A Travellerspoint blog

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

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