A Travellerspoint blog

Bye Bye Idaho & Plans for Fall!

semi-overcast 83 °F

Today was my last full day in Idaho, as my mom, Pearl, and I will be flying from Boise to Phoenix and then finally back to Chicago tomorrow. It has been a fantastic trip with an awesome music camp during the first two weeks and fantastic birding during the second two! Thanks to all of the local birders who birded with me during my time here as I had quite a few terrific birding trips and couldn't have done it without you guys!

Tonight, my sister and I listened to the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's final concert of the season, a stunning performance of Mahler 3 which gave me "the pricklies" it was so good. I spotted a few COMMON NIGHTHAWKS & EASTERN KINGBIRDS from the lawn by the way.

This year, I gained six life birds in Idaho (all of them found on the City of Rocks weekend):
Ferruginous Hawk
Juniper Titmouse
Plumbeous Vireo
White-throated Swift
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
Flammulated Owl

And with that, my whirlwind of a summer is officially drawing to a close. It is bittersweet as summer is always a happy, stress-free part of the year; however, I do miss many of my friends back in Chicago and although I am certainly not looking forward to school (junior year), I am looking forward to other aspects of the "swing of things" such as choir and...

Oak Park Bird Walks! The first walk for the season is this Wednesday, August 24. Here is a screenshot of the schedule for this fall; email me at trumpetswan@comcast.net to make a reservation(s) for this fall season, it should be a great one!

At this time, my family and I don't have any confirmed travel plans, but some things that are still "up in the air" are a family vacation over winter break, my choir tour to the west coast next June/July, and a possible family trip to Alaska next July.

Stay tuned, because chances are my next post will be about the first bird walk of fall!

Good birding,

World Life List: 925 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 22:56 Archived in USA Tagged fall chicago summer birding idaho oak_park common_nighthawk sun_valley eastern_kingbird oak_park_bird_walks Comments (0)

Big Day!

semi-overcast 86 °F

Yesterday (Thursday, August 17), Jean Seymour, Ryan Anderson, Zeke Watkins, and I did a "big day" in central Idaho when we tried to find the greatest number of bird species in one day. Our route would take us from Sun Valley up to Stanley and throughout the day, we would work our way down to the Gannett/Picabo/Silver Creek Preserve area south of the Wood River Valley.

Our goal for the day was 105 species since my record Idaho big day two years ago was 104 species with Kathleen Cameron and Poo Wright-Pulliam.

Because of our high species goal and the large route we had to cover, we met in Sun Valley at 4:00am (!) and then drove north on Highway 75. Our first stop was the Galena Pass turn-offs where we listened for owls, particularly Boreal; however, the only things we heard were a distant barking dog and an unidentified juvenile owl call.

Next, we drove all the way up to the Cape Horn Road area past Stanley in search of the Great Gray Owls we had there last year. We arrived at 6:00am, but it wasn't until 6:15am, a bit past first light, when we spotted the first bird, a White-crowned Sparrow, on the road in front of us. It was very, very chilly with temperatures at 36 degrees, an impressive 50 degree difference from our highest reading of 86 degrees in the late afternoon.

1. White-crowned Sparrow (6:15am, Cape Horn Rd)
2. Red-tailed Hawk (6:32am, Cape Horn Rd)
3. Sandhill Crane (6:34am, Cape Horn Rd)
4. American Robin (6:37am, Cape Horn Rd)
5 Common Raven (6:40am, Cape Horn Rd)
6. Mountain Bluebird (6:52am, Cape Horn Rd)
7. Yellow-rumped Warbler (6:53am, Cape Horn Rd)
8. Lincoln's Sparrow (7:01am, Cape Horn Rd)

9. Chipping Sparrow (7:02am, Cape Horn Rd)
10. Northern Flicker (7:04am, Cape Horn Rd)
11. Gray Jay (7:06am, Cape Horn Rd)

12. Osprey (7:11am, Highway 21 near Park Creek Overlook)

Overall, Cape Horn Road was a bit slow and we unfortunately missed the Great Gray Owl, which was disappointing since it is my second favorite bird. Next, it was off to Stankey Lake where we racked up more birds.


