Thursday, November 5, 2015

June highlights: bird banding on the Boise River, Danskin Mountain Lookout, and a clean sweep on juniper specialties in southeast Idaho

June was another busy month, with lots of great birds coming through to keep up with. June’s usually when we clean up on all the migrants and summer residents we couldn’t squeeze in in May.

June Map

Locations that we had eBird checklists for in June.

In the interest of getting the blog caught up a little quicker, and since I’ve already blogged about a lot of these locations in more detail in the past, I’m going to cover all the June highlights in rapid fire succession. Here goes:

June 1: Cheryl Huizinga found a Cattle Egret hanging out with a group of Great Egrets in Marsing. They’re not super rare, but can be pretty tricky to find some years, so we zipped out to see it as quick as we could.

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Cattle Egret near Marsing, Canyon County. June 1, 2015.

June 3: We took a lunch break drive up to Grimes Creek to find our Veeries for the year. We quickly found several, right in the exact same stretch of the road as we found them in 2013 and 2014. It’s great to have a reliable spot for this species!

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Veery on Grimes Creek Road, Boise County. June 3, 2015.

June 6: Started the day off by taking a group of scouts to the new IBO Boise River Banding site. The scouts seemed to have a good time, and especially got a kick out of getting to hand-release a few of the birds after the IBO crew finished up with them. As always it was nice to run into a few other birders (Danette Henderson, Dan Cook, Jay Carlisle, Heidi Ware), plus in an odd twist I met my neighbor that’s lived across the street from me for a couple of years for the first time!

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IBO crew and onlookers at the IBO Boise River Study site, Ada County. June 6, 2015.

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Yellow-breasted Chat at the IBO Boise River Study site, Ada County. June 6, 2015.

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Yellow Warbler at the IBO Boise River Study site, Ada County. June 6, 2015.

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Heidi Ware helping the scouts hand-release a bird at the IBO Boise River Study site, Ada County. June 6, 2015.

After the trip to the banding site, we headed up towards a little ravine in the foothills along Pierce Park Road that’s pretty reliable for Bewick’s Wrens. We parked a little off the road and listened for a bit. A Yellow-breasted Chat came by, and then after a few minutes a Bewick’s Wren popped out for us. We’ve seen them before in Idaho, but this was the first time we were able to get photos.

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Yellow-breasted Chat on Pierce Park Road, Ada County. June 6, 2015.

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Bewick’s Wren on Pierce Park Road, Ada County. June 6, 2015.

We spent the afternoon in the foothills and mountains northeast of Horseshoe Bend off of Porter Creek Road. There weren’t too many birds of note, and the only one that held still for a picture was this female Cassin’s Finch.

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Cassin’s Finch along Porter Creek Road, Boise County. June 6, 2015.

June 7: We drove up to Danskin Mountain, and hiked up to the lookout. This was our first time up Danskin Mountain. The road was a little sketchy but the views at the top were worth it.

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Danskin Mountain Lookout, Elmore County. June 7, 2015.

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Danskin Mountain Lookout, Elmore County. June 7, 2015.

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Female Black-headed Grosbeak at Danskin Mountain Lookout, Elmore County. June 7, 2015.

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American Pipit at Danskin Mountain Lookout, Elmore County. June 7, 2015.

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View of the South Fork of the Boise River Canyon from Danskin Mountain Lookout, Elmore County. June 7, 2015.

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Sagebrush Lizard (I think) at Danskin Mountain Lookout, Elmore County. June 7, 2015.

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View looking west from the Danskin Mountain Lookout, Elmore County. June 7, 2015.

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Burrowing Owl on the way home from the Danskin Mountain Lookout, Elmore County. June 7, 2015.

June 13-17: We took a big trip out to the far southeast part of the state, just north of the Utah border to track down all of our juniper specialties. This trip is one of my favorite parts of the summer. So many great birds to track down, like the following:

  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Bushtit
  • Juniper Titmouse
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler
  • Virginia’s Warbler
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Western Scrub-jay
  • Pinyon Jay
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher
  • Scott’s Oriole
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • and more!

Our targets and itinerary were similar to what we did on part of our big southeast Idaho trip last June, but for the most part we were more efficient (and more successful) than last year. Plus we had a lot more good photo opportunities.

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Ash-throated Flycatchers on Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 13, 2015.

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Loggerhead Shrike on Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 13, 2015.

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Plumbeous Vireo in the Stone Hills, Cassia County. June 13, 2015.

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Western Scrub-jay at the Juniper Rest Stop, I-84, Cassia County. June 13, 2015.

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Juniper Titmouse near Castle Rock State Park, Cassia County. June 13, 2015.

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Ferruginous Hawk on Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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Sage Thrasher on Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

One of the best highlights was finding our first Northern Mockingbird in Idaho. We’ve seen them in a couple other states, but they’re a really nice bird for our Idaho list. We spent a lot of time chasing them around the hills to try to get good pictures, and for the most part, they stumped us.

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Northern Mockingbird on Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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Northern Mockingbird on Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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Northern Mockingbird on Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

At the City of Rocks, the Provo Wall hosted a pretty great concentration of birds.

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Virginia’s Warbler at City of Rocks, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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Virginia’s Warbler at City of Rocks, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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Green-tailed Towhee at City of Rocks, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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Violet-green Swallow at City of Rocks, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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White-throated Swifts at City of Rocks, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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Black-throated Gray Warbler at Smoky Mountain Campground, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

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Black-chinned Hummingbird at Smoky Mountain Campground, Cassia County. June 14, 2015.

Of course one of the major highlights for this trip every year is tracking down the Scott’s Oriole – southwest desert specialist that for some reason breeds annually in this area, despite how far it is from its main habitat. It primarily depends on yucca, which are nowhere to be found around here. Last year we found them on June 9th, and that’s the earliest they’ve ever been found in Idaho, but since they were there this early last year we thought it was worth a shot this year. We lucked out and found a male and female pair.

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Scott’s Oriole south of Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 17, 2015.

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Scott’s Oriole south of Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 17, 2015.

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Scott’s Oriole south of Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 17, 2015.

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Female Scott’s Oriole south of Black Pine Road, Cassia County. June 17, 2015.

Interestingly, by looking at the earliest date they’ve been known to have fledged offspring in Idaho (early July) and working backwards through the time required to build a nest, lay eggs, begin incubation, hatch all the eggs, and fledge the young, it seems likely that they’re actually arriving sometime in the second half of May, so it’s probably worth trying even earlier in future years.

June 27: Unfortunately the treacherous two-tracks we travelled in the Stone Hills looking for the Scott’s Oriole and the old age of our SUV combined to send us limping home in a severely overheating car. This left us vehicularly-disabled for several weeks as the initial problems turned into a cascading series of additional problems, ultimately ending in the demise of our car. This meant a couple of slow weeks for birding towards the end of the month, but we did make a quick trip up to Warm Lake on June 27th to look for Red-necked Grebes. They breed here each year, and we easily found our target.

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Red-necked Grebe at Warm Lake, Valley County. June 27, 2015.

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