Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Market Lake, Camas NWR, and Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh

On the last day of our Memorial Day weekend trip to southeast Idaho, we said goodbye to family early and devoted most of the day to birding Market Lake WMA and Camas NWR. These locations are two of Idaho’s premier migrant traps, and regularly turn up some of Idaho’s rarest birds, including quite a few first state records. We were a little late for the peak of spring migration, but both stops were still jam-packed with excellent birds, and we added 10 birds to our year list.
On the way in to Market Lake the flooded fields were covered with White-faced Ibis, and some of the dryer fields were sporting Ring-necked Pheasant.
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White-faced Ibis at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
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Ring-necked Pheasant at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
As we got further into the marsh we began to see many more waterfowl than we have seen in a while, including this Lesser Scaup pair, quite a few male Ruddy Ducks doing their courtship display, and a group of American White Pelicans flew over.
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Lesser Scaups at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
Ruddy Duck calling at Market Lake WMA, Madison County. May 28, 2013.
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American White Pelicans flying over Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
Franklin’s Gulls are among the most abundant birds at Market Lake, since there is a large colony near the northern part of the WMA.
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Franklin’s Gulls at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
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Franklin’s Gulls at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
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Franklin’s Gulls and White-faced Ibis at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
The highlight of Market Lake this time of the year is the West Windrow. This is a shelterbelt of trees at the northern tip of the WMA that is host to incredible densities of migrant passerines during the spring. There is a wide variety of habitat here, with a little bit different mix of shrubs and trees in each layer of the shelterbelt.
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West Windrow at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
Western Tanagers were the most numerous, followed closely by Tree Swallows and Pine Siskins (which we didn’t photograph). A Gray Catbird also greeted us early on in the walk.
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Western Tanager at the West Windrow, Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
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Western Tanager at the West Windrow, Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
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Gray Catbird at West Windrow, Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
At one point we were alerted to the presence of a Great-horned Owl by the alarm sounds of several American Robins.
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Great-horned Owl at West Windrow, Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
Flycatchers were quite abundant on the northern third of the windrow, where the vegetation was not so dense. This Dusky Flycatcher was kind enough to hold still long enough for a picture, but many others (including a Least) were not.
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Dusky Flycatcher at West Windrow, Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
Later we headed to Camas NWR, which was great for birding, but difficult for photography since it had started to rain. We did snap a few quick photos, including this Western Wood-pewee, and a Porcupine napping in a tree. Unphotographed highlights of this stop included a Common Yellowthroat, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Cordilleran Flycatcher.
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Western Wood-Pewee at Camas NWR, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
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Porcupine at Camas NWR, Jefferson County. May 28, 2013.
After Camas NWR we hustled through the rest of the drive home. There’s some fantastic scenery along the route back to Boise, which always makes the trip home more pleasant.
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Stormy mountains along Highway 20, Blaine County. May 28, 2013.
We added one more stop to the day since we were approaching Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh near sunset, and we had missed the Short-eared Owls that are usually found at Camas NWR and Market Lake, and were anxious to try one more time. As we rolled in, the Cliff Swallows were returning to roost for the night in their nests in the old farm structures of Hill City.
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Cliff Swallows returning to roost in Hill City, Camas County. May 28, 2013.
We reached the center of the marsh just as the sun was setting, and slowly started to work our way back, keeping an eye out for Short-eared Owls. The sunset light over the marsh made the trip worthwhile either way, but I’ll admit I really had my hopes up to find an owl.
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Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 28, 2013.
Luckily as we were about a third of the way back out to the main road, Ellen saw a Short-eared Owl cross the road right in front of us and glide out over the marsh to the north of our car. I only caught a short glimpse but luckily she had the sense of mind to turn on the camera in a split-second and capture a bit of video as the bird drifted out of sight.
Short-eared Owl at Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 28, 2013.
Not a bad way to finish a day! We’ll definitely be back to try for a better view of these magnificent owls.

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