Saturday, May 9, 2015

Red-breasted Mergansers, Great-tailed Grackle, and a Long-tailed Duck near Roberts

While we were in Rexburg visiting our families in early April Steve Butterworth wrote in to IBLE about a Long-tailed Duck he found at sewage ponds near Roberts. This was especially exciting for us because although we visit southeast Idaho quite frequently, we never quite seem to be there at the same time as others are finding rare birds. It seems like every time we visit somebody finds something really amazing right after we leave. This time was different though, as the bird was reported while we still had a couple of days in our trip, and we were already planning to visit the area on our way home anyway.

Long-tailed Ducks are quite rare in Idaho, though we do get 1-2 each year, usually in the middle of the winter near dams or large lakes that don’t completely freeze over. On our first check of the sewage ponds we couldn’t find the bird, so we headed up the road to Market Lake to spend some time, hoping that things might re-shuffle if we gave it some time, and that it might be there on the way back out. At Market Lake, we had lots of good birds, but one of the highlights were these Red-breasted Mergansers hanging out in the canal right next to the road. We’ve had them at least once each year for the past few years, but weren’t able to get any photos until earlier this year, and those were a little disappointing. These birds were much easier to photograph, and we got one of each sex that we were pretty happy with.

IMG_2129_thumb_thumb_thumb

Red-breasted Merganser at Market Lake, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2132_thumb_thumb_thumb

Red-breasted Merganser (female) at Market Lake, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2138_thumb_thumb_thumb

Red-breasted Merganser at Market Lake, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

On our way back over to the sewage ponds we saw a large black bird swoop over the road into a farm field, and new right away that we’d found our Great-tailed Grackle for the year. These birds are quite rare for Idaho, except for a few established locations that they’ve colonized over the past several years. The Roberts area was probably their first stronghold in the state, and is one of the easier places to track them down.

IMG_2181_thumb_thumb_thumb

Great-tailed Grackle near Roberts, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

When we got back to the sewage ponds, our strategy paid off! We crept up to the first pond carefully, since on our first pass just driving by was enough to spook most of the ducks off of the pond. Just as the reservoir came into view, we stopped and scanned with our binoculars, and found the bird in just a couple of minutes! There was a bit of a berm around the edge of the pond, which provided just enough cover for me to sneak out of the car and army crawl up to the reservoir to get a few pictures. It didn’t stay long before it flew, and the lighting was fairly poor, so the pictures aren’t great, but I have a much lower bar for species this rare.

IMG_2198_thumb_thumb_thumb

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

The way the bird was oriented we couldn’t see a ton of the plumage details, but we could see that this bird was nearly in full breeding plumage. It stretched and gave a few wing flaps at one point that provided a few more views.

IMG_2199_thumb_thumb_thumb

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2200_thumb_thumb_thumb

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2201_thumb_thumb_thumb

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2202_thumb_thumb_thumb

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2203_thumb_thumb_thumb

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2205_thumb_thumb_thumb

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

After a few minutes the bird flew off, probably back into the slough behind the ponds, and we didn’t see it again. Not a bad way to end our weekend trip!

IMG_2211

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2212

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2213

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2214

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

IMG_2215

Long-tailed Duck at the Roberts sewage ponds, Jefferson County. April 6, 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment