Sunday, April 18, 2010

Birds of Prey

Our recent visit to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area netted us 10 raptor species in the few hours we spent there. Wow, it was a great day. It was a beautiful morning under the great blue dome!
One my favorites of the area has to be the Burrowing Owl. This pair was just off the road and provided some great photo opportunities.
Burrowing Owl. Snake River NCA.
Further down the road we were able to spot a number of Swainson's Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks both perched and flying. One of the reasons this is such a great area for raptors is an overabundance of ground squirrels. They were everywhere. If my mammalogy studies are correct, this is likely a Richardson's Ground Squirrel (Speromopholis richardsoni) Paiute Ground Squirrel (Speromopholis mollis). I dare any of my classmates to prove me wrong! (my professor did!)
Paiute Ground Squirrel. Snake River NCA.
While on the mammal thread, other predators have also taken note of the ground squirrels. This area apparently has the highest density of American Badgers (Taxidea taxus), although none revealed themselves to us. We did see another ground squirrel predator the coyote (Canis latrans)
Coyote. Snake River NCA.
Upon arriving at dedication point, a Peregrine Falcon graced our presence. This was followed by no fewer than 6 Prairie Falcons! Add the American Kestrels and we hit 3 of the 4 possible falcons in the area, only the Merlin remained elusive. Back to the Buteos (soaring hawks such as Red-tailed and Swainsons), we watched three Ferruginous Hawks! These are our largest hawk. This is the most I have ever seen in one day and quite honestly, this total matches the total number I have actually seen prior to today. There were many Northern Harriers hunting in the area as Turkey Vultures soared overhead. Polish off the day with a view of a female Golden Eagle incubating eggs making it a very raptorious day!
This shouldn't indicate that only raptors occupy the area, there were many dinky birds as well. Some of the highlights included Say's Phoebes, White-throated Swifts, Violet-green Swallows, Canyon Wrens, and many Rock Wrens.
Rock Wren. Dedication Point. Snake River NCA.
And don't forget about the White-crowned Sparrows.
White-crowned Sparrow. Dedication Point. Snake River NCA.
After leaving the NCA, we stopped by Marsing Island Park to look for the Green Heron with no luck. Karyn did get this great Cinnamon Teal photo.
Cinnamon Teal. Marsing Island Park. Photo by Karyn.
Closer to our own neighborhood, the Great Horned Owls in Hull's Gulch are now showing off their young. This groups has successfully fledged either 3 or 4 chicks every year for the last 6 years, maybe longer. This year they have 4.
Adult + 4 Great Horned Owl Chicks.


Birding is Fun! said...

Great stuff Rob! Loved it.

Unknown said...

Great photos (and kudos to your wife for the cinnamon teal shot)! And two owls in one adventure - you can't beat that feeling!

Gunnar Engblom said...

Poor Ground Squirrel having to suffer both hoards of predators and getting the wrong name attached to its identity. I guess Ground Squirrel taxonomy is not that straight forward. Are there more species in the area that would be possible?

wolf21m said...

Gunnar, Yes, I am sure they are very offended!

In Idaho we have at least 6 types of ground squirrels and a few pocket gophers, but not all of them are possibilities in this area.

Ground Squirrels:
Golden Mantle (in the mountains)
Idaho Ground Squirrel (Threatened, no longer in the area)
White-tailed Antelope (easily distinguished)
Colombian (easily distinguished)

This leaves the Richardson's and Paiute. Richardson's, I find out, is also rare in the area.

The two pocket gophers are also easily distinguished from ground squirrels and you are not likely to see one anyway.