Sunday, November 15, 2009

Into the Wind

While many Boiseans were enjoying Boise State's crushing defeat over the University of Idaho, a few of us bird nerds were out exploring the avian species near Bruneau Idaho.
Heidi, Jay, and I were planning to get an early start to the day, then link up with the Audubon field trip heading out to the same general area. As it would end up, we didn't actually find the field trip group until after 4pm. Not to worry, we did see plenty of avian wildlife including 5 new life birds for me!
The real issue of the day was the wind blowing at 30 - 45mph! This put a damper on the movement of the birds as well as our resolve to stand in one place an observe them. We did find some great vantage points with at least a reasonable amount of protection. Jay provided a good lesson in gull identification at a few of the stops, increasing my life list by a few birds - Bonaparte's Gull and Herring Gull. A particularly large group of grebes provided a nice side by side comparison of Western Grebes and Clark's Grebes, the Clark's being a new lifer!.
Being the very gracious tour guide that he is, Jay enlightened us by introducing us to a new birding hot spot - the feedlot. Not one, but two different feedlots! We were all quite impressed. To his credit, the first feedlot did reveal a Merlin, likely hunting the European Starlings, Red-winged, Yellow-headed, and Brewer's Blackbirds, and the occasional Cowbird.
When we needed a break from the wind, we hiked through a dense Russian Olive stand in search for a Barn Owl. My guides once again delivered with a brief view of one Barn Owl - another lifer! The search continued for a Long-eared Owl, but that would remain elusive.
Near the end of the day we arrived at Bruneau Dunes State Park. We were searching for Loons and Scoters, but none to be found. There was plenty of bird life around, the winding being a little lighter here.
Western Bluebirds and a Cedar Waxwing.
The Western Bluebirds were a bit of a surprise. Not sure if they over winter here or not. The lakes were covered in ducks of many varieties. Swarms would take flight, circle around and then descend again onto the lake.
Ducks over Bruneau Dunes.
On our way toward home, we finally found the last group of birders from the Audubon field trip some 6 hours after we had planned to link up with them!
The 5th lifer was a Marsh Wren observed early in the day at a stop near the reservoir. It was an impressive day, especially given the conditions.

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