Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Halverson Lake

On my day off Cyndi and I traveled down to the Snake River Canyon and walked the short trail to Halverson Lake. This is a photo of the lake, on a bench at a bend in the Snake River. The Snake River is over at the base of that far hillside.

The sun was low on the horizon and many insects were flying in the warm spring air as new green buds swelled in preparation for springtime blooms.

Sagebrush was mixed in with the dry grasses and large boulders.

On the way back we saw this Loggerhead Shrike, and we also enjoyed the songs of a Rock Wren and multiple Canyon Wrens.

Arriving at the car by the Snake River right around sunset, we were surprised to see this Muskrat on our side of the river. It's about two feet from nose to tip of the wiry tail, much larger than I thought those things were ... but how would I know since I've never seen one until now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Snow Geese

Here are the photos I promised in my previous blog post. Cyndi and I went to the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area to see the Snow Geese. When we arrived, people were already gazing at great chevrons of migrating geese filling the sky.

There were thousands of Snow Geese in the air. They are on their way to Alaska to lay eggs, but stop here to feed and rest for a few days or weeks before continuing northward.

Great swarms flew overhead, then fluttered like dry leaves to settle down onto the nearby water as Marsh Wrens called from the nearby cattails. We also saw this group of Northern Pintail, another long-distance migrant. They shuttle between Alaska and Hawaii.

The clear blue sky made the perfect backdrop for these birds. From high overhead we also heard the primitive call of Sandhill Cranes.

For what seemed hours, the Snow Geese kept arriving. Some were just returning from a morning of feeding nearby, others were perhaps migrating in to join those already here.

Mixed in are some Greater White-fronted Geese, which get their name from the white on their face. They sport dark wings and a speckled belly.

Cyndi pointed out that the Greater White-fronted Geese each have a unique pattern, like a fingerprint, of speckles and streaks.

The elegant black and white pattern of the Snow Geese steals the show, as does the cacophony of their calls as they pass overhead by the hundreds or even thousands.

Then they settle behind the safe cover of tall marsh reeds to rest for the day, occasionally lifting into the air as a group if some predatory bird flies overhead. We saw Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and American Kestrels in the area.


With the approach of spring (the crocus have bloomed in my yard) Cyndi and I have spent many warm days outdoors. We went to the Deer Flat NWR, the Fort Boise WMA, and Snake River Birds of Prey. The Red-tailed Hawk in the photo above was seen at Snake River Birds of Prey, at the Discovery Park overlook. We stayed until after sunset and three beaver swam out into the river at dusk, then one waddled ashore to size up a tree for chewing. It was too dark and too far away for a photo, but seeing that fat bowling pin shape was mighty entertaining. And, earlier we had run into birders Jay and Heidi. Jay helped us recognize a Savannah Sparrow which I would have mistaken for a Song Sparrow.

Jay also shared with us some highlights of the recent trip to Africa, and recommended Rob's blog as a source of photos and information from the trip.

On Saturday, at the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area we saw thousands of Snow Geese (photos to follow in a future blog) and encountered my friend and fellow birder Rich as well as this Western Screech-owl. This was the first time I found one on my own, without somebody having found it first and given directions, and the first time I saw one outside of a nest box. Could this be a good sign that I might have more owling success this year than in past years?

Perhaps, because the next day Cyndi and I located this pair of Great Horned Owls, one on the nest, the other waiting nearby, in case anybody needs delivery of take-out food. I uploaded this photo in its full size, so if you click on it, you'll see yellow eyes staring over the soft, feather-lined nest edge. Very cool to see. I took a few quick photos and didn't approach very closely, and quickly retreated to help assure the couple privacy while they patiently wait for leaves to grow.