Sunday, July 14, 2013

Barred Owl at Ponderosa State Park

For a number of years a Barred Owl has nested in the campground area of Ponderosa State Park in McCall. When Charles Swift reported seeing it again in the park this year, we planned a trip up to see it. We made the trip into a loop with an overnight stay in McCall, to give us an evening and morning chance to find the owl, and time to stop for a few other birds on the way out and back.

On the way up to McCall, our main stop was Porter Creek Road, just north of Horseshoe Bend. This place is home to a pair of Red-eyed Vireos that have been discovered breeding here several years in a row. It didn’t take us long to find one after we arrived, but it did take some patience to try to get a picture.

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Red-eyed Vireo on Porter Creek Road, Boise County. June 7, 2013.

After stopping at Porter Creek we finished the trip up to McCall, and arrived about half an hour before sunset.

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Deer at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 7, 2013.

Barred Owls are quite rare in Idaho, and I was definitely excited for the chance to find one on this trip. We spent a couple of hours walking around the campground loops, checking for any evidence of the owl. At one point, we did hear it call, but were not able to locate it, and it didn’t call again while we were there. Not quite satisfied, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep so we could try again in the morning.

When we arrived the next morning, we were greeted in the parking lot by a Pileated Woodpecker, foraging on a log used to mark the parking spots.

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Pileated Woodpecker at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

Right before bed, I emailed Charles Swift to see if he could offer a little more specific directions for finding the owl, and I was checking my email over and over again as we walked the campground loops, hoping he’d reply before we ran out of time. I didn’t expect he would actually respond so soon, given the late hour I had emailed him the day before, but after about an hour of fruitless searching, he responded to let us know which campsite to focus on. It was very generous of him to reply, and its helpful birders like him that make it so rewarding to be involved in some of the social aspects of birding, such as posting to IBLE, or reporting our sightings to eBird. As soon as he replied we hustled right to the spot where he mentioned and found the owl roosting on its suspected nest site within just a few minutes.

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Barred Owl at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

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Barred Owl at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

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Barred Owl at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

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Barred Owl at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

After spending 20 minutes or so observing the owl, we headed out to enjoy some other parts of the park. Swainson’s Thrushes were quite abundant, but since these birds are fairly secretive, it was difficult to get nice photographs. Further into the park we also photographed a Northern Flicker perched high on a tree.

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Swainson’s Thrush at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

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Northern Flicker at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

One of the prettiest parts of the park was Lily Marsh, where we found a wonderful variety of birds, including several Soras and Virginia Rails.

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Lily Marsh Trail boardwalk at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

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Virginia Rail at Ponderosa State Park, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

On the way home from McCall we stopped at the Banks Cafe for lunch, and enjoyed photographing the hummingbirds at their feeders.

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Calliope Hummingbird at the Banks Cafe, Boise County. June 8, 2013. 

We then drove through Garden Valley, hoping to spot a Bobolink again on the Project Patch Road. No luck this time, but the area is so scenic it was still worth the trip. We did spot a Wilson’s Snipe perched on a fencepost near where the Bobolink had been on our last trip.

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Agricultural fields along Project Patch Road in Garden Valley, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

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Wilson’s Snipe on Project Patch Road, Valley County. June 8, 2013.

Our last stop of the day was on Grimes Creek Road near Highway 21 to chase down several Veery that had been reported singing along the creek. After several minutes of searching, we started to hear a few calls, and eventually narrowed in on a couple of different Veeries. This was our third Catharus thrush of the day.

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Veery on Grimes Creek Road, Boise County. June 8, 2013.

Veery singing on Grimes Creek Road, Boise County. June 8, 2013.

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