Saturday, May 16, 2015

Reservoirs, Marshes, and Creeks on Highway 20

On May 9 we spent the day hitting up several reservoirs, marshes, and creeks on Highway 20. The map below shows our route. It seemed like just about every place we went had some combination of the words marsh, creek, or camas in the name. Our first stop was Mountain Home Reservoir (B), followed by a sprint out to Fairfield for lunch at the Wrangler Drive-In (C), then a quick stop at Corral Creek Marsh (D), then a couple of hours slowly working our way through Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh (E), then a couple of hours at Cat Creek Road (G), and lastly, a quick stop at Little Camas Reservoir (H).

Map

Map of our trip: Point B) Mountain Home Reservoir, C) Wrangler Drive-In (hey, ya gotta eat!), D) Corral Creek Marsh, E) Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, G) Cat Creek Road, and finally H) Little Camas Reservoir.

We didn’t spend too long at Mountain Home Reservoir, since we’ve been there a lot lately, but we did get our first-of-year Red-necked Phalaropes there.

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Red-necked Phalarope at Mountain Home Reservoir, Elmore County. May 9, 2015.

After lunch at the Wrangler Drive-In, which by the way is a decent place to stop for lunch if you’re out in this neck of the woods (not to mention it’s one of the only places to eat within about an hour’s drive), we made a quick stop at Corral Creek Marsh, which is just a nice set of ponds and flooded fields next to Highway 20 just west of Fairfield where Corral Creek intersects the highway. Someone else had found a Blue-winged Teal here, so we thought we’d try our luck (those darn teals had been strangely evasive for us this spring, they really shouldn’t be hard to find!). We couldn’t find one, but the area was overloaded with lots of other nice birds, the most noisy of which were the Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

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Yellow-headed Blackbird at Corral Creek Marsh, Camas County. May 9, 2015.

Next we headed over to Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh where we intended to spend most of the day. We had already seen most of the expected birds for the marsh earlier over the past couple of weeks, but we hoped we might have a chance of tracking down an American Bittern or Black Tern. Unfortunately, the marsh was about as dry as I’ve ever seen it, and the bird volume was correspondingly low. In good years, the marsh is flooded edge to edge for miles, and the concentration of birds can be pretty mind-boggling. Maybe next year it will fill up better. At least we still had a few cooperative birds to photograph, including Wilson’s Phalaropes, a Western Kingbird, and a Tree Swallow.

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Wilson’s Phalarope at Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 9, 2015.

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Wilson’s Phalarope at Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 9, 2015.

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Western Kingbird at Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 9, 2015.

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Tree Swallow at Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 9, 2015.

While the camas lilies weren’t quite blooming like in other years, there were still a few patches that had lots of blooms. Since the marsh was so dry, we let Nora wander through the flowers for a little bit. She was definitely the most exciting thing we saw in the marsh all day!

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Nora playing in the camas lilies at Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, Camas County. May 9, 2015.

Next we headed over to Cat Creek Road, where we found our first-of-year Red-naped Sapsucker. Red-naped Sapsuckers and Lewis’s Woodpeckers are quite regular at this location, though we couldn’t get the Lewis’s to hold still for a photo on this trip.

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Red-naped Sapsucker at Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. May 9, 2015.

We also had a handful of Mountain Bluebirds, though not as many as we’ve had in past years.

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Mountain Bluebird at Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. May 9, 2015.

Another fun find were several Orange-crowned Warblers. While these are not particularly rare at all, it was actually my first time getting photos of one. They’re sure tricky to get to hold still, and this one was no exception! I couldn’t get exactly the light I wanted in any of the shots, but I was happy enough just to have the bird in the frame at all!

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Orange-crowned Warbler at Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. May 9, 2015.

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Orange-crowned Warbler at Cat Creek Road, Elmore County. May 9, 2015.

We made one last stop for the day at Little Camas Reservoir on the way home. The water level was quite low, and since the reservoir is so shallow, there are huge mud flats between the road and the shoreline. I could see there were some decent shorebirds out there, but didn’t have the time to slog out on to the mud to see what everything was. In the sagebrush surrounding the reservoir we had Brewer’s Sparrows around every bend, and we had a Sage Thrasher as well.

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Brewer’s Sparrow at Little Camas Reservoir, Elmore County. May 9, 2015.

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Sage Thrasher at Little Camas Reservoir, Elmore County. May 9, 2015.

We had lots of other birds throughout the day we weren’t able to photograph. In total, we had 71 species, including 3 first-of-years.

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