Sunday, May 19, 2013

Brambling in Hailey


In the middle of February birders caught wind of a Brambling that had been reported in someone's backyard during the Great Backyard Bird Count. Local birders kept an eye on it during the week that followed and did a great job keeping IBLE and the Facebook Idaho Birding group up to date on the bird. At the same time, a large storm system was moving over central and western Idaho threatening to bury the roads from Boise to Hailey in fresh snow. Lucky for us we had already planned a trip out to East Idaho to see family that weekend and were able to go see the bird on Friday, which was the day before the storm hit.

Hwy 20 1

Dirt road near Highway 20, Camas County. February 22, 2013.

I love the drive across this part of the state. It's beautiful all year long, but particularly stunning in the winter. This area is good for finding Snow Buntings in the winter. We successfully found a couple mixed in with a large flock of Horned Larks, although we were unable to get a picture.

When we got to Hailey it took some time to track down the right backyard. For some reason I was misinterpreting the directions we'd read online and had driven and birded up and down the street where the Brambling was probably 4 or 5 times before we finally saw someone else staking it out and realized we'd been overlooking someone's backyard. We did see a few couple of nice birds in the meantime though, including a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings.

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Sharp-shinned Hawk. Hailey, Blaine County. February 22, 2013.

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Bohemian Waxwings. Hailey, Blaine County. February 22, 2013.


When we found the Brambling it was actually about 10-12 feet up in some dense vegetation, rather than down at the feeders. We were thrilled to find the bird, but it was very hard to get a clear view of.

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Brambling. Hailey, Blaine County. February 22, 2013.

Another great part of a winter drive on Highway 20 is the concentration of wintering arctic raptors. Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks winter in huge numbers in the Howe area, and every time we pass through in December through March we’re amazed to see hawks on almost every telephone pole, sprinkler pipe, or other perch for miles at a time.

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Rough-legged Hawk. Howe, Butte County. February 22, 2013.

Near the end of the trip we drove past Big Southern Butte, which is one of the largest volcanic domes on earth. It rises 2,500 feet straight up out of the desert, and is quite an impressive sight. This goes on our list of places to hike this summer.

Big Southern Butte

Big Southern Butte, Butt County. February 22, 2013.

We spent the weekend visiting family and didn’t get to bird very much. It was hard to resist the urge to run off and chase birds while we were there, because around that time some really great reports were coming in. A family of 5 Great Gray Owls had been seen near Warm Slough west of Rexburg, a Boreal Owl had been seen in Chester Wetlands north of St. Anthony, a Gyrfalcon had been seen east of Ashton, and Gray Partridges were being reported all over the place. Luckily we did squeeze in a couple stops on our way out of town. We stopped at Warm Slough in hopes of seeing the Great Gray Owls, but didn’t have any luck. At least we got our Trumpeter Swans for the year.

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Trumpeter Swans. Warm Slough, Madison County. February 24, 2013.

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