Monday, October 21, 2013

Gulls, grebes, and the heebie-jeebies at Lake Lowell

Towards the end of July we made a trip out to Lake Lowell, focusing on the lower dam area on the western side of the lake. Fall migration starts early in the season for breeders from the far north, and there were good numbers of birds already heading south using the lake as a rest stop.

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Lake Lowell from the lower dam area, Canyon County, July 27, 2013.

Out on the muck was a good mix of shorebirds and gulls. First we spotted a few Killdeers and Black-necked Stilts.

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Killdeer and Black-necked Stilt at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

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Killdeer and Black-necked Stilts at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

We had a nice gathering of Wilson’s Phalaropes. In their non-breeding plumage, these guys can take an extra minute to ID from a distance.

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Wilson’s Phalaropes at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

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Wilson’s Phalaropes at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

Other stretches of the muck had more gulls and terns, such as this Caspian Tern enjoying a nice meal.

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Caspian Tern at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

There was an impressive mixed flock of Ring-billed and California gulls.

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Caspian Tern, as well as Ring-billed and California Gulls at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

Western Sandpipers were mixed in at a few spots.

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Western Sandpipers with Ring-billed Gulls at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

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Western Sandpipers at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

Out in the deeper water there were lots of Western and Clark’s Grebes.

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Western Grebes at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

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Western Grebe at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

On the north end of the dam, near the swim beach, we had mostly California Gulls. It was probably the greatest number of California Gulls we’ve seen in one area so far.

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California Gull at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

It’s always fun to watch birds play with their food. We watched this Ring-billed Gull toss his food around for several minutes before he finally decided to chomp it down.

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Ring-billed Gull at Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

In addition to scoping out the birds out on the mud, we also took a stroll through a bit of riparian habitat near the southern end of the dam. We’ve birded this patch of woods several times, and have never seen it quite like this.

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Wooded area near the Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

It was an eerie feeling walking through the woods. It was amazing how quiet it was in there, we didn’t here or see a single bird during the whole walk.

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Wooded area near the Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

I’m not sure what exactly was covering everything, or if this happens every year, but it looked like the trees had shed a tremendous volume of some kind of fluffy seed matter that was coating everything.

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Wooded area near the Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

Adding to the eerie feeling was the number of dead things decaying on the ground, including fish, and unfortunately, what looks to be a domestic dog (not pictured, the image was too gruesome!).

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Wooded area near the Lake Lowell lower dam area, Canyon County. July 27, 2013.

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