Sunday, May 03, 2009

Stuck in the mud!

Saturday brought our final field trip for our Ornithology class. The destination was Centennial Marsh in south central Idaho. This is one of my favorite birding locations and is highlighted on the Idaho Birding Trail.

I awoke to the sound of rain, fairly heavy rain for our area. I hoped it wouldn't dampen our prospects too significantly. The group, down a little from our full class, piled into the two vans to head out. The first destination was Indian Creek Reservoir, another location on the Idaho Birding Trail. The road in would prove a little too muddy for the school vans, so we retreated before getting stuck. We moved on toward Mountain Home Reservoir (you guessed it, another Idaho Birding Trail Feature).

The rain decreased to a drizzle as we arrived at the reservoir. There were many shore birds present with a number of new species for my year list. The highlights American Avocet, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Black-necked Stilt, Eared Grebe, Long-billed Curlew, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Western Grebe, among many other less notable species. We loaded up an headed on toward Centennial Marsh

Upon arriving at the Marsh, the access road we planned to use was a little sloppy. We once again retreated. It looked as if the marsh would not be an option for us. There are lots of other wetlands in the area, so all would not be lost. We did find an amazing number of Swainson's Hawks.

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk.

Swainson's Hawk in nest tree.

Another Swainson in another nest tree.

Near one wetland, we discovered just how soft the shoulder of a wet road can be.

Shhh. Don't tell the University!

We scavenged wood from a nearby field and all tried to push, to no avail. We flagged down the first vehicle to drive by. It just happened to be a graduate of the raptor program at Boise State who had taken classes from our professor! What luck. He had a tow rope and pulled us out.

Towing the van.

As if this was not enough of an adventure, I talked the professor into attempting the other access road to the marsh. He agreed to give it a shot.

The second access road was in better condition, so we would get to the marsh after all. The road through provided a number of great species.

Long-billed Curlew

Northern Shovelers(larger) and Cinnamon Teal (smaller).

American Avocet.

American Kestrel eating lunch.

Wilson's Phalarope.

Willet.

Marbled Godwit.

But the adventure was not over yet. I want it noted that my suggestion was to use the other access road to get to the marsh, not to complete the loop. Anyway, the birding just kept getting better and better. On the back side of the marsh, the road was getting sloppier. The lead van made it through ok, but on a short rise, our van could not climb the hill. We were stuck again! Five of us piled out of the van and started to push up the hill. It was very slippery for us to get traction as well. When the van would slide to the side one would go to the side and push it back onto the center of the road. The people in the other van, being a few hundred yards up the road, looked on in amusement. Slowly but surely, we pushed the van over the hump. Clearly we need to be more prepared next time. Maybe take a tow rope, maybe wear better shoes for pushing than Katie was wearing!

Katie's foot!

That would be the end of the major excitement for the day. There were still more bids to see along the way. In all it was a great trip!

Sandhill Crane.


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