A Travellerspoint blog

Idaho Day 8: City of Rocks

S. Idaho

semi-overcast 87 °F

Today, my birding friends Jean Seymour and Kathleen Cameron birded with me throughout a large swath of the state of Idaho. We were headed down to the City of Rocks area in search of two main target birds: Virginia’s Warbler and Pinyon Jay. We were also hoping to possibly find Black-throated Gray Warbler & Long-billed Curlew. The day started at 5:50am with my alarm, and in under an hour, Jean and I were on the way to pick up Kathleen!

Along the state highway heading east from Shoshone ID, we spotted a SAGE THRASHER, one of many:
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And a WESTERN MEADOWLARK:
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Then, we stopped by a fluddle alongside the road where in flew a LESSER YELLOWLEGS:
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A beautiful male BREWER’S BLACKBIRD was foraging there too — a common bird, but often under appreciated.
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Immature-type YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD:
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We also found a few SWAINSON’S HAWKS along the way:
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In the town of Elba ID, we spotted a young buck deer with his rack just growing in:
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Sometimes I find it incredibly important to find the beauty in the little things in life.
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I was surprised to see snow lingering in the mountains of southern Idaho this late in the summer, despite the harsh, hot, desert climate the valleys below experience for this portion of the year (though today was a pleasantly cool day).
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BARN SWALLOWS:
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BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRDS:
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Along our first proper birding stop on the road into Castle Rocks State Park, we spotted BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS, BUSHTIT, & these JUNIPER TITMICE — all specialties of the pinyon/juniper habitat found almost exclusively in this part of the state.
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Castle Rocks State Park is gorgeous.
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MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD:
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The next stop was the Circle Creek Overlook in the City of Rocks National Preserve, where we ran into my favorite set of birds of the day. Perhaps the most uncommon of these was this immature-type ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, a very range-restricted bird in the state and a species I have only seen once before.
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Next, we spotted its also-uncommon cousin the OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER:
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TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE was also a great find here:
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A nice DUSKY FLYCATCHER:
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Then, I decided to play the recording of one of my possible life birds, the Virginia’s Warbler. It was great habitat for this species and there was a nice mixed flock of songbirds in the area, so I figured this was as good a place as any. Sure enough, a harsh “chip!” call started up as soon as I played the song, and the three of us soon tracked down two individuals of my life-bird VIRGINIA’S WARBLER! Too cool!!!
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City of Rocks National Preserve is an incredible place.
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Look at this face-like rock formation!
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PINE SISKIN:
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Then, we spotted a few fast-flying WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS, another bird I have only seen once before (also here at City of Rocks). They flew so fast that this was the only photo of which I was able to take:
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LARK SPARROW:
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At the Smoky Mountain Campground Trailhead, we found an impressive flock of 20+ BUSHTIT! Crazy cool!
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Also present was a gorgeous male BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, another target for the day!!!
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A buck deer with a picturesque background on the way out was just begging for a photo or two.
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NORTHERN HARRIER:
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Jean spotted this grasshopper impaled on a bush, a clear sign of LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES in the area — these ferocious songbirds often impale their insect prey on fences or dead shrubs, saving these tasty snacks for later.
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Sure enough, these shrikes were around and seemed to be begging for photos!
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As were a few HORNED LARKS — here is an adult and its young:
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Next, we headed into the Jim Sage Mountains to try our luck with Pinyon Jay and anything else that might be up there. It was terribly quiet, but we eventually managed to find a GRAY FLYCATCHER:
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And sure enough, we soon figured out why the birds were so quiet; we discovered not one, but two (!) immature NORTHERN GOSHAWKS! An amazing surprise and a wonderful piece of evidence for successful breeding of this species in the area this year. Great, great news of this uncommon bird of prey!
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My heart raced when we saw some bluish jays which we hoped were my long-awaited Pinyon Jays, but they turned out to be WOODHOUSE’S SCRUB-JAYS, which are still a great bird and a new year bird for all of us!
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On the way out, we saw over eighty BREWER’S SPARROWS in the grasslands below:
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And the day was capped off by some owling at the Rupert Cemetery where we picked up both GREAT HORNED & BARN OWLS! An amazing, amazing day of birding! HUGE thanks is due to Jean Seymour for driving us around for 16+ hours in her car today, and for Kathleen Cameron who also helped plan the trip. Love you guys!

Bird-of-the-day to the Virginia’s Warbler, with runners-up to Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-throated Gray Warbler, & Northern Goshawk. So many quality, quality birds from which to choose! The full list of 75 species we identified today is attached below. Stay tuned!!!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 972 Species (1 life bird today: Virginia’s Warbler!)

1. Canada Goose
2. Mallard
3. Rock Pigeon
4. Eurasian Collared-Dove
5. Mourning Dove
6. Common Nighthawk
7. White-throated Swift
8. Black-chinned Hummingbird
9. Rufous Hummingbird
10. Killdeer
11. Lesser Yellowlegs
12. Spotted Sandpiper
13. Ring-billed Gull
14. American White Pelican
15. White-faced Ibis
16. Turkey Vulture
17. Osprey
18. Northern Harrier
19. Northern Goshawk
20. Swainson’s Hawk
21. Red-tailed Hawk
22. Great Horned Owl
23. Barn Owl
24. Northern Flicker
25. American Kestrel
26. Ash-throated Flycatcher
27. Western Kingbird
28. Olive-sided Flycatcher
29. Western Wood-Pewee
30. Gray Flycatcher
31. Dusky Flycatcher
32. Loggerhead Shrike
33. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
34. Black-billed Magpie
35. American Crow
36. Common Raven
37. Horned Lark
38. Tree Swallow
39. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
40. Barn Swallow
41. Mountain Chickadee
42. Juniper Titmouse
43. Bushtit
44. Red-breasted Nuthatch
45. Rock Wren
46. House Wren
47. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
48. Mountain Bluebird
49. Townsend’s Solitaire
50. American Robin
51. Gray Catbird
52. Sage Thrasher
53. European Starling
54. Cedar Waxwing
55. House Sparrow
56. House Finch
57. Pine Siskin
58. American Goldfinch
59. Yellow-headed Blackbird
60. Western Meadowlark
61. Red-winged Blackbird
62. Brewer’s Blackbird
63. Virginia’s Warbler
64. Yellow Warbler
65. Yellow-rumped Warbler
66. Black-throated Gray Warbler
67. Wilson’s Warbler
68. Western Tanager
69. Lazuli Bunting
70. Spotted Towhee
71. Brewer’s Sparrow
72. Vesper Sparrow
73. Lark Sparrow
74. Lincoln’s Sparrow
75. Dark-eyed Junco

Posted by skwclar 23:25 Archived in USA

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Henry, Congratulations on #972!

by Marlene Scott

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