Saturday, October 31, 2015

Northern Birding Frenzy, Part 2!

After settling in, my birding appetites were coming back strong.  I felt the need to do some exploration during shorebird migration.

Now, the county I am in in Idaho is not necessarily the best for birds, but has great gulls in winter, and is pretty well centrally located to a lot of other high-potential birding areas in the northwest.  For example, it is an hour from great lowland habitat holding Grasshopper Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks, etc., and three hours away from high boreal forest holding Boreal Owls, Boreal Chickadees, White-winged Crossbills, etc.  And Snowy Owls are usually found in my county, Kootenai, in winter.  I am actually preparing for a big year in the county next year.  My good friend Caleb Strand is visiting in January, to bird with me for some great specialties such as winter gulls and owls, among other things.  I am pretty excited to get him some new birds!  So, I am always on the lookout for potential vagrant traps or hotspots in my county!

The next lifer I had was a Dusky Flycatcher along a highway in Hayden, north of my home in Coeur d'Alene.  Great bird, and still in the county of Kootenai!

I headed to a Spokane County, Washington hotspot known as Slavin Ranch, where I birded extremely hard and came up with 56 species, not a bad day at all in eastern Washington.

I had a nice dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk fly by for some good photo opportunities:

Here is the checklist:

So, back to the shorebirding.  The next week, I headed to a nearby pond area, called Reardan.  I birded a stretch, getting 13 species of shorebirds, with highlights being Pectoral, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Plover, Stilt Sandpiper (lifer), Baird's Sandpiper (lifer), etc.

Stilt Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover

This was satisfying for sure.  I was super stoked to be getting some great birds in my new home.  Over the next few days, I birded a few spots around my school and home, getting some cool northern birds like Black-billed Magbie, Black-capped Chickadees, etc.  At my college, which luckily borders a lake, I picked up many county birds, such as Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, House Wren, etc.

Next, I caught up with Jon Isacoff for a trip for some vagrant searching over in eastern Washington.  We picked up a rarity Great Egret, which sounds very weird for me to say, having had hundreds upon hundreds in Arizona!!  It was actually a county first of year for the county of Lincoln, Washington!  In the town of Sprague, which holds a wastewater treatment plant, Jon and I picked up lifer-for-me Red-necked Phalaropes, another county first of year Common Tern, another Great Egret, a great Red-necked Grebe, Vesper Sparrows, Peregrine Falcon, Western Meadowlarks, Western and Eastern Kingbird (!), and more.  At the Sprague Lake Resort, Jon scoped a Franklin's Gull! Another unexpected lifebird.  I obtained horrific but diagnostic photos, digiscoped.

Red-necked Phalarope
Franklin's Gull

After all this great birding, I still had not picked up Golden-crowned Kinglet, Pacific Wren, or Varied Thrush, which were in my mind the great northern wet forest trio.  Oh well.  One day, as I was sitting in my college class, I heard a strange buzzing from my second story window seat level with the canopy.  I looked out to see my lifer Golden-crowned Kinglets foraging feet from me!  And in the middle of my Ethics class!  No photos, obviously.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Fast forward a week or so, and I had planned to visit an event in Spokane known as Pig Out in the Park, a gathering of live music and food vendors.  I went with a friend, so I wasn't really planning on birding.  I hadn't gotten Common Nighthawk yet, despite intensive searching.  Oh well, it was early September, and I thought that most of the CONIs had departed for the fall, and I would have to wait til next year.  I wasn't really thinking about birding that night, though.  So imagine my surprise when a flock of 16 Common Nighthawks flew over me in the park at dusk!

Common Nighthawk

It was icing on the proverbial cake, and I was really hitting a groove in my birding.  I wanted to close out my VATH-GCKI-PAWR trio, so after school one day I hit a spot on the east of Lake Coeur d'Alene that has the most perfect habitat for these species.  Red-eyed Vireos are also fairly reliable there.  And I had success on all three except the Vireo!

Pacific Wren
Varied Thrush

Around this time, I decided to chase an Anna's Hummingbird.  For you Arizona readers, this may be a bit comical.  But, while maybe not a full-blown rarity, an Anna's Hummingbird in northern Idaho is always a notable bird.  And I needed it for my county!  So don't laugh, my dear AZ friends.

Well, no luck on the Anna's, but I picked up a county first Warbling Vireo, so that was a nice consolation.  My Kootenai list was already at 100, putting me in 11th all-time for the county on eBird.  My goal is to break the all time record of 202 by the end of next year.

With that, I'll close this post.  Coming up, crazy-ultra-awesome northern boreal forest birding!  What will I get?  Could it be something else with Boreal in its name?  Wait and see!

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