Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Glaucous-winged Gull at CJ Strike Reservoir

Over the last weekend of September we took a trip out to CJ Strike Reservoir in hopes of finding some rare migrants. CJ Strike tends to attract some very interesting water birds, including rare loons, scoters, gulls, and jaegers in late fall and through the winter. Nothing in particular had been reported recently, but we thought it was worth checking things out.

CJ Map 1

Our trip around CJ Strike Reservoir, Elmore and Owyhee Counties. September 29, 2013.

Our first surprise of the day was finding a late Eastern Kingbird hanging out at a boat launch on the Snake River in Grandview (point A on the map above). This was three weeks later than the previous latest record in eBird for either Elmore or Owyhee Counties.

EAKI 1

Eastern Kingbird near Grandview, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

We drove along some agricultural roads north of the river to get to CJ Strike, and found an interesting little mud/manure patch (point B on the map above) that had attracted a large crowd of White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, American Pipits, plus a few Pectoral Sandpipers in a wet patch.

SOSP 1

Song Sparrow north of Grandview in Elmore County. September 29, 2013.

PESA 1

Pectoral Sandpiper north of Grandview in Elmore County. September 29, 2013.

PESA 2

Pectoral Sandpipers north of Grandview in Elmore County. September 29, 2013.

AMPI 2

American Pipit north of Grandview in Elmore County. September 29, 2013.

We had lots of raptors on the way over to CJ Strike, though most of them were Red-tailed Hawks.

RTHA 5

Red-tailed Hawk (juvenile) west of CJ Strike Reservoir, Elmore County. September 29, 2013.

When we reached CJ Strike Reservoir we started birding at the dam (point C on the map above). We had just a small handful of species, but each of them were hanging out in tightly packed clusters.

CJ Dam 1

CJ Strike Dam spillway, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

On our first pass, all we had were Common Mergansers and Double-crested Cormorants, so we headed up to the North Park area (point  D on the map above).

COME 1

Common Mergansers at the CJ Strike Dam, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

DCCO 2

Double-crested Cormorants at the CJ Strike Dam, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

The North Park area mostly just had coots and Mallards, but a lone Eared Grebe was hanging out with them.

EAGR 2

Eared Grebe at CJ Strike – North Park area, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

When we headed back down to the dam area, the mix of birds had changed a little bit. Now we had a large kettle of Turkey Vultures directly above the dam, plus flocks of Rock Pigeons, Ring-billed and California Gulls, and Double-crested Cormorants hanging out on the spillway.

TUVU 6

Turkey Vultures at the CJ Strike Dam, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

CJ Dam 2

Gulls, cormorants, and pigeons at the CJ Strike Dam, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

ROPI 1

Rock Pigeons at the CJ Strike Dam, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

CJ Dam 3

Double-crested Cormorants and mixed gulls at the CJ Strike Dam, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

Flocks of gulls always provide a fun challenge to pick through them for anything unusual. At a glance, the birds that look the most unique are often just juvenile Ring-billeds, and the true rarities often look superficially the same as the more common Ring-billeds.

Gulls 1

Ring-billed Gulls at the CJ Strike Dam, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

Our most exciting find for the day was a Glaucous-winged Gull. There has actually been one of these showing up each year since 2010, possibly the same bird each year. It’s usually present from October through January, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a littler later.

GWGU 1

Glaucous-winged Gull at the CJ Strike Dam, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

Our next stop was Jacks Creek WMA (point F on the map above). We were hoping for some oddball warblers or sparrows in the extensive habitat on the way in. We mostly only had Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Jacks Creek Pano 2

Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

YRWA 4

Yellow-rumped Warbler at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

We watched a Northern Harrier hunting over a field near the parking lot, and had a few grebes out on the reservoir, including Clark’s and Westerns.

NOHA 1

Northern Harrier at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

CLGR 1

Clark’s Grebe (photobombed by a Barn Swallow) at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

On the way out we found an ornamental Helmeted Guineafowl that must have wandered off of someone’s farm nearby. It had a long orange streamer tied to one leg, so perhaps somebody wanted to make it easier to find next time.

Helmeted Guineafowl 1

Helmeted Guineafowl at Jacks Creek WMA, Owyhee County. September 29, 2013.

On our way home we scanned the Snake River near the Highway 51 bridge east of CJ Strike for rare ducks. No luck on any rarities, but there were huge numbers of American Coots.

AMCO 2

American Coots on the Snake River near the Highway 51 bridge, Elmore County. September 29, 2013.

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