Friday, November 1, 2013

Lake Lowell, the Dry Lakes area, and Highway 95

Back on the first Saturday of August we spent some time in Canyon and Owyhee Counties. We started by checking out the Tio Lane access to the east end of Lake Lowell, then made a stop by the lower dam area, then headed over to the Dry Lakes area, and ended the day searching for nice juniper stands mixed in with all the sagebrush down in Owyhee county.

The birding was slow at Tio Lane. This was the first time we’ve tried to use this access point. The mudflats you can reach from this end are quite the attraction for migrating shorebirds in the fall, so we thought we’d see what the walk out there was like. We ran out of time and turned around before reaching a good access point for the lake shore, and the birding was quite slow along the walk out and back. It looked like great habitat though, and we’ll definitely check this area out again.

Tio Lane 1

Lake Lowell – Tio Lane access in Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

We did see a deer that was resting awfully close to the walking path.

Deer 1

Mule deer at Lake Lowell – Tio Lane access in Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

The one bird we did get a good look at was this Downy Woodpecker dining on Common Mullein just a few feet from the walking path.

DOWO 1

Downy Woodpecker at Lake Lowell – Tio Lane access in Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

DOWO 2

Downy Woodpecker at Lake Lowell – Tio Lane access in Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

Here you can see the nictating membrane over the eye as the bird pecked into the plant. I’m not sure if it’s typical for woodpeckers to close their eyes on striking their bill, or if we just had odd timing, but quite a few of our shots showed the nictating membrane as the bird pecked.

DOWO 3

Downy Woodpecker at Lake Lowell – Tio Lane access in Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

You can see quite a bit of wear on the tail feathers in this shot, though much of the other plumage looks fairly fresh.

DOWO 4

Downy Woodpecker at Lake Lowell – Tio Lane access in Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

Next stop was the Dry Lakes area. This is a private agricultural pond, but the owners are tolerant of birders stopping by, so long as they’re respectful of their property. We were hoping to track down a Black-bellied Plover that had been reported a few days earlier. We didn’t find the plover on this trip, but had a few other good finds.

Dry Lakes 1

Dry Lakes area, Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

Pecking around the gravel parking area near the ponds were quite a few Eurasian Collared Doves. As much as people are alarmed about the increase of this species, it does seem to me like we see more of them in disturbed areas. In my experience they don’t seem to compete against native doves as well in natural, undisturbed habitats.

EUCD 1

Eurasian Collared Doves at Dry Lakes, Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

There was a good mix of shorebirds, including Wilson’s Phalaropes, Black-necked Stilts, Killdeers, Long-billed Dowitchers, American Avocets, and White-faced Ibis, among others.

BNST 1

A few ducks, a Black-necked Stilt, and a Wilson’s Phalarope at Dry Lakes, Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

LBDO 1

Northern Shoveler, Wilson’s Phalarope, and Long-billed Dowitcher at Dry Lakes, Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

WFIB 1

White-faced Ibis at Dry Lakes, Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

We also had a Great Egret, and two Black-crowned Night Herons, including one adult and one juvenile. 

GREG 1

Great Egret at Dry Lakes, Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

BCNI 1

Black-crowned Night Heron at Dry Lakes, Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

BCNI 2

Black-crowned Night Heron (juvenile) at Dry Lakes, Canyon County. August 3, 2013.

We finished the day exploring the sage brush and juniper habitat on both sides of highway 95 heading through Owyhee County towards the Oregon border. Our primary target was Gray Flycatchers, who breed out in this kind of habitat. We found just one, which we only saw from quite a distance, and weren’t able to get any pictures. We did have quite a few fun birds that are typical of this habitat though, including Sage Thrashers and Loggerhead Shrikes.

SATH 1

Sage Thrasher near French John Road, Owyhee County. August 3, 2013.

SATH 2

Sage Thrasher near French John Road, Owyhee County. August 3, 2013.

LOSH 1

Loggerhead Shrike near French John Road, Owyhee County. August 3, 2013.

LOSH 2

Loggerhead Shrike near McBride Creek, Owyhee County. August 3, 2013.

We also had Brewer’s Sparrows quite a few places, and near the end of the day found a nice patch with a good variety of passerines, most of which there was not enough light left to photograph, but we did get a decent picture of a female Black-headed Grosbeak.

BRSP 1

Brewer’s Sparrow near McBride Creek, Owyhee County. August 3, 2013.

BHGR 1

Black-headed Grosbeak (female) near McBride Creek, Owyhee County. August 3, 2013.

As usual for a big birding weekend, we got to enjoy the sunset out in the field. Here was the view from part of the McBride Creek area, just east of Highway 95. Not a bad day!

McBride Creek Pano 1

Sunset from the McBride Creek area, Owyhee County. August 3, 2013.

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