Thursday, June 5, 2014

Short-eared Owl at Market Lake WMA

On our way home to Boise from our visit with family in Rexburg, we stopped by Market Lake to see if passerine migration was picking up any steam there. For the most part, migrant songbirds had not yet arrived, but we did have a few other fun finds.

On the way in we got a few decent shots of a Northern Harrier hunting over the grasslands opposite the marsh.

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Northern Harrier, Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

In this shot you can see he’s got a nice full crop. I’m sure the small mammal population is fantastic in this area.

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Northern Harrier, Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

In one of the canals along the road we had a pair of Western Grebes.

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Western Grebes at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

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Western Grebes at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

There were quite a few Redheads around, including one that was close enough to the road for a decent picture.

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Redhead at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

We saw our first-of-year Black-crowned Night Heron flying across one of the ponds a little ways back from the road.

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Black-crowned Night-Heron at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

Towards the north end of the marsh there is a large colony of Franklin’s Gulls that form an impressive cloud in the sky.

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Franklin’s Gulls and White-faced Ibis at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

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Franklin’s Gull at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

There was a large flock of White-faced Ibis hanging around that end of the marsh as well.

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White-faced Ibis at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

We birded around the west windrow (northern tip of the marsh) hoping for some nice songbirds, but there wasn’t a lot to be found just yet. The highlights included a Hermit Thrush, a Western Kingbird, and nesting Tree Swallows.

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Hermit Thrush at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

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Western Kingbird at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

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Tree Swallow at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

On the way back to the car I stopped to chat with a handful of older folks with binoculars gathering around a Great-horned Owl roosting on a nest. I hesitate to call them “birders” because I know they walked right past a lot of other (rarer) birds on their way in, and drove right past a beautiful pair of Short-eared Owls hunting out in the open over the marsh as they left. I certainly appreciate and am fascinated with Great-horned Owls, but they’re common enough that I’d pass over a Great-horned in a heart beat for the chance to spend more time with Short-eared Owls instead.

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Great-horned Owl at Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

Which is exactly what we did. Short-eared Owls are regular breeders at Market Lake and nearby Camas NWR, and we’ve seen them here before, but other than a few specific, well-established locations, they can be a fairly difficult bird to track down. It’s always a treat when you’re lucky enough to catch them when they’re being active during the daylight hours. We spent 15-20 minutes trying to photograph them from the road, and got a few shots that we were happy with.

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Short-eared Owl at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

It was fun to get some nice mountain scenery as a backdrop. I may be wrong, but I think that is the southern tip of the Lemhi Mountains in the background.

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Short-eared Owl at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

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Short-eared Owl at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

They’re plumage does a great job of camouflaging them in the grass. If this owl had been much further from the road or we hadn’t seen where it landed, we’d have never known it was there.

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Short-eared Owl at Market Lake, Jefferson County. May 5, 2014.

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