Thursday, July 4, 2013

Valley County birding

In mid-May we headed up to Valley County to try to pick up some of their specialties we were lacking on our year list. We had a fantastic trip, and added 11 birds to our year list, including 2 lifers. We live on the southeast side of Boise, so we have to drive all the way across town to get to Highway 55 to head up to Valley County. We cut through Pierce Park Road to try for some of the migrants that were being seen along the road, and got our first of year Yellow-breasted Chat. Bullock’s Orioles were quite numerous, along with a good variety of warblers.

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Bullock’s Oriole at Pierce Park Road, Ada County. May 18, 2013.

On our way up to the McCall area, we took a detour to Garden Valley to see what the birds were like there. We were surprised to find several Bobolinks sitting on fence posts bordering a flooded field on the road to Project Patch. Turns out they turn up here annually, and we were lucky enough to be the first to spot them this year. Savannah Sparrows were also numerous, and we were glad to have a chance to take their picture.

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Bobolink on the road to Project Patch, Boise County. May 18, 2013.

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Savannah Sparrow on the road to Project Patch, Boise County. May 18, 2013.

We stopped for lunch at the Banks Cafe, and lucky for us, they had quite a few hummingbird feeders hanging right outside the dining room windows. We had planned a few special trips for later in the year to track down all of Idaho’s expected hummingbirds, but were more than happy to have them all in one place over lunch instead. We saw mostly Calliope and Black-chinned Hummingbirds, but also had quite a few Rufous, and even one Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

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Black-chinned Hummingbird at Banks Cafe, Boise County. May 18, 2013. 

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Calliope Hummingbird (female) at Banks Cafe, Boise County. May 18, 2013.

After lunch our next stop was the Sugarloaf Area of Cascade Lake. This area had an impressive swarm of Tree Swallows, definitely far more than there were nest boxes for.

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Tree Swallows at Cascade Lake – Sugarloaf Area, Valley County. May 18, 2013.

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Tree Swallow at Cascade Lake – Sugarloaf Area, Valley County. May 18, 2013.

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Tree Swallows at Cascade Lake – Sugarloaf Area, Valley County. May 18, 2013.

The Tree Swallows were so numerous we couldn’t get a picture of the nesting Ospreys without a Tree Swallow photobombing the picture.

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Ospreys at Cascade Lake – Sugarloaf Area, Valley County. May 18, 2013.

One of the birds we were most excited to find on our trip was Pileated Woodpecker. Pileateds are the typical cartoon version of a woodpecker, with their large, high contrast body, bright red crest, and conspicuous behavior. We had tried to find one on a trip to Oregon a couple of years ago, but didn’t have any luck, and we were really hoping to be able to add them to our Idaho list. Luckily we were able to track down a group of 3 on West Mountain Road, in a meadow northwest of Cascade Lake. In about a half hour of observation we got to watch them swoop from tree to tree, occasionally drumming and calling.

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Pileated Woodpecker near West Mountain Road, Valley County, May 18, 2013.

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Pileated Woodpecker near West Mountain Road, Valley County, May 18, 2013.

Ellen got out of the car to try to take some video and pictures as they swooped around. It was amazing how close they were coming to our car at times, and I half-expected to see them start attacking Ellen. Luckily, we got no scratches, and plenty of fun pictures.

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Pileated Woodpecker near West Mountain Road, Valley County, May 18, 2013.

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Pileated Woodpecker near West Mountain Road, Valley County, May 18, 2013.

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Pileated Woodpecker near West Mountain Road, Valley County, May 18, 2013.

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Pileated Woodpecker near West Mountain Road, Valley County, May 18, 2013.

In the same meadow there was also an American Kestrel practicing its acrobatics and calling loudly. At one point a Pileated Woodpecker swooped up and landed right next to a kestrel, and it was incredible how small and harmless the kestrel looked next to a Pileated Woodpecker. We didn’t catch that short moment, but did snap a photo of the kestrel on a short break from its aerial maneuvers.

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American Kestrel near West Mountain Road, Valley County, May 18, 2013.

A little further up the road we spotted a Red-naped Sapsucker on a telephone pole beside the road.

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Red-naped Sapsucker near West Mountain Road, Valley County, May 18, 2013.

Other finds of the day we were not able to photograph included our first of season Dusky Flycatcher, Townsend’s Warbler, Pygmy Nuthatch, Williamson’s Sapsucker, and MacGillivray’s Warbler. The birding was so good we had actually found all of our target species (except Ruffed Grouse) before we even got to McCall. We took advantage of our good fortune to enjoy a nice dinner together and head home before it got too dark. All in all it was a wonderful day, and as with most of our visits to Valley County, it just left us wanting to spend even more time in this beautiful part of the state.

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