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Surprise Utah Birding!

sunny 99 °F

Today I missed my connecting flight to Idaho, so I was stranded in Salt Lake City for 8 hours. My solution: go birding!

After a quick taxi ride, I arrived at my destination for the afternoon, Bountiful Pond which is a pretty little lake with a nice view of the mountains and a fair amount of bird activity.
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You know you're out west when you see a WESTERN GREBE!
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A couple of FORSTER'S TERNS were nice, the first one is in breeding and the second is in nonbreeding plumage:
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Female AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:
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I encountered a "life mammal:" a Long-tailed Weasel! How cool! Thanks to Liz Cifani for the species identification and she also told me that this species, also known as the Ermine, turns completely white in the winter. I would love to see it in that plumage!
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WHITE-FACED IBIS, a nice treat:
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CATTLE EGRET:
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Female/juvenile type GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE:
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My bird-of-the-day goes to the CLARK'S GREBE that hung around the pond, probably the most uncommon species I found today:
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Good birding! I'll probably post in about two weeks once the birding part of my Idaho trip starts.

Good birding,

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

Posted by skwclar 20:22 Archived in USA Tagged mountains animals birds sky utah Comments (2)

Olympic Peninsula: Day 3

all seasons in one day 69 °F

On Saturday, July 16, birding guide Scott Atkinson gave my dad and I a fantastic full-day birding tour of the north Olympic Peninsula, in search of specific target birds I needed for my life list. Scott turned out to be an absolutely fantastic guide, and an extremely interesting person as well (he has traveled across the world, and even is the #1 eBirder in Russia!).

Our first birding location was a forest road on the northeast side of the Olympics, in search of Varied Thrush, Black & Vaux's Swift, and our main target bird for the morning: Hermit Warbler.

The views were beautiful from the road, and I fairly quickly heard my life bird VARIED THRUSH singing its eerie whistle on a distant ridge.
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Failing to hear any warblers (usually one would expect to hear at least Townsend's Warblers), we scanned through flocks of CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES like this little guy:
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Female HAIRY WOODPECKER:
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Suddenly, I heard a warbler's "chup!" call and saw some movement in the trees at one of our roadside birding stops. Scott picked out a warbler that flew across the road, and after "pishing" to get the bird's attention, it popped into view. Amazingly, it was our very uncommon target bird, a first-year male HERMIT WARBLER! This is the furthest northern point of its range, and on the Olympic Peninsula, Hermit Warbler commonly hybridizes with the more abundant Townsend's Warbler. Hybrids can be differentiated by a black patch near the eyes & black streaks on the flank, and because this bird showed no black patch near the eye and no streaking on its sides, it was certainly a pure individual. Scott was amazed this was the first warbler we saw because usually he says he will pick through dozens of Townsend's and hybrid warblers before he comes across a pure Hermit. Very cool!
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At one point, we hoped for a view of a Varied Thrush, and although we were unable to find one, we did admire these towering Douglas-Fir trees.
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The next stop was Hurricane Ridge. At a short stop along the way, Scott & I walked along a road in a subalpine area and we found this ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER:
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The forest alongside the road was beautiful:
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Singing HERMIT THRUSH, which is my favorite song in the avian world:
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PINE SISKIN:
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The views from Hurricane Ridge, once again, did not disappoint!
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Juvenile LINCOLN'S SPARROW, a rather uncommon find:
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My life-bird AMERICAN PIPIT amongst the alpine wildflowers! Scott and I hiked the Hurricane Hill trail again in search of American Pipit, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Black & Vaux's Swifts.
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TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE:
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OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER:
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In this photo, the flycatcher (photographed) was chasing a Western Kingbird (unphotographed), which is apparently an extremely rare find for the peninsula, and especially in an alpine area such as Hurricane Hill:
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Male AMERICAN KESTREL:
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BAND-TAILED PIGEONS flying away, the only other time I have seen this species is a brief sighting last year in Costa Rica!
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We searched this lingering snow patches for Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, a species typically associated with alpine snow, and although Scott definitely heard one and I may have heard it, I am not counting it for my life list since it was such a distant identification.
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Very cute juvenile Mountain Goat along the trail:
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This is an Olympic Marmot, an extremely rare & endangered species, and Hurricane Hill is one of the only places in the world to reliably find this animal. Super cool to be very close to it!
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Next, we drove along the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward our final destination of Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the lower 48 and possibly the best place for seawatching in Washington state.

