Thursday, June 12, 2014

Warblers and a Western Screech Owl at Hulls Gulch

When we got back from our trip to Rexburg at the beginning of May, passerine migration was in full spring in Boise, so we had some catching up to do. This year Hulls Gulch has been the place to be, so we headed out to see what we could find.

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Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

As soon as we got out of the car, we were barraged by dozens of new songs we hadn’t heard since last spring, and it was a bit overwhelming at first to start remembering all of the sounds. Since most of these birds are either absent from the state or not singing for the majority of the year, there’s a bit of re-learning to do every spring when they return. We took a minute and just focused on one sound at a time, reminding ourselves what bird it belonged to, and then moving on to the next. It was a great crash course, and by the end of the morning, we had re-familiarized ourselves with a dozen or so songs.

Among the most numerous and noisy of the warblers were the Yellow-rumped Warblers and Yellow Warblers. We were constantly surrounded by both of these birds for our walk.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

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Yellow Warbler at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

Hummingbirds were well-represented, though very difficult to photograph. We managed to get all three of the common hummingbirds for Idaho, including Black-chinned, Rufous, and Calliope.

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Calliope Hummingbird at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

Cassin’s Finches, normally higher elevation mountain breeders, were present in good numbers as they headed back north after the winter.

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Cassin’s Finch at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

One of the noisiest spring warblers is the Yellow-breasted Chat, and when there’s one in the area, you can hear it over the top of other birds for quite a distance. Despite their high volume, they typically remain hidden in denser vegetation, close to the ground, so we were happy to spot this guy hanging out in clear view.

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Yellow-breasted Chat at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

Another bird that likes to stay out of the spotlight is the Chipping Sparrow. We had several of these guys bouncing around on the hillsides, making quiet chip notes as they hopped from bush to bush.

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Chipping Sparrow at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

We were also excited to find our first-of-year Bullock’s Orioles. These orioles breed in the area, so many of them that are arriving in May don’t have any further to go once they get here.

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Bullocks Orioles at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

One of the more exciting finds of the day came while we were trying to identify a flycatcher we heard in the middle of an aspen stand. We were sneaking around trying to get a better look, and noticed a nesting box on a tree near a creek that runs through the reserve.

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Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

We kept an eye on it for a few minutes, and were lucky enough to see this curious little Western Screech Owl pop out to see what was going on. We heard it coo a few times and look around before disappearing back into its hole. We’ve heard them several times before, and seen them at a distance, but this was the first time we’ve had such an up close and personal experience with this owl.

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Western Screech Owl at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

On our way out we stopped by the sandy cliffs further up the road where the Great Horned Owls nest each year, and spotted one of the adults resting on the nest entrance.

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Great Horned Owl at Hulls Gulch, Ada County. May 6, 2014.

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