It finally worked out for Karyn and I to make it up the rough 4x4 road to the Idaho Bird Observatory. The Idaho Bird Observatory is a bird banding station for songbirds, raptors, and owls. Today we planned to take in the later parts of the day's songbird banding and participate in the early parts of the hawk watch and hawk banding.
Lucky Peak mountain, where the Idaho Bird Observatory is located, is a major stop on the fall bird migratory route. The Idaho mountains funnel down to this peak where the birds must refuel before the long flight across the desert of Southern Idaho. The research station has been operating there for over 15 years.
The songbird banding begins at sunrise and operates for 5 hours each day. There are a series of eight mist nets that capture songbirds traveling low through the brush. The team of researchers and volunteer patrol the nets every 20-30 minutes bringing any captured birds back to a centrally located station where they are identified, aged, measured, weighed, and banded. The birds vary through the fall. Today there were mainly Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and this Red-breasted Nuthatch.
After lunch we headed out to the Hawk Watch area. Here they count the numbers and types of raptors and vultures flying South. We watched large Kettles of Turkey Vultures flying by. The largest had 42 vultures in it, another had 29. The other birds included Red-tailed Hawks, Swainson's Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, American Kestrels, Common Ravens, Golden Eagles, Northern Harrier, and possibly a Merlin.
Down the hill a hundred yards from the hawk watch is the hawk banding station. Here they use live prey, non-native birds, to lure in hawks so that they can be captured. We didn't get to go down to the trapping station, but the researchers did bring two captured birds up for us to observe. Both were male Sharp-shipped Hawks.
This first bird wasn't too worked up, allowing us to admire his feathers from various angles.
The second bird was calm, but then made it very clear that he wanted to be free. It is amazing how loud their screech can be when you are only a few feet away.
It was a beautiful day on the mountain. Now we have to decide if we will return next weekend for Owl banding, which occurs at night.