Thursday, July 18, 2013

Boise National Forest birding

At the end of June we took a couple of drives to explore some old forest roads through the Boise National Forest. For our first trip, we drove up through Bogus Basin and Shafer Butte (point B in the map below), then further north to Star Ranch Road (point C below),  then through New Centerville and Idaho City to Shaw Gulch Road (point D below), then to Robie Creek Road where Mores Creek meets Lucky Peak Lake (point E below), and then finally over Shaw Mountain and back into town.

Boise NF map 2

Our trip through Boise National Forest, Ada and Boise Counties.

The scenery is fantastic, and many of the forest roads ride ridges that provide excellent views of the surrounding area.

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View from Boise Ridge Road, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

Just north of Shafer Butte we saw a Western Tanager that was singing quite close to the road.

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Western Tanager on Boise Ridge Road, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

Boise Ridge Road eventually meets up with Harris Creek Road, which heads west to Horseshoe Bend, and Star Ranch Road, which heads east to Idaho City. We headed east on Star Ranch Road, and after a short drive down that road we found a Northern Flicker and a Red-naped Sapsucker bickering over a nest hole. We pulled over and kept an eye on the hole for a bit. It appeared that the Red-naped Sapsucker had nestlings in the hole that it was feeding, but in the half hour we were watching we saw two other cavity nesters make a move on the hole, including a Northern Flicker and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

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Red-naped Sapsucker on Star Ranch Road, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

We really wanted to capture video of some of the birds tussling, or at least of the Red-naped Sapsucker feeding its young. We set up our trusty window mount to make it easier to take stable video, and just let the camera roll while we waited.

Window Mount 1

Our camera on a window mount pointed at a Red-naped Sapsucker nest, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

Here is one of the clips that includes a little more action.

Red-naped Sapsucker feeding nestlings on Star Ranch Road, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

We had a nice drive over to Idaho City and saw plenty of other woodpeckers along the way. In Idaho City we popped over to check on the White-headed Woodpeckers that are nesting on Shaw Gulch Road. On this trip there was a nestling begging at the hole. It looked like it may have been close to fledging.

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White-headed Woodpecker on Shaw Gulch Road, Ada County. June 28, 2013.

We took some video of the mother feeding the nestling. It was interesting to note how the mother gives a feeding call before approaching the nest, after which the nestling becomes more attentive and moves towards the nest hole in anticipation of the food delivery.

White-headed Woodpecker feeding nestling on Shaw Gulch Road, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

Our last big stop was Robie Creek Road. This road follows Mores Creek as it drains into Lucky Peak Lake. The habitat is fantastic for quite a few warblers, flycatchers, ospreys, and more.

Robie Creek Road 1

Robie Creek Road, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

This trip was at the beginning of a heat wave, and the ospreys were showing a bit of distress. Many birds will pant in an effort to cool down on hot days.

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Osprey on Robie Creek Road, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

Further down the creek we enjoyed watching a Gray Catbird sing.

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Gray Catbird on Robie Creek Road, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

Gray Catbird singing along Robie Creek, Boise County. June 28, 2013.

The next day we went for a short sunset drive, this time taking some old forest roads that travel behind Grayback Gulch campground. The light was poor for bird photos, but the scenery was beautiful. Each new bend in the road offered a new view of the setting sun.

Boise NF map 3

Our trip from Grayback Gulch to Thorn Creek Road, Boise County.

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Sunset in the Boise National Forest, Boise County. June 29, 2013.

One great find for the evening we were able to get a silhouette of in the sunset light was our first of year Red Crossbill. While it’s not a fantastic photo, we were thrilled to get home and spot the telltale crossing of the upper and lower bill when we got home and sorted through our photos.

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Red Crossbill near Grayback Gulch, Boise County. June 29, 2013.

For the last stretch of our loop we were on Thorn Creek Road. It was past sunset, and I thought it would be fun to try to call in some owls. It only took a few minutes to get the attention of a pair of Flammulated Owls, whom we enjoyed watching as they flew between tree tops in the last glimmer of evening light.

Thorn Creek 1

Thorn Creek Road where we saw Flammulated Owls, Boise County. June 29, 2013.

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