13. Ruddy Duck (7:25am, Stanley Lake Inlet)

14. Northern Pintail (7:29am, flyover @ Stanley Lake Inlet Campground)
15. Common Merganser (7:30am, Stanley Lake)
16. Red-winged Blackbird (7:33am, Stanley Lake Inlet)
17. Green-winged Teal (7:35am, Stanley Lake Inlet)

18. Hooded Merganser (7:41am, Stanley Lake Overlook)

Then, we birded Stanley Creek Overlook and Iron Creek Road which were both rather slow, but brought us a few first-of-the-day birds:

19. Mountain Chickadee (7:41am, Stanley Lake Overlook)
20. Yellow Warbler (7:55am, Stanley Creek Overlook)
21. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (8:25am, Iron Creek Road)
22. American Kestrel (8:34am, Iron Creek Road)
23. Brewer's Blackbird (8:37am, Highway 21 NW of Stanley)
24. Western Meadowlark (8:38am, Highway 21 NW of Stanley)
25. Tree Swallow (8:40am, Stanley)

In the little town of Stanley, we stopped at some hummingbird feeders on the north side of Highway 21 and lucked out, finding all four of Idaho's regular hummingbird species!

26. Calliope Hummingbird

27. Rufous Hummingbird (8:43am, Stanley)
28. Cliff Swallow (8:50am, Stanley)
29. Barn Swallow (8:50am, Stanley)
30. Black-chinned Hummingbird (8:51am, Stanley)
31. Broad-tailed Hummingbird (8:53am, Stanley)

Our next stop was the Stanley Sewage Ponds which are reliably productive for waterfowl and shorebirds, and they did not disappoint!

33. American Wigeon (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
34. Gadwall (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
35. Wood Duck (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
36. Blue-winged Teal (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
37. Mallard (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
38. Western Sandpiper (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)

39. Semipalmated Sandpiper (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
40. Sanderling (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
41. Spotted Sandpiper (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
42. Solitary Sandpiper (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)

43. Killdeer (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
44. Semipalmated Plover (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)

45. Savannah Sparrow (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)

46. American Coot (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)
47. Northern Shoveler (9:30am, Stanley Sewage Ponds)

The next stops were Little Redfish & Redfish Lakes which were pretty quiet; however, we did pick up a few things in a parking lot at Redfish:

48. Red-naped Sapsucker (9:59am, Redfish Lake Wetland Parking Lot)

49. Hairy Woodpecker (10:04am, Redfish Lake Wetland Parking Lot)
50. House Finch (10:15am, near Little Redfish Lake)
51. Belted Kingfisher (10:25am, Sawtooth Fish Hatchery)

Then, we visited Pettit & Alturas Lakes, Smiley Creek Road, Forest Road 199, and the Galena Summit lookout in the Sawtooth Valley and picked up more birds:

52. Western Wood-Pewee (10:46am, Pettit Lake)
53. Ring-necked Duck (10:50am, Pettit Lake)

Now we were half way to our goal for the day with over half of the day ahead of us!

54. Pine Siskin (11:12am, near Alturas Lake)
55. Red-breasted Nuthatch (11:19am, Alturas Lake)
56. Bald Eagle (11:19am, Alturas Lake)
57. Bullock's Oriole (11:31am, Alturas Lake area)

58. Western Tanager (11:32am, Alturas Lake area)
59. Hammond's Flycatcher (11:32am, Alturas Lake area)
60. Swainson's Hawk (11:42am, above Highway 75 north of Smiley Creek)
61. Brewer's Sparrow (12:04pm, Forest Road 199)
62. Vesper Sparrow (12:07pm, Forest Road 199)
63. Clark's Nutcracker (12:09pm, Forest Road 199)
64. Townsend's Solitaire (12:13pm, Forest Road 199)
65. Cassin's Finch (12:30pm, Galena Summit Pull-off)

The beginning of Titus Lake Trail ended up being the most productive spot for forest birding of the day, with great birds such as TOWNSEND'S WARBLER and a really unexpected PINE GROSBEAK, possibly the rarest bird of the day.

66. Dark-eyed Junco (1:10pm, Titus Lake Trail)
67. Hermit Thrush (1:10pm, Titus Lake Trail)
68. Swainson's Thrush (1:10pm, Titus Lake Trail)
69. Townsend's Warbler (1:10pm, Titus Lake Trail)

70. Pine Grosbeak (1:10pm, Titus Lake Trail)

The Boulder Mountains:

North Fork near the SNRA Headquarters was quiet and a brief stop at Bigwood Golf Course yielded a goose and a goldeneye.

