Saturday, February 28, 2009

A beautiful day in Boise

What a gorgeous day in Boise. Clear blue sky this morning, warming to about 50 degrees this afternoon. While we could use some more snow, we are currently 25% below normal for the year, I'll enjoy the blue sky while its here.

This morning Karyn and I went out bird watching along the Boise River. It was cool and 30 degrees, but great lighting for some photography. We were presented with a mixture of winter birds joined by some new spring migrants. The Red-winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows were singing with all of their might. It would appear that the males have arrived, but the females aren't yet here. Some Song Sparrows were less than 10 feet apart, each trying to out sing the next for a mate.

I usually don't pay a lot of attention to ducks, but there are a few that stand out to be my favorites. I like the Wood Duck, but we didn't see any. My favorite is probably the Hooded Merganser. I was surprised that this male hasn't yet headed North.

Of course, almost as good are the Common Mergansers. Here the males are in full breeding plumage and have paired up with their mates.

Lastly, whiles its a fairly common raptor in our area, I always stop to watch the Red-tailed Hawks. I was hoping to catch just this type of photo as he/she left it's perch.

We saw many other birds today and took many other photos. 32 different species in all. Other highlights included a group of 4 American Kestrels, 3 males and 1 female. The males appeared to be vying for the attention of the female. It was a very rewarding day. Now its time for a bike ride.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Study Break Birding

After one of the most difficult weeks in any of my college careers, Karyn and I took some time off to search for birds.

It has been exam time at Boise State University. I had an Ornithology test last Friday, Biology Tuesday night, and Ecology and Chemistry on Wednesday. The Ornithology test was quite difficult. I received a low B on it. Not what I was hoping for. I don't have grades back yet on the others, but expect A's on both Ecology and Biology. Chemistry is another matter. I was not able to finish the exam in the allotted time. The professor indicated that he did not necessarily expect us too. As a result, I have no idea how it will be graded. Anyway, on to the fun stuff.

A few weeks ago one of our local bird nerds discovered what was believed to be a Red-breasted Sapsucker in a park near the university. This would be an extremely rare appearance in Idaho. Only one or two have ever been reported in the state. After all of the local experts were able to observe the bird, the leading conclusion is that it is a hybrid between a Red-breasted Sapsucker and a Red-naped Sapsucker. The later more common in Idaho. Since the location is near my route to school, I have stopped on a number of occasions to see if I could find the bird. No luck. On Thursday, Karyn and I were out birding in another park and decided to swing by for a look. There it was, and we had a camera! Here are a couple of the shots.

From Hybrid Sapsucker
From Hybrid Sapsucker

As you can tell it is a beautiful bird. We watched for about 20 minutes before he/she flew off.

Friday afternoon was another beautiful day in Boise, sunny with highs in the 50's. We couldn't resist getting out for a hike. This time we headed into our local reserve, Hull's Grove, which is within walking distance from the house. We saw the usual species, including the Great-horned Owl. On the way back we caught this male American Kestrel eating a vole in a tree. It was interesting to watch him remove the fur and spit it out, preferring the juicy red meat instead. At one point he removed what appeared to be the large intestine and dropped it to the ground. Definitely a picky eater. It was also impressive to watch his crop enlarge as more and more of the vole was consumed. At one point he appeared to call for his mate, but she did not arrive.

From Blogger Pictures

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Transit ridership takes another huge leap

While the Idaho legislature continues to waste their time recording useless sound bites about wolves in Idaho, and proposing a gutting of our education system, they continue to ignore the issue of public transportation.

For the last few years the topic of public transportation has gotten a hearing before being shot down. This year, no hearing at all. Apparently, the legislators didn't get the memo that a poor economy is a time when people are more likely to need public transportation - to get to school, to go get a job, to get food. Last year public transportation made sense due to our worsening air quality and traffic congestion. Now it make sense as a foundation to get our economy back on track. It has always made sense to decrease the need for new roads, which are crumbling around us. In other words, it just makes sense. They may blame the economy, even though it will take years before any real tax dollars are spent. The bottom line is that our rural dominated legislature is doing everything in its power to collapse the state of Idaho back into a rural plot where we can have the lowest educational standards in the country, the lowest day care standards in the country, the lowest investment in our future generations.

All the while our minimally funded public transportation system, with no dedicated funding source, has been getting the job done. In the last quarter of the year (first quarter for Valley Regional Transit), the system carried 363,729 passengers. This is up 27.9% from a year earlier! This includes a 26.1% increase in Boise and Garden City, a 33.7% increase in Nampa and Caldwell, and a whopping 39.8% increase between Ada and Canyon county.

On a personal note, my bus rides have dropped off dramatically. When working at HP, I rode the bus 3-4 days per week. Now that I have left to go to school, I simply ride my bike (only 1.5 miles).

Disclaimer: I am not an employee of Valley Regional Transit, but I am the volunteer chairman of the Regional Coordination Council for VRT.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Climate Change and Winter Birds

Due to the fact that I have 4 exams coming up, I am going to take the easy way out and refer to a great bird blog friend of mine at DC Birding Blog, who covered the National Audubon Society's "State of the Birds" Report. There are some very disturbing impacts of Climate Change and Winter Birds. The impacts are well beyond what I would have expected. I'll try to get to the full report next week, but in the mean time, thanks to John for his great summary.