Friday 23 August 2019 75 °F
Yesterday, my final full day in Idaho, I rode the gondola up Bald Mountain in Sun Valley and hiked down, like I do every year. This route never ceases to deliver great birds for me, and it sure didn’t disappoint yesterday, either!
On the ride up, a WESTERN TANAGER posed for me:
The views, as usual, were amazing. Some ominous-looking clouds and light rain showers did worry me, though.
Immediately, DARK-EYED JUNCOS proved to be common throughout the hike:
As did the ubiquitous CHIPPING SPARROW:
After some spishing, an immature HOUSE WREN popped out:
MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES were everywhere:
The most common bird on the hike was the YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, which gave great views at one point:
All the sudden, I came out into a ski run and i noticed that the trees on the other side of the run were absolutely crawling with birds. Immediately, I noticed a profusion of fast-moving RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS:
Then, the intensity of bird activity grew to an astronomical height, with songbirds such as warblers, kinglets, and sparrows literally swirling around me in the mist. They were foraging insects off the trees, sallying forth to catch gnats, and constantly flying in to join their other avian comrades. It was a true fallout! Definitely one of the most impressive birding spectacles I have ever witnessed. An exciting find was this NASHVILLE WARBLER, an uncommon find for Idaho:
The warblers were extremely common in this mixed flock. Here is a YELLOW-RUMPED & a TOWNSEND’S together.
And 2 TOWNSEND’S WARBLERS together:
I found an unbelievable 26 birds of this species, an extremely high count since this is usually a harder-to-find migrant in central Idaho:
Probably the most surprising warbler species up on the mountain was this brilliant male WILSON’S WARBLER, which is usually a species of lowland willow-dominated riparian habitats in Idaho. Yesterday, he was at almost 9000 feet of elevation in a douglas-fir forest!
There were a heck ton of RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES in the mixed flock, as well:
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS showed beautifully a few times throughout the day:
A single RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD flew by:
As well as a WARBLING VIREO:
I was able to capture a young Mule Deer bounding away:
Female LAZULI BUNTING:
It was truly an amazing pocket of birds. Throughout the rest of the hike though, I still found a good number of birds including CASSIN’S FINCH:
A few CLARK’S NUTCRACKERS were nice:
As well as a Mule Deer with a full rack of antlers:
A soaring RED-TAILED HAWK:
I flushed an uncommon MACGILLIVRAY’S WARBLER from the trail, and true to form, it hid in the bushes for a few slightly-obstructed photos:
Then, as I was almost at the bottom of the mountain, I heard a woodpecker softly tapping in the Lodgepole Pine trees above. It took me a few minutes to track down exactly where this tapping was coming from, but lo and behold I then laid my eyes on possibly the most prized avian species that breeds on Bald Mountain: the BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER! I spent forty-five minutes photographing this beauty from various different angles, and though the lighting and its constant tapping for insects underneath the bark made photography challenging, it was still gratifying to spend such a large chunk of time with this rare species.
When I finally made it to the bottom of the trail where it crosses Warm Springs Creek, I spied a YELLOW WARBLER in the shrubs:
And a female BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD visited a nearby feeder:
Wow! What an amazing last day to an absolutely incredible trip. Bird-of-the-day of course goes to the Black-backed Woodpecker with runners-up to the Nashville & MacGillivray’s Warblers. Such fun! I want to thank several people for helping make this trip extra-special for me: Kathleen Cameron, Jean Seymour, Poo Wright-Pulliam, Brian Sturges, and of course, my parents. And shout-out to Gary Stitzinger for tipping us off to the Spruce Grouse the other day — THANK YOU! Birds are not the only thing that makes the hobby gratifying; enjoying other birders’ company is an extremely positive element, as well.
Some exciting news: the rest of my family is flying to China right now to present a chamber music concert tour of the country, while I will have a few days in Chicago where I will lead a few Oak Park Bird Walks. Following that, on August 28th I return to Manhattan for the school year! Much further ahead, over winter break my family will be taking a cruise around the southern tip of South America, and then we will spend a few days in Patagonia, Chile. SO excited — I believe my life list will exceed 1K!
World Life List: 974 Species (3 life birds this trip: Virginia’s Warbler, Black Rosy-Finch, & Spruce Grouse)