Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Swamp Sparrow at Celebration Park

For the last weekend in March we headed out to a few places along the Snake River canyon south of Boise. Our first stop was Swan Falls Dam, which we drove out to via South Cole Road where we keep an eye on the Burrowing Owls that nest there each year. We saw our first-of-year Burrowing Owl on this trip hanging out around a burrow we haven’t seen them use before.

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Burrowing Owl on South Cole Road, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

We also saw a few Long-billed Curlews as well, it’s always fun to have them around for the summer again.

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Long-billed Curlew on South Cole Road, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

Western Meadowlarks were singing like crazy all over the place as well.

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Western Meadowlark on South Cole Road, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

Further along on our trip we stopped by Initial Point to see if we could track down a Sagebrush Sparrow another birder had reported seeing there. We couldn’t find our sparrow, but did see a few nice raptors, including this Ferruginous Hawk.

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Ferruginous Hawk near Initial Point, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

When we arrived at Swan Falls Dam, we spent a little time at the overlook right before you descend into the canyon to look for Sagebrush Sparrows again. Besides the great view, this is one of the most reliable spots to find Sagebrush Sparrows in southwest Idaho, but we couldn’t track them down on this trip.

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Swan Falls Dam, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

We did, however, find our first-of-year Sage Thrasher singing its heart out on top of sage brush.

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Sage Thrasher near Swan Falls Dam, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

There were lots of raptors around as well, including Turkey Vultures, Prairie Falcons, and Red-tailed Hawks.

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Turkey Vulture near Swan Falls Dam, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

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Prairie Falcon (with blood from its last meal on its belly) near Swan Falls Dam, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

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Prairie Falcon near Swan Falls Dam, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

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Red-tailed Hawk near Swan Falls Dam, Ada County. March 29, 2014.

After Swan Falls Dam we headed over to Celebration Park to see if we could re-find a Swamp Sparrow that Bryce Robinson had found back in January, and then re-found a day or two before our trip.

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Celebration Park, Canyon County. March 29, 2014.

There is a little patch of cattails to the east of the park headquarters that was loaded with Marsh Wrens, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, as well as a handful of other typical marsh birds. We watched and listened for the Swamp Sparrow for 20 minutes or so with no luck. Eventually a Virginia Rail started calling, and then wandered out into open view.

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Virginia Rail near Celebration Park, Canyon County. March 29, 2014.

As we were enjoying the Virginia Rail, we saw a small sparrow flitting around in the reeds, and tried to keep an eye on it, hoping it might be the Swamp Sparrow. At one point, we had about a ten second window where the bird was in clear view, just long enough to confirm it was indeed our Swamp Sparrow.

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Swamp Sparrow near Celebration Park, Canyon County. March 29, 2014.

We were pretty happy with our find. Swamp Sparrows are a difficult bird to find in Idaho, but looking at eBird records, most Idaho sightings for this species are along the Snake River in south west Idaho, so this is just the type of place you’d expect to find one if you were lucky enough.

Swamp Sparrow eBird map

eBird sightings for Swamp Sparrows in Idaho.

For such a secretive bird, we were thrilled to have a couple of half-way decent photos to show for our chase.

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Swamp Sparrow near Celebration Park, Canyon County. March 29, 2014.

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