71. Song Sparrow (2:11pm, Cascade Campground)
72. Canada Goose (2:35pm, Big Wood Golf Course)
73. Common Goldeneye (2:35pm, Big Wood Golf Course)

Next, we headed through Warm Springs in Ketchum which was okay as we got a few birds, we picked up a ROCK WREN at Elkhorn Pond, and then drove down to Hailey where we had a few nice BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS at Zeke's house.

74. American Crow (2:41pm, Sage Drive)
75. Mourning Dove (2:42pm, Sage Drive)
76. Dusky Flycatcher (3:01pm, near Penny Lake)
77. Black-billed Magpie (3:13pm, Warm Springs)
78. Black-capped Chickadee (3:31pm, Warm Springs)
79. Brown Creeper (3:32pm, Warm Springs)
80. House Sparrow (3:35pm, Ketchum - Wood River Community YMCA)
81. Rock Wren (3:50pm, Elkhorn Pond)
82. Eurasian Collared-Dove (3:50pm, Hailey)
83. Black-headed Grosbeak (4:19pm, Zeke's house)

Our next stop was Croy Creek Wetlands & Canyon on the west side of Hailey, where we had a few new birds.

Unidentified empidonax flycatcher at Croy Creek Wetlands - maybe a Willow?

84. American Goldfinch (4:37pm, Draper Wood River Preserve)
85. Cedar Waxwing (4:45pm, Croy Creek Wetlands)
86. California Quail (5:05pm, Croy Creek Canyon farm)

After deciding not to try to head all the way down to Magic Reservoir, we birded the Gannett/Picabo/Hayspur/Silver Creek area which has many great birding spots relatively close together. We picked up quite a few birds here throughout the early evening:

87. Turkey Vulture (5:23pm, Hailey)
88. European Starling (5:35pm, Bellevue)
89. Western Kingbird (5:59pm, Gannett triangle)

90. Great Blue Heron (6:01pm, Gannett triangle)
91. Lazuli Bunting (6:03pm, Gannett triangle)
92. Great Horned Owl (6:04pm, Gannett triangle)
93. Rock Pigeon (6:05pm, Gannett triangle)
94. Eastern Kingbird (6:11pm, west of Silver Creek)
95. Willow Flycatcher (6:15pm, west of Silver Creek)

We were getting to be within reach of our goal of 105 species!

96. MacGillivray's Warbler (6:18pm, west of Silver Creek)

97. Common Nighthawk (6:24pm, Silver Creek Preserve)
98. Marsh Wren (6:26pm, Silver Creek Preserve)
99. Violet-green Swallow (6:31pm, Silver Creek Preserve)
100. Virginia Rail (7:06pm, Silver Creek Preserve)
101. House Wren (7:12pm, Silver Creek Preserve)
102. Orange-crowned Warbler (7:14pm, Silver Creek Preserve)
103. Wilson's Warbler (7:23pm, Silver Creek Preserve)
104. Yellow-headed Blackbird (7:41pm, near Silver Creek Preserve)

And with that Yellow-headed Blacbird, we were tied for my record big day total ever! Just one more species and I would break my personal record and we would reach our goal for the day! I purposefully looked down because there were many flocks of blackbirds around and I certainly did not want a Brown-headed Cowbird to be my record-breaking bird!

There were 7 GREAT HORNED OWLS seen throughout the evening; however, we had already picked up that species earlier in the afternoon.

These two immature birds were nice enough to pose together:

105. Cinnamon Teal (8:03pm, near Hayspur Fish Hatchery)

And with that, we had reached our goal for the day! What did we do to celebrate? Keep on going, of course!

This Coyote was neat! Throughout the day, our mammal list grew to include Mule Deer, Elk, Red Fox, a plethora of squirrels, ground squirrels, and chipmunks, as well as this Coyote:

106. Gray Partridge (8:19pm, roads north of Picabo)

And as dusk was upon us, we found a puddle alongside the road that held a few shorebirds, including our last two new species of the day, seen in the photograph below.

107. Wilson's Snipe (8:35pm, roads north of Picabo)
108. Lesser Yellowlegs (8:37pm, roads north of Picabo)

We checked for Bank Swallow at a known nesting site but it was too late at night and the birds were already in their burrows for the night.

It was an awesome big day of birding, and we all agreed we had racked up an astounding list of birds for mid-August, which is typically a slower month! Thank you so much to Jean for providing her car for the day and driving us safely the entire day!

