Thursday, July 18, 2013

Loggerhead Shrikes on the Mayfield Loop

On the last day of June Ellen and I birded the Mayfield loop, which is southeast of Boise between I-84 and the Danskin mountains. We have done this loop a number of times before, but recently learned we were missing the part of the loop that actually goes through the historic remains of the town of Mayfield.

Mayfield 2

Interior of old schoolhouse in Mayfield, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

In the past we were starting the loop from the Indian Creek exit off of I-84 and then heading north and west. On this trip we started further south, on exit 90 off of I-84. This added section of the loop greatly increased the good birding habitat on this loop, and made the trip much more worthwhile.

Mayfield Loop Map 2

Map of the Mayfield loop, Elmore County, with the best birding hotspots indicated by the lettered points. June 30, 2013.

Most of the best birding spots on the loop are where the road crosses or runs near dry creek beds that carry the spring run-off from the Danskins down to several ephemeral reservoirs in the area. The scenery below is typical of this habitat, with dry sagebrush and grasses bordering willow and cottonwood groves along the seasonal creek beds.

Mayfield 1

Bowns Creek near Foothill Road, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

Our first interesting bird was a fledgling Horned Lark that didn’t seem to be able to keep up with the rest of the flock as they flushed away from the road when we drove by.

HOLA 1

Horned Lark on the Mayfield loop, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

One interesting feature of this trip was the heat wave that was passing through the area. We had several days in a row with temperatures near 110 degrees, and the stress this was causing on the birds was quite evident. Nearly every bird we observed was panting, with mouth wide open, to try to cope with the heat.

WEME 1

Western Meadowlark panting on a power line. Mayfield loop, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

LASP 1

Lark Sparrow panting on the Mayfield loop, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

One of our main target birds for the trip was Loggerhead Shrike. Luckily we found them at three different locations, including one spot that had 5 birds, 3 of them recently fledged.

LOSH 1

Loggerhead Shrike on the Mayfield loop, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

Another fun find was a Western Kingbird nest, with four young birds in the nest. They didn’t seem to handle the heat any better than the rest of the birds.

WEKI 2

Western Kingbird nest on the Mayfield loop, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

In this video you can see the parent as well as all of the nestlings panting in the extreme heat.

Western Kingbird with nestlings on the Mayfield Loop, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

Near the old remains of the town of Mayfield, a Common Nighthawk resting on a tree branch caught our eye. I’ve always been jealous when other birders have been able to photograph these wonderful birds on a perch, and was thrilled for the chance to see this behavior for myself.

CONI 2

Common Nighthawk near Mayfield, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

As you can see in the video below, the nighthawk had to waddle and change position a few times to keep its balance in the wind.

Common Nighthawk on the Mayfield Loop, Elmore County. June 30, 2013.

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