoter nearby...also a Surf. Of course we were hoping for the more rare species in Idaho, a Black Scoter, but it was still a year bird for both of us, and a Heidi Lifer!!! My favorite thing about the scoters was the way that they dove....it's so different from what other water birds do! Also...the last lifer/yearbird had been all the way back on October 12, with the Black-bellied Plover...so of course I thought it was about time I got another one! heehee :)
We continued to check out the reservoir and enjoyed watching the very cute Horned and Eared Grebes, and then moved on to Blue Creek. We couldnt believe it when we came up over the rise adn saw TONS of white birds on the water! We ended up estimating that there were 800+ Tundra Swans there! Definitely a change from the 100's of Dowitchers and sandpipers that were there in previous weeks.
The 100's of Tundra Swans at Blue Creek!
We scoped all over the water, and saw tons of waterfowl, and a few Dunlin and Yellowlegs still hanging out...and of course we were checking all the mallards and canada geese to see if we could find a Black Duck or Brant hanging out with them :)
We didn't see anything else 'crazy', BUT, while scoping around, Jay spotted a falcon chasing around a flock of what looked like teal....and the falcon looked HUGE! It landed, and through the wind I tried to keep my binocs on it while Jay set up the scope....a shaky gust of wind came, and suddenly the Falcon was gone! :O NOOOOO! We never got the scope on it, and cant say for sure...but we were pretty sure it was a Gyrfalcon....sad day! Hopefully another Gyr will decide to visit Idaho this winter....and stay long enough for us to see it!
After that, we headed back to CJ Strike and scoped again over the water. There were still lots of Loons..and they were still all commons :) We took a look in the Russian Olives at the Jack's Creek area. Before heading into the trees, we were able to watch a female Sharp-shinned Hawk take out a Robin!! She sat on the road for quite a while with her catch, before taking off and skimming low over the grass with her huge meal!
In the fields and olive trees, we found TONS of sparrows!!! We couldn't believe how many popped up whenever we 'pished'! They were a White-crowns and Song Sparrows, but I'm sure these flocks will be a great place to check for rarities this winter!
In the Olives, we scouted around, and soon I saw the bird we were looking for: a Barn Owl! yay! This was one of the few species I had left to see this year that was NOT a lifer. We had split up on our search, so Jay missed the bird....for a few minutes then, I was caught up to him on the competition by one species! Unfortunately, we continued looking, and Jay soon found the owl perched in a thick bunch of branches....darn! :)

We finished the day with a grand total of 2 yearbirds! (the highest # we've had in a while) and headed for home after sunset...what a great day of birding!
This Saturday, our hope is to make it to Cascade Reservoir (a few hours drive from Boise) where we will hopefully find at least one new Loon species, and maybe a scoter too! We also are considering visiting Garden Valley, a town in Idaho where a Blue Jay was spotted a few weeks ago....
wish us luck!


  1. I've never seen a wild Barn owl.
    *cries tears of jealousy

  2. I guess I need to get out more. I haven't seen any Idaho loons or scooters. Good luck this weekend!