Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh

In the second week of May we took a trip out to Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, hoping to see the incredible camas lilies the area is famous for in the spring, as well as the abundance of birds the marsh attracts. The marsh is just south of Hill City on Highway 20, and is a favorite stop when we’re driving cross state to see family. There are a variety of great stops along the route to the marsh, making it easy to make a full day of birding out of the trip. On this trip, we stopped at Dixie Creek (point B in the map below), Little Camas Reservoir (point C below), and Cat Creek Road (point D below) before proceeding to the marsh.
Camas Loop
Our route to Camas Centennial Marsh, May 11, 2013.
Dixie Creek is sort of an easily overlooked marshy area along Anderson Ranch Dam Road, but we always make a point to stop and see what we can find. We’ve seen (and heard) great birds here year round, including an American Bittern on this trip. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get his picture. There are a lot of marshy corridors in this area that stretch out along side roads that we intend to explore better at some point. On this trip we enjoyed watching a Tree Swallow and a House Wren fighting over a nest box. The Tree Swallow won when it’s mate came to provide some reinforcement.
TRES and HOWR 1
House Wren approaching Tree Swallow nest box, Dixie Creek, Elmore County. May 11, 2013.
Due to low snow pack this year the water supply has been quite strained, and as a result the water levels at Little Camas Reservoir were quite low. We stopped by quickly to see what we could find. There were great numbers of shorebirds, but most of them were beyond the reach of our scopes and camera. The reservoir has a very gentle slope, creating extensive mudflats which are great for the birds, but make it difficult to approach very closely.
Cat Creek Road runs east from Highway 20 towards Bennett Mountain Road. Cat Creek Road runs through an aspen stand on the northern flanks of Bennett Mountain, and is home to a Ruffed Grouse, which we have now tried and failed to find on quite a few trips. The big highlight on this trip was the large number of Red-naped Sapsuckers that were in the area. They were quite boisterous, and we saw them chasing each other up and down the road several times while we were there. Since they wouldn’t sit still, we our best shot was one that actually focuses behind the sapsucker.
RNSA 2
Red-naped Sapsucker at Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. May 11, 2013.
We also saw a good variety of other songbirds, including this Mountain Bluebird.
MOBL 1
Mountain Bluebird at Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. May 11, 2013.
Our last stop was the marsh itself. The marsh was a little dry this year, so while the lilies were blooming, their numbers were lower than some years, and a variety of grasses were outgrowing the lilies.
Camas Centennial Marsh
Entrance to Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 11, 2013.
Camas Centennial Marsh 2
Camas Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 11, 2013.
Despite the low water, the bird numbers were still great, and we had several great finds. The highlight was a distant pair of Black Terns, our first for Idaho. Sparrow numbers were pretty good, and we saw Chipping, Fox, Song, Savannah, and Vesper Sparrows.
CHSP 1
Chipping Sparrow at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.
SAVS 1
Savannah Sparrow at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.
Blackbirds were out in force as well, including Brown-headed Cowbirds, Brewer’s, Yellow-headed, and Red-winged Blackbirds. The marsh consistently has the highest concentration of Yellow-headed Blackbirds we’ve found in the state.
YBHL 1
Yellow-headed Blackbird (female) at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.
Shorebirds were well represented, with incredible numbers of Wilson’s Phalaropes, and quite a few Wilson’s Snipes, Willets, Spotted Sandpipers, Killdeers, and Long-billed Curlews.
LBCU 1
Long-billed Curlew at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.
WIPH 1
Wilson’s Phalarope at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.
WILL 1
Willet at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.
WISN 1
Wilson’s Snipe at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.
We saw several breeding pairs of Sandhill Cranes spread throughout the marsh, including this one that was incubating a nest.
SACR 1
Sandhill Crane at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.
On the way out we were surprised to spot a Merlin on the ground. It’s a little late in the year for these guys to be hanging around.
MERL 1
Merlin at Camas Centennial Marsh,  Camas County. May 11, 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment