Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Birding in and around Idaho City

Ellen and I spent this past weekend in the woods around Idaho City. We haven’t spent very much time in forested habitats yet this year, so we had some catching up to do. See the map below for the places we birded, including A) Wildcat Gulch, B) Grayback Gulch, C) Shaw Gulch, D) Bannock Creek, E) Granite Creek, and F) Idaho City.

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Map of our stops near Idaho City. A) Wildcat Gulch, B) Grayback Gulch, C) Shaw Gulch, D) Bannock Creek, E) Granite Creek, and F) Idaho City.

Our stop at Wildcat Gulch was a brief afternoon outing on Saturday. Gosh it’s green this time of the year! It was a nice cool afternoon, so it felt great to get out and move around.

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Ellen, Stoddard (me!) and Nora at Wildcat Gulch, Boise County. May 16, 2015.

Our birds on this trip were mostly heard only, and the handful we did get a look at were in dim lighting due to the clouds, so we didn’t bring home a ton of pictures. We did have 13 species though, including three Hairy Woodpeckers, a pair of Dusky Flycatchers, a pair of Cassin’s Vireos, a couple of Lazuli Buntings, and lots of Chipping Sparrows to name a few. The one bird we did fire off a shot of was this Pine Siskin.

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Pine Siskin at Wildcat Gulch, Boise County. May 16, 2015.

The rest of our stops were on Sunday afternoon (May 17). We were focused on tracking down a White-headed Woodpecker. We checked some of the places we’ve seen them in the past, including Grayback Gulch and Shaw Gulch, and couldn’t find them, so we spent most of our afternoon along Bannock Creek Road (point D on the map above). The big draw here was a report from Rob Miller that he had heard a Barred Owl calling in the evening while he was camped out doing woodpecker surveys for the Boise National Forest. By the way, Rob has an awesome blog that you should definitely check out, especially if you want to re-evaluate all your life decisions to figure out whey you didn’t end up with a job as cool as his. We didn’t think there was any chance we’d re-locate the Barred Owl, especially with just a couple of hours in the afternoon. We likely would have needed to try to camp exactly where he did and hope to get lucky and hear some calls to have any success. He also had lots of good woodpeckers out there, so it seemed like a great area to check out, whether or not we could track down his owl.

Near Idaho City, just after leaving Highway 21 to get on Bannock Creek Road, we found this American Dipper along a small creek. There were lots of them all up and down Moore’s Creek, and I never get tired of seeing them.

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American Dipper on Bannock Creek Road, Boise County. May 17, 2015.

It ended up being pretty rainy for our entire trip up Bannock Creek Road. We ended up with 31 species across four different checklists, but didn’t get photos of many because they were either too distant, heard only, or there wasn’t enough light coming through the rainstorm. A few that we did photograph included this Townsend’s Solitaire and Hairy Woodpecker.

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Townsend’s Solitaire on Bannock Creek Road, Boise County. May 17, 2015.

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Hairy Woodpecker on Bannock Creek Road, Boise County. May 17, 2015.

The highlight was when we actually did find a pair of White-headed Woodpeckers near the top of Bannock Creek Road. We were rolling along really slowly with the windows cracked so we could hear bird calls, and as we came around one bend in the road we started hearing two White-headed Woodpeckers rattling at each other. We were pretty excited, and got a few quick glimpses, but it was just a bit disappointing that we couldn’t get them to sit still for photos. Still fun to find either way!

Near the bottom of Bannock Creek Road is a little marshy spot with some nice cattails. We pulled off the road to change Nora’s diaper, and while we were parked we kept hearing Wilson’s Snipes doing their flight display. They’re so fast and fly so high, this was the best picture I could get.

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Wilson’s Snipe on Bannock Creek Road, Boise County. May 17, 2015.

We also enjoyed watching this Dusky Flycatcher do his thing from a nice perch over the cattails.

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Dusky Flycatcher on Bannock Creek Road, Boise County. May 17, 2015.

We poked around a few other places after Bannock Creek, but spent most of our time actually driving around the town of Idaho City hoping to spy hummingbirds at somebody’s feeders. Our best find in town was a fairly sizable flock of Evening Grosbeaks. We could hear their distinctive sounds coming from the tops of trees all over the place, but never managed to get one in good lighting for a picture. The last bird we photographed was this Red-tailed Hawk, hanging out near town on our way out.

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Red-tailed Hawk near Idaho City, Boise County. May 17, 2015.

It was nice to enjoy the cool, misty air that comes with the recent rainshowers, but I sure look forward to getting some better photography light back!

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