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, December 25, 2009

Snowy day

Last Saturday, Jay and I went on a long awaited birding adventure with the Henderson clan. We started out on pleasant valley road, mostly in search of horned lark flocks and raptors. It was a cold morning (though not as cold as the single digits earlier in that week!) and the snow was really coming down as we scoured the back roads for birds. We ran into a few flocks of White-crowned sparrows and a flock of Horned Larks, but didn’t find anything unusual mixed in with them. Soon after seeing this first flock of HOLA’s, we got a fun surprise when we saw a Northern Shrike perched on top of a bush. Not quite the raptor we were looking for, but close! And very cool :)
We continued down the road into the middle of nowhere, and began seeing more and more raptors as we went. One of the first birds we stopped for on a power pole turned out to be a Ferruginous Hawk!! It was a great sighting, because I haven’t really seen that many, plus it was one of the Hendersons’ “requested” birds for the trip! Danette had spotted what she thought was a Ferrug at the same spot a few days before, so she was excited to have her mystery bird ID solved! As we watched, the bird took off from the power pole it was sitting on and flew to one a little further down, letting us see the cool white patches on the tops of the wings, and the dark legs….but I was more excited about something else, because as it took off, it launched a great big poop! Yippee! My Ferruginous “poop lifer” :) An interesting conversation followed as I explained my recently started poop lifelist….and I only got a few looks from the Hendersons…I guess they’re used to running into some ‘odd’ birders! Haha.
As we got back into the car, I noticed some bunny prints in the snow along the roadside just below the pole…..I wondered if he knew how close he’d come to being lunch!
We continued on and continued to see more and more raptors on the poles…which turned into some fun birdie quizzes! Pretty soon IDing it as a Rough-legged was not hard enough for us, so Jay moved on to quizzes over age and sex. After pouring over the guides and seeing a few different ages of birds, we soon had it figured out!
At one place we stopped, we got a real raptor treat. In the area we could see from where we had stopped, we saw: 2 Ferrugs, 2 Rough-legs (an immature and an adult…a perfect comparison for our quizzing!) , 2 Harriers (a male and female), and a Red-tail….all but the Ferrug’s were in just one field!!
We continued driving, and saw a Golden Eagle perched next to us on a pole. We slowed down and IT got some great looks at US, staring straight down at our cars. Then, less than a mile away we got a look at a Bald Eagle on a fence line….it was a cool comparison of the huge Bald Eagle bill and the smaller Golden’s. At a farmhouse along the road, we stopped to check out some trees full of doves and soon noticed a small bird of prey sitting in an aspen watching them. It was a Merlin! The snow really started picking up, so the Merlin fluffed up and settled in for the storm as the dumb doves walked on the ground right beneath his perch!!

Ann and Danette checking out the Merlin (see him in the tree?)

Right around lunch time we stopped on the roadside and watched 100's of Horned Larks swirling out in the fields. Jay walked out toward the flock and soon 'herded' them closer to the road so we could scan them in the scopes....sadly, we didnt find anything but horned larks in the mix, but it was still very cool to watch all those birds!
Jay took this picture of all the Horned Lark tracks--cool!
The Flock!
By the time we reached the shore of Lake Lowell, it was a total white-out over the lake...you couldn't see anything! So much for checking out some waterfowl! We decided to take the opportunity to goof off while the snow kept most of the birds hidden. The lake was completely frozen and soon our whole group was out running and sliding on the ice!! Soon we had our sliding technique mastered enough for a sliding contest: Matthew and Jay won for distance, Iris won for style, and Danette and I proudly won for best wipe-outs :)
After some fun, we took a group vote and decided to make a quick check of Jay's favorite hang out, the Dump!! We were disappointed to find when we got there that there were not even 100 gulls there, and all Ring-bills with just one California! So much for turning the Hendersons into Dump fanatics :) (that would have to wait for our later trip to the Boise dump, heehee!)
The sky started to clear up and we headed over to Marsing to check out the park and river there. We saw a cool mix of birds including lots of Ducks, a Marsh and Winter Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Pipits, Night Herons (but no Green Heron), Golden-crowned Kinglets, Snipe, and a beaver munching on some marshy plants!!
Once we were done at the park we bundled back into the cars with hot tea and yummy cookies for a fun ride home.

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