We made a few intermediate stops, and we were successful in finding many birds including my life bird BRANDT'S CORMORANTS:
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Life bird MARBLED MURRELETS:
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HARLEQUIN DUCK:
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COMMON LOON:
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LEAST SANDPIPER:
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Life-bird BLACK TURNSTONE:
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Flyby BALD EAGLE:
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The trail out to Cape Flattery went through an amazingly lush rainforest, where there were even ferns growing out of the trees!
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The birding from the cape was awesome, there were seabirds flying by all the time, and it was just super cool to be at the northwesternmost tip of the lower 48! Many of the birds were found and identified with the help of the long zoom ranges of my camera and Scott's spotting scope.

Life-bird PELAGIC CORMORANTS:
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At one point, I watched SOOTY SHEARWATERS flying by in the distance through Scott's scope. It was so cool to see a pelagic (seafaring) species from land, and the only other time I have seen this bird was on the "Albatross Encounter" pelagic tour off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand in January 2014!

This is a PIGEON GUILLEMOT, one of the common alcids in the area:
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BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, life bird:
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TUFTED PUFFIN, a SUPER SUPER cool life bird that was probably my #1 or #2 target bird for the trip, along with Hermit Warbler. We watched a total of 16 of these fly by during the hour we were birding at the cape.
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CALIFORNIA GULL, uncommon for the area:
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RHINOCEROS AUKLET carrying fish:
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Beautiful HEERMAN'S GULL:
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Far-away island with sea lions:
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COMMON MURRE, awesome life bird!
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CASSIN'S AUKLET, very uncommon life bird and one I had really been hoping to find! With that auklet, we had successfully found all of Washington's summer Alcid species in one day! An Alcid sextuplifecta if I may say so myself!! (Guillemot, Murrelet, Murre, Puffin, Cassin's & Rhinoceros Auklet)
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It was a FANTASTIC, FANTASTIC day! One of the best days of birding of my life, with so many life birds and so many neat experiences.

Bird-of-the-day for Saturday, July 16 will be a tie between the Hermit Warbler, Tufted Puffin, & Cassin's Auklet with runners-up to Marbled Murrelet, Western Kingbird, & Sooty Shearwater. All were life birds for me except for the kingbird and the shearwater.

Great, great birding! And a big thank-you to Scott for an awesome tour and extending our birding to be all-day long!

Henry
World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 20:29 Archived in USA Tagged mountains trees animals birds Comments (0)

Olympic Peninsula: Day 2

semi-overcast 69 °F

On Friday, July 15, my dad and I traveled around the Olympic Peninsula to hike & go birding.

Our morning destination was a drive-up mountain peak on the east side of the Olympics called Mt. Walker, where my target birds were Hermit Warbler and Sooty Grouse. The views from the summit viewpoints were spectacular, and we were even at could-level!
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Although I failed to find my main target bird, the Hermit Warbler, I did encounter a family of SOOTY GROUSE, life bird! The adult female bird let me take her photo:
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After lunch, we drove up to the famous Hurricane Ridge, which sits at over 5,000 feet above sea level and allows for fantastic subalpine and alpine birding, possibly the most famous highland destination for birders in Washington state.
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We were worried it would be cloudy, as it usually is, at Hurricane Ridge; however, the views were panoramic and totally exceeded our expectations! It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
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We hiked the steep Hurricane Hