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:
My life bird JUNIPER TITMOUSE!
Roosting COMMON NIGHTHAWK:
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:
Female AMERICAN KESTREL:
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!
Male MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD:
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!
Female MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD:
Female RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER:
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:
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!
World Life List: 925 Species (6 life birds on the City of Rocks overnight trip)