Sunday, June 9, 2013

Kicking off spring migration

March means the beginning of spring waterfowl migration in Idaho. Two species of swans, five species of geese, and a dozen or so species of ducks are all regular in incredible numbers this time of the year.

Here are some highlights from the first couple of weeks of March around southwest Idaho.

We stopped by Indian Creek Reservoir on March 3. Highlights were 30+ Tundra Swans and 500+ Northern Pintails.

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Tundra Swans at Indian Creek Reservoir, Ada County. March 3, 2013.

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Northern Pintails at Indian Creek Reservoir, Ada County. March 3, 2013.

Not far away we saw our first of year Say’s Phoebe on Indian Creek Road. These guys breed further north than any other North American flycatcher, and are one of the earliest passerine migrants.

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Say’s Phoebe on Indian Creek Road, Ada County. March 3, 2013.

Merlins winter in the Boise area in fairly decent numbers, and we had one hanging out in our neighborhood for most of the winter. We snapped a shot from quite a distance, and it was one of the last times we saw this guy this year.

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Merlin, Columbia Village, Ada County. March 9, 2013.

A week later we re-visited Indian Creek Reservoir, and saw a Northern Shrike on our way in.

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Northern Shrike at Indian Creek Reservoir, Ada County. March 9, 2013.

One of the biggest highlights of March waterfowl migration is the massive number of Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese that pass through Idaho along the Snake River at the Oregon border. Each year geese numbering in the 10’s of thousands pass through. Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area is a major resting area, and is probably the best place in the state to observe the impressive sight. We headed there on March 10, near or just a little after the peak of the geese migration.

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Greater White-fronted Geese filling the sky. Fort Boise WMA, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

Large waves of geese kept coming, one after another, all day long for a few weeks straight.

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A wave of Snow Geese coming in to Fort Boise WMA, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

Other highlights at Fort Boise included an early pair of Cinnamon Teals, Wild Turkeys, a juvenile Bald Eagle, and an unusually cooperative American Kestrel that let us get his picture.

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Early Cinnamon Teal at Fort Boise WMA, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

 

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Wild Turkeys at Fort Boise WMA, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

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Bald Eagle at Fort Boise WMA, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

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American Kestrel at Fort Boise WMA, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

While Fort Boise WMA might be the most popular hotspot for seeing the geese move through, it’s certainly not the only good place in the area to check out. Another great place a little ways to the south is Roswell Marsh. It’s closed to public entry from February through July to protect nesting waterfowl, so it can be tough to get a good view, but we did find a couple of workable vantage points.

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Mixed geese at Roswell Marsh, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

The area is covered with farmland and interwoven with creeks, canals, and tributaries to the Snake River. These provide excellent feeding opportunities for the geese. We cruised the country roads looking for good concentrations to photograph, and found a great place at the intersection of Brumback and Scott Pit roads, which had a large number of both Greater White-fronted Geese and Sandhill Cranes.

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Greater White-fronted Geese and Sandhill Cranes at Brumback and Scott Pit roads, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

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Greater White-fronted Geese at Brumback and Scott Pit roads, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

Ellen took some video on our Canon SX40 HS while I spent a few minutes writing in to IBLE about the concentration of Sandhill Cranes at this location, as others had been struggling to find more than one or two at a time.

Greater White-fronted Geese at Brumback and Scott Pit roads, Canyon County. March 10, 2013.

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