Thursday, October 17, 2013

Black-throated Sparrows in Owyhee County

After we cut our trip to the Sawtooths short to avoid the big holiday weekend crowds, we headed out to good old Owyhee county, where we can pretty much always count on having wide open spaces all to ourselves. On the way out, we were surprised to see another great birding hotspot, Indian Creek Reservoir, on fire! We watched a helicopter filling a bucket in the reservoir and dropping loads of water on the burning area while we cruised down the highway.

ICR Fire 1

Helicopter fighting a fire near Indian Creek Reservoir, Ada County. July 7, 2013.

Our main target for this trip was Black-throated Sparrow. These birds are residents of western desert habitats, wintering in the southwest, and breeding into southern Idaho and eastern Oregon.

BTSP Map 1

eBird range map for Black-throated Sparrow.

On the way to the first spot we were hoping to check for Black-throated Sparrow we stopped at Ted Trueblood WMA, near the town of Grandview. This is a great little stop that’s easy to check on the way to the CJ Strike area from Boise. This time the area had a large crowd of American White Pelicans.

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American White Pelicans (and a Great Blue Heron) at Ted Trueblood WMA, Elmore County. July 7, 2013.

Mourning Doves are pretty abundant too, and are an easy bird to overlook most of the time.

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Mourning Dove at Ted Trueblood WMA, Elmore County. July 7, 2013.

After a quick stop at Ted Trueblood, we headed straight for our main target: Mudflat Road south west of CJ Strike Reservoir, perhaps the most reliable place in Idaho to find Black-throated Sparrow during their breeding season.

BTSP Map 2

eBird sightings for Black-throated Sparrow in Owyhee County.

It didn’t take long for the sparrows to start showing up. They were actively bouncing around on the fences and under the bushes along the road, and were quite cooperative for photographing.

BTSP 1

Black-throated Sparrow on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

We started with just a couple of adults that were singing their hearts out. Though they were kind enough to make striking poses in clear view, they weren’t considerate enough to stay out of the shadows so we could get a better exposure.

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Black-throated Sparrow on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

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Black-throated Sparrow on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

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Black-throated Sparrow on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

After a while, several juveniles came out and joined the action. First there was just one . . .

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Black-throated Sparrow (juvenile and adult) on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

Then another  . . .

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Black-throated Sparrows on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

And then finally we had three juveniles at once.

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Black-throated Sparrow (three juveniles and an adult) on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

After a while, we finally managed to get a few shots outside the shadows, with the birds facing into the sun.

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Black-throated Sparrow on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

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Black-throated Sparrows on Mudflat Road, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

After enjoying the Black-throated Sparrows we headed up to check on Jacks Creek WMA, on CJ Strike Reservoir. On the way there we noticed a large flock of Common Nighthawks foraging over the football field behind Rimrock Jr-Sr High School.

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Common Nighthawk near Rim Rock Jr-Sr High School, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

On the way in to Jacks Creek we saw a few game birds, including a Ring-necked Pheasant, and this California Quail.

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California Quail at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

At Jacks Creek WMA there was a good mix of gulls and terns, plus the some of the earliest shorebirds heading south again for the winter.

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Caspian Terns and Ring-billed Gulls at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

Jacks Creek mixed birds 1

Forster’s Terns, Western Sandpipers, and a Franklin’s Gull at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

Jacks Creek mixed birds 2

Forster’s Terns and a Marbled Godwit at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

We enjoyed watching the Forster’s Terns feeding over the water, and quite a few were putting on quite the show as they hovered low over the water, bills pointed straight down, waiting for just the right moment to strike, and then splashing into the water with great force.

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Forster’s Tern at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

We didn’t see too many passerines on this trip, but did manage to find a Western Wood Pewee on our way out.

WWEP 2

Western Wood Pewee at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. July 7, 2013.

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