Bird-of-the-day for me goes to the Pine Grosbeak with runners-up to the Calliope Hummingbird, Sanderling, & Townsend's Warbler.

Good birding,

World Life List: 925 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 21:55 Archived in USA Tagged birding idaho coyote great_horned_owl townsends_warbler red_naped_sapsucker green_winged_teal ruddy_duck hooded_merganser calliope_hummingbird northern_shoveler lincolns_sparrow solitary_sandpiper western_sandpiper semipalmated_plover savannah_sparrow gray_jay pine_grosbeak central_idaho big_day common_goldeneye black_headed_grosbeak empidonax_flycatcher california_quail macgillivrays_warbler bullocks_oriole yellow_headed_blackbird cinnamon_teal stanley_lake western_kingbird gray_partridge wilsons_snipe lesser_yellowlegs Comments (0)

Croy Creek Wetlands

semi-overcast 87 °F

Catching up on the last few Idaho posts...on Tuesday I attended a bird walk my birding friend Poo Wright-Pulliam led for a summer camp here in Sun Valley, Idaho. We drove down to Croy Creek Wetlands in Hailey and found a few nice things, including this male DOWNY WOODPECKER:

LEWIS' WOODPECKER, nice and apparently uncommon in the valley this year:


NORTHERN FLICKER, western "Red-shafted" race - note the red shaft (undertail) feathers on this bird:

And this CASSIN'S VIREO was awesome and gave me the best looks I have ever had of this species, and it was Poo's 200th bird in Idaho this year!

So a more low-key, but fun, day on Tuesday. Bird-of-the-say for Tuesday goes to the Cassin's Vireo with runner-up to the Lewis' Woodpecker.

Good birding,

World Life List: 925 Species (no life birds on Tuesday)

Posted by skwclar 18:08 Archived in USA Tagged yellow_warbler lewis_woodpecker northern_flicker downy_woodpecker cassins_vireo Comments (0)

A Weekend at City of Rocks

semi-overcast 96 °F

This weekend, eight birding friends and I went on a 2-night trip to the City of Rocks National Preserve and surrounding areas in southern Idaho (and a bit in far-northern Utah). We saw many, many birds, so read on!

My friend Nubs picked me up in his awesome 28-foot RV at 11:00am on Friday, and we were soon off!

After a three hour drive, we arrived at the campground at City of Rocks National Preserve. I soon had fun exploring the desert habitat type around the campground, and there were many cacti plants around the area:

We went on a bird walk around the campground and found a few things including this BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER:



Flame Skimmer:

Then, we piled into one of the birder's cars and we drove around City of Rocks a bit. Although we didn't find our hoped-for White-throated Swifts, we did get this BREWER'S SPARROW:

And this female/immature type LAZULI BUNTING:

After a wonderful dinner and dessert from chef Marianne who accompanied us on our trip, we went stargazing to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower and a flyover by the International Space Station, as well as owling in search of Flammulated Owls. Luckily, we found all of our terrestrial & extraterrestrial targets for the night, with highlights being multiple meteors, a brilliant pass by the space station, and GREAT HORNED, BARN, WESTERN-SCREECH, & our hoped-for FLAMMULATED OWLS, the last of which was a life bird for me! No photos unfortunately since all of our owls were either fly-bys or heard-only (as was the case with the Flammulateds); however, it was a great night.

Five hours later, we all piled back into the car at 5:30am for a full morning of birding. We had many target birds and found a good number of them. Starting our birding day off within the Jim Sage Mountains, this DUSKY FLYCATCHER was a tough ID but a nice species:

Male BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER! This is a photographic life bird for me as I have seen it before but never properly photographed it. We obtained soul-satisfying views and photos of this beautiful specimen.

PLUMBEOUS VIREO, a real life bird for me! Seeing 4 of these in one day was a treat:

The "rarest" bird of the weekend was a pair of NASHVILLE WARBLERS, which are old hat for me because I'm from Chicago; however, these are a much more uncommon sight in Idaho and all of the other birders were very excited to see them:


RED-TAILED HAWK posing for photos very nicely:

Pair of SAGE THRASHERS. We probably saw close to 100 of these over the weekend, which was really cool!

We also got a total of 11 LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES, including this guy who perched really nicely for us:

LARK SPARROWS were a pleasant sight, including this pair:

Can you spot the GREAT BLUE HERON?

