Wednesday, February 10, 2010

not birds

When Cyndi read my last post she commented that I had failed to mention the glorious weather and the fun times we had together. Mea culpa. I get so excited to see a "new" bird that other things get ignored. In this case, "new" meant "first time seen in Idaho." We are also keeping track of birds that we see in Idaho in 2010, and honestly, having so many things to track is getting to be more than I want to have to remember. Maybe I'll just watch for birds I've never before seen, anywhere, as my highest priority. It would make things easier and less stressful. And I don't think birding should be stressful.

In this photo Cyndi is not seeing any birds. I wonder why there are no birds in the pond? Where could they all be? Let's not tell her that there are some birds behind her!

We do see more than just birds. A few weeks ago we saw a pair of mink down by the Boise River.

When I went out in search of the Northern Shrike I could not help but notice that spring is arriving. The groundhog predicted more winter, but I think the groundhog was incorrect for Idaho ... the pussywillows are budding.

And Saturday was so warm I didn't even wear my coat ... just a hooded sweatshirt. What a joy to imagine the warmth of summer approaching. We enjoyed a picnic outdoors, on Saturday at the Ted Trueblood Wildlife Management Area with Bald and Golden Eagles nearby and a kettle of Ravens, Northern Harrier and a Red-tailed Hawk all sharing a rising thermal together. Our Sunday picnic was in the Snake River Canyon, listening to a singing Canyon Wren.

On Saturday we also saw this Skunk. Mostly I'm looking at the birds, but if somebody comes by, I snap a photo if I can.

And, on each of our expeditions we stayed out until the rosy colors of sunset warmed the sky and often reflected in the water. It can be hard to get me to go home on a fine day of birding, but the onset of darkness helps me to quit for the day.

I do get lost in the moment and forget that I'm hungry or tired when outside enjoying nature. Though birds currently get most of the attention of my camera (it used to be wildflowers), I do notice other things with my peripheral vision, and that makes the experience complete.

Monday, February 8, 2010


With a hint of spring in the air I've greatly enjoyed getting out to seek birds. I want to start off this blog post with a photo of three species of gulls. From a distance I could see that there were a lot of Ring-billed Gulls (they're the smaller, lighter ones with a black ring near the tip of their bill). And, there were two that were larger and one was facing me and one could be seen from the side and it had a darker back. Because I had observed a few California Gulls in this location before, among the many Ring-billed, I said, "Look at those two larger ones with the darker back ... they're California Gulls."

As I walked past them the light was nicer, so I took another photo before moving on. Now that I look at the photo, I see that there is only one with a darker back (the California Gull, at the bottom left, now almost facing the camera). The one out of the water, standing on a branch is much larger than even the California Gull, and has pink legs. The California and Ring-billed all have yellowish legs.

So, based on the yellowish eye, dirty neck, pink legs and large size, I now believe the one on the stick is a Herring Gull. That's my final answer, and I'm sticking to it ... for now.

Gulls are not really my favorite bird, maybe because they were so common where I grew up on the Atlantic coast of Maine, and maybe because they can be hard to identify, and maybe because if one wants to find gulls a dump is a good place to hang out and I'm not much into dumps anymore now that taking stuff home is frowned upon.

But this next bird is so disliked that it's legal to kill them anytime and in any quantity in Idaho. The Eurasian Collared-Dove has spread like a noxious weed across the entire continent in a few decades. There's no telling, yet, what sort of ecological change they bring with them. That said, I think they do look rather attractive.

Though rather far away, I was pleased to spot this Northern Shrike in a local park. They will likely go north as winter draws to a close.

This is an Audubon's race Yellow-rumped Warbler. Audubon's have a yellow throat. The other race, the Myrtle, have an off-white throat.

And, finally, who does not enjoy seeing an owl? I had looked for this one before, but they blend in so well with the branches and tree trunks that they can be difficult to spot. Only after the local resident pointed out this Great Horned Owl's favorite roosts was I able to see it, though I'm sure I had looked in that area already and overlooked it.