Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Round Valley Bluebirds

On April 19 we took a drive up to Valley County to see Round Valley, a place we’ve passed dozens of times on the way to and from McCall, but have never really explored much before. As you’re driving north from Boise on Highway 55, the turn for Round Valley comes up just as you break out of the steep canyons and winding roads after Smiths Ferry.

Round Valley Map

Round Valley, Valley County.

The scenery was fantastic, with canals and streams meandering through grasslands and wildflowers, bordered by snow covered mountains.

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Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

The birds weren’t bad either. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of diversity, but the species that could be found were iconic and beautiful. One of our first birds was this Yellow-rumped Warbler, which turned out to be the first-of-year for Valley County.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

We also had a couple of snazzy looking Vesper Sparrows meandering around near the fence lines.

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Vesper Sparrow at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

It can be difficult to get a good view of the rufous shoulder patches, which can really help with identifying these birds.

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Vesper Sparrow at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

Meadowlarks were present in decent numbers, including this fellow singing from the top of an old barn.

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Western Meadowlark at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

A few Horned Larks were bouncing around as well, but luckily one of them stayed put long enough for a decent photo opportunity.

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Horned Lark at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

Also present in high numbers were Savannah Sparrows. These small sparrows are quite shy, and tend to be one of the first birds to spook as you approach them. Every now and then you can find one that will stay put close enough for a decent picture.

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Savannah Sparrow at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

The real stars of the show were the Mountain Bluebirds, which were present in the dozens. These members of the thrush family can be found in mountain meadows all over the state, and have the unique distinction of being our state bird.

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Mountain Bluebirds at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

The females are more drab than the males, but if you get a good view, they have their own subtle beauty, and the hints of blue seem to stand out even more in contrast.

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Mountain Bluebird (female) at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

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Mountain Bluebird (male) at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

The high numbers of bluebirds afforded great opportunities to see a range of behaviors, including a pair sharing a grub, and a rocket launch into flight.

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Mountain Bluebirds at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

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Mountain Bluebird at Round Valley, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

After spending a while in Round Valley we headed up to Cascade for a bite to eat, and spent a few minutes at the Sugarloaf Area of Lake Cascade. There were lots of bluebirds around that area as well.

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Mountain Bluebird at the Sugarloaf Area of Lake Cascade, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

Ospreys are quite abundant near Lake Cascade and the surrounding rivers, streams, and reservoirs. We enjoyed seeing quite a few work on their nests, and hunt for fish in the lake.

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Ospreys at the Sugarloaf Area of Lake Cascade, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

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Osprey at the Sugarloaf Area of Lake Cascade, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

Coming back down from the Sugarloaf Area, there’s a short pass over a wooded hill before you get back to Cascade, and we pulled over for a minute to see what we could find. Immediately we heard all sorts of great forest specialties calling, though the vegetation was so thick it was hard to see much. We did get a decent view of a Mountain Chickadee, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

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Mountain Chickadee north of Cascade, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet north of Cascade, Valley County. April 19, 2014.

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