Saturday, June 21, 2014

Broad-tailed Hummingbird and Fox Sparrow at Silver City

On May 17 we took a trip out to Silver City, a ghost town in the Owyhee Mountains. Silver City had its heyday in the 1880’s as a gold and silver mining town, and peaked at a population of around 2,500 with 75 businesses. Today there are still 70 buildings from that era standing, many of them in good condition.

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Entrance to Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

The Owyhee Mountains are also good for a number of birds, including Green-tailed Towhee, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and Fox Sparrow, so it’s a nice destination both for sight-seeing and for birding. The map below shows the locations where we submitted eBird checklists on our way in to Silver City.

Silver City Map

Map of our eBird checklists for our Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

One of the better hotspots on the way in was Sinker Creek (point B on the map above), where the main road intersects with some ATV trails near some old corrals and a creek. There we had a few nice songbirds, including the Lazuli Bunting, American Goldfinch, and Northern Flicker below. Not pictured were several Yellow-breasted Chats, a Fox Sparrow, and a Green-tailed Towhee.

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Lazuli Bunting near Sinker Creek, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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American Goldfinch at Sinker Creek, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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Northern Flicker at Sinker Creek, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

The road up through the Owyhees can be treacherous at times, but provides lots of great vantage points.

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The Owyhee Mountains, Owhyee County. May 17, 2014.

In the town of Silver City, we had loads of Violet-green Swallows, a handful of Dark-eyed Juncos, and several other birds.

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Violet-green Swallow at Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

 

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Violet-green Swallow at Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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Dark-eyed Junco at Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

A couple of our favorite finds included a Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and a Fox Sparrow. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds were by far the most abundant hummingbird when we lived in Colorado, but here in Idaho they can be tricky to find. Silver City seems to be a fairly reliable place to find them. It seems like in general, the mountain ranges no the southern portion of the state seem to have the best odds of hosting Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, though they’re spotted less frequently across much of the state. They’re easy to identify based on the metallic buzzing sound they make in flight even if you don’t get a good view. Other hummingbirds have their own sounds and can certainly make wing noise while doing territorial or courtship displays, but only the Broad-tailed has the constant metallic buzz with every wingbeat.

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Broad-tailed Hummingbird at Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

Fox Sparrows have been an inordinately difficult bird for us to find this year. They breed across much of the state, preferring high elevation willow thickets near forests, and they’re seen fairly regularly all over the state, but for whatever reason we had a hard time tracking one down this year. We were thrilled to hear one singing just yards away while we were photographing the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and when we looked down in the bushes it was right in front of our noses.

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Fox Sparrow at Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

We got plenty of non-bird photos while we were in town as well. I can’t comment much on the history of individual buildings, but in case you haven’t been out to Silver City before, here’s a sampling of what you can see around town.

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Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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Silver City, Owyhee County. May 17, 2014.

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