Saturday, January 11, 2014

Greater Scaup and Golden-crowned Kinglets at Lucky Peak

My favorite part of living on the east side of Boise is our close proximity to Lucky Peak. From our house it’s just 8 minutes to Lucky Peak Dam, and another 11 minutes to Spring Shores Marina. Lucky Peak never has high numbers of waterfowl, but does frequently host a few interesting birds. For whatever reason, Boise area birders tend to overlook Lucky Peak as a spot to check for migrating loons, grebes, or ducks. Towards the end of October we made a couple of trips out to see if there were any interesting waterfowl moving through on the late end of fall migration.

Spring Shores 1

Lucky Peak Lake from Spring Shores Marina, Boise County. October 29, 2013.

Western Grebes are fairly common on Lucky Peak,  focused our efforts on Spring Shores Marina, and we found plenty. You can usually find a few Clark’s Grebes mixed in as well, though there weren’t any on this trip.

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Western Grebes at Spring Shores Marina, Boise County. October 29, 2013.

We were hoping to find a scoter, since late October is the best time to look for them in Idaho. We didn’t spot any, but while looking, one interesting bird caught our eye while we were checking out a raft of coots.

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American Coots with a Greater Scaup (female) near Spring Shores Marina, October 29, 2013.

At first, the bluish bill made me think Lesser Scaup, and the shape was decent for something in the Aythya genus, but it wasn’t quite right. The pattern of light patches on the face also looked a bit like a female White-winged Scoter, but the bill and body shape were all wrong.

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Greater Scaup near Spring Shores Marina, Boise County. October 29, 2013.

Upon closer examination of the photos at home, the bird turned out to be a female Greater Scaup. The head shape is more rounded than on a Lesser Scaup, and female Lesser Scaup rarely show the same pattern of light patches on the face.

GRSC 1

Greater Scaup near Spring Shores Marina, Boise County. October 29, 2013.

A couple days later, we returned to see if anything new had showed up near the marina, but there were only a few Ring-billed Gulls and Western Grebes. We headed up to check Macks Creek Campground next.

Macks 1

Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 2, 2013.

The light was almost gone for the day so we didn’t get to put very much time in here, but did enjoy happening upon a mixed flock of songbirds, including several Golden-crowned Kinglets.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 2, 2013.

Golden-crowned Kinglets descend from their higher elevation breeding grounds every fall, and are much easier to find close to home in the winter months.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 2, 2013.

Since we didn’t get as much time as we wanted the first time around, we headed back the next day to get more pictures of the Golden-crowned Kinglets. They were in just the same spot and were mixed in with a handful of other songbirds, the most abundant of which were House Finches.

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House Finch at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 3, 2013.

Along with the House Finches there were quite a few Dark-eyed Juncos.

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House Finch and Dark-eyed Junco at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 3, 2013.

Any decent sized flock of juncos was bound to include at least a few races when we lived in Colorado, but only the Oregon race is common in Idaho.

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Dark-eyed Juncos at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 3, 2013.

Several Golden-crowned Kinglets stole the show, and provided some fun photo opportunities.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 3, 2013.

GCKI 2

Golden-crowned Kinglet at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 3, 2013.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 3, 2013.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet at Macks Creek Campground, Boise County. November 3, 2013.

As always, one of the highlights of a great birding trip is seeing the sunset from somewhere beautiful.

Lucky Peak Pano 1

Lucky Peak Lake, Boise County. November 3, 2013.

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