Suddenly, as we were examining a tree full of songbirds, a huge white bird burst out of the tree and out flew a BARN OWL! Luckily, probably the same guy perched for us further down the road, allowing for distant but identifiable photos of its heart-shaped face:


Yesterday we had a very impressive total of 10 GOLDEN EAGLES including this flyover:

And this guy who perched for us:

We also found my life bird FERRUGINOUS HAWK, a spectacular species which is the largest hawk in North America!





A pair of WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAYS, a life bird for me, flew into the campground and allowed for this photo:

And before another fantastic dinner prepared by Marianne, I took a photo of the beautiful desert sunset:

Today, we birded by car in the morning again and as well as beautiful birds, we birded in gorgeous areas. You can see why the preserves in the area are called City of Rocks and Castle Rocks! The landscape is truly astounding!





My only life bird of the morning, WHITE-THROATED SWIFT aka "the flying cigar:"


This COOPER'S HAWK allowed for beautiful views:

This rock has graffiti from pioneers dating back to 1843!

This GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE perched nicely for us right on the rock:

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend! Thank-you to Norbert Fratt (aka Nubs) for letting me stay in his wonderful RV during the trip and thank you to Jean Seymour and Kathleen Cameron for driving during the birding.

I gained six life birds on the trip:
Ferruginous Hawk
Flammulated Owl
White-throated Swift
Plumbeous Vireo
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
Juniper Titmouse

Stay tuned! Tomorrow I will go mountain biking with my dad in the Boulder Mountains, and then on Wednesday I will be doing a central Idaho "big day" with three other birders when we will try to find the most bird species in one day from 2:10am till late! It'll be awesome!

Good birding,

World Life List: 925 Species (6 life birds on the City of Rocks overnight trip)

Posted by skwclar 20:55 Archived in USA Tagged idaho city_of_rocks brewers_sparrow dusky_flycatcher american_kestrel common_nighthawk mountain_bluebird blue_gray_gnatcatcher juniper_titmouse lazuli_bunting black_throated_gray_warbler plumbeous_vireo nashville_warbler red_tailed_hawk sage_thrasher loggerhead_shrike lark_sparrow great_blue_heron barn_owl golden_eagle ferruginous_hawk western_meadowlark vesper_sparrow northern_harrier woodhouses_scrub_jay red_naped_sapsucker spotted_towhee white_throated_swift eastern_kingbird coopers_hawk green_tailed_towhee Comments (3)

Titus Lake

semi-overcast 75 °F

Today my mom and I hiked the Titus Lake trail in the Smoky Mountains of central Idaho.

The views from the trail were stunning, especially the view of the massive Boulder Range on the other side of the valley:

Although it was not as "birdy" as I had hoped for (considering it is part of the Idaho Birding Trail), I did have a few birds such as this HERMIT THRUSH:



Juvenile/female type YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:

Titus Lake itself was gorgeous:

And bird-of-the-day goes to this photogenic CLARK'S NUTCRACKER, a classic high-elevation montane species of the western USA.

The full species list is attached below. Stay tuned, because this weekend (Fri-Sun) I will be going on a 2-night trip with about 8 other local birding friends down to a place called City of Rocks in southern Idaho. I should get quite a few life birds and it should be lots of fun!

Good birding,

World Life List: 923 Species (no recent life birds)

16 species (+1 other taxa)

Red-naped Sapsucker 1 Juvenile/female type on north side of Titus Lake.
Olive-sided Flycatcher 2 One along the trail, one on southwest side of Titus Lake
Warbling Vireo 1 Heard scolding note close to trailhead, high elevation for this species unless Cassin's has a similar scolding call
Clark's Nutcracker 5 Throughout trail
Common Raven 1 Croaking at trailhead
Mountain Chickadee 10 Throughout trail
Brown Creeper 1 .5 mile before lake, heard only
Mountain Bluebird 3 All near lake
Hermit Thrush 1 Close to trailhead
American Robin 1 South side of lake
Yellow-rumped Warbler 7 Throughout trail
Chipping Sparrow 10 Throughout trail
Dark-eyed Junco 25 Throughout trail
White-crowned Sparrow 10 Mostly along lake edge
Cassin's Finch 30 Throughout trail
Pine Siskin 13 Mainly near Titus Lake
passerine sp. 20

Posted by skwclar 14:42 Archived in USA Tagged idaho yellow_rumped_warbler mountain_bluebird clarks_nutcracker hermit_thrush pine_siskin titus_lake smoky_mountains Comments (2)

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