Friday, October 17, 2014

Bobolinks, Red-eyed Vireo and more in Boise County

This post includes all the odds and ends from our Memorial Day trip to Valley County. We went for a couple of hikes in Ponderosa State Park, drove up and down West Mountain Road a few times, and went on a couple of hunts for Upland Sandpipers. Here’s all the stuff that happened in between.

On the way up our first day we stopped at Garden Valley to look for the Bobolinks that have bred along the road into Project Patch for several years. We saw them around the same time last year, and we figured it was a good time to check again.

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Fields along Project Patch Road, Boise County. May 23, 2014.

There weren’t any Bobolinks in plain view when we arrived, but luckily Nora needed a break to eat, so we parked along the road and just kept an eye out for them for about half an hour while Nora ate. There weren’t too many birds, but we did have a nice low flyover from a Turkey Vulture.

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Turkey Vulture above Project Patch Road, Boise County. May 23, 2014.

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Turkey Vulture above Project Patch Road, Boise County. May 23, 2014.

After a bit, we saw this bird hanging out along some of the fence posts. I was so focused on looking for the bright yellow and contrasting blacks of the male Bobolink that I had forgot to keep an eye out for any females. After looking at our photos when we got back home I realized that this bird was actually a Bobolink.

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Bobolink (female) on Project Patch Road, Boise County. May 23, 2014.

It was actually a good thing that I didn’t realize at the time that our first bird was a Bobolink, or we may have hustled away to our next stop right after finding it. Instead we hung out and kept looking, and eventually got really great looks at two males.

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Bobolinks on Project Patch Road, Boise County. May 23, 2014.

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Bobolink on Project Patch Road, Boise County. May 23, 2014.

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Bobolink on Project Patch Road, Boise County. May 23, 2014.

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Bobolink on Project Patch Road, Boise County. May 23, 2014.

The hotel we stayed at was nestled in the woods along the western side of Lake Cascade. We saw a few decent birds each day just coming and going from our room. There wasn’t usually enough light to photograph much, since we did most of our coming and going during the early and late hours of the day when there wasn’t a lot of sunlight. We also kept our eye out while driving between destinations around McCall. We saw lots of Chipping Sparrows, Mountain Bluebirds, and a handful of Evening Grosbeaks at somebody’s front yard feeders.

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Chipping Sparrow west of Lake Cascade, Valley County. May 24, 2014.

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Mountain Bluebird near Lake Cascade, Valley County. May 24, 2014.

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Evening Grosbeak in McCall, Valley County. May 24, 2014.

On the road along the west side of the Lake Cascade to our hotel we drove past quite a few Western Grebes, and this one hung out particularly close to the road, so we got to see it fishing several times.

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Meadow west of Lake Cascade, Valley County. May 25, 2014.

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Western Grebe at Lake Cascade, Valley County. May 25, 2014.

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Lake Cascade, Valley County. May 25, 2014.

The drive home on the final day ended up being more eventful than expected. First of all, we had a distant Olive-sided Flycatcher calling from a tree top in the parking lot of our hotel.

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Olive-sided Flycatcher west of Lake Cascade, Valley County. May 26, 2014.

One of the most abundant birds we heard constantly throughout our trip was the Townsend’s Warbler. They were everywhere we went, and usually in high numbers. Despite their abundance, we struggled to ever lay eyes on one all week (most of them were heard-only). We really didn’t want to come home without getting a picture of one, so we added a stop at one of our favorite stops for forest specialties: Bell Creek north of Crouch.

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Bell Creek, Boise County. May 26, 2014.

This little patch of woods has produced great birds every time we’ve stopped here, and this time was no different. We went for a hike along the creek, and almost got our heads taken off by a Ruffed Grouse as it launched down from its roost in the trees, swooped right between our heads, and landed on a hillside a few yards away. We saw lots of Lazuli Buntings displaying as well, but Townsend’s Warblers continued to be “heard-only”.

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Lazuli Bunting at Bell Creek, Boise County. May 26, 2014.

After our hike, Nora was due for another meal, so we found a place to park our chairs for a bit. It wasn’t long before all those “heard-only” Townsend’s Warblers finally started coming in a little closer. The lighting wasn’t great, and at first they mostly stayed deep in the shrubbery, but after a while we finally started getting some better views. Bell Creek came through for us again!

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Townsend’s Warbler at Bell Creek, Boise County. May 26, 2014.

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Townsend’s Warbler at Bell Creek, Boise County. May 26, 2014.

Our final goal for the trip home was to see if we could find the Red-eyed Vireo that has been hanging out along Porter Creek Road north of Horseshoe Bend for a few years. We made our first pass along Porter Creek Road without any luck, and as we turned around and drove past some old barns, we both wondered if perhaps there might be a Barn Owl roosting in any of them. Sure enough, the first one we peaked in (from the road without leaving our car, no trespassing!) had a beautiful Barn Owl roosting near the peak of the roof! They can be a hard bird to seek out intentionally, but they’re abundant enough that it seems like as long as you get out often enough, you’re bound to run into one every now and then.

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Barn Owl along Porter Creek Road, Boise County. May 26, 2014.

After the Barn Owl excitement we continued back down Porter Creek Road looking for the Red-eyed Vireo. Once again we can thank Nora’s appetite for the patience to stay put until it came to us. Just before the sun set, this guy finally wandered its way near where we were parked, and hung out for several minutes, singing loudly from deep in the trees. It took a long time to try to get it in view, and it was always at least partially obstructed, but we did finally get a few that we liked.

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Red-eyed Vireo on Porter Creek Road, Boise County. May 26, 2014.

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Red-eyed Vireo on Porter Creek Road, Boise County. May 26, 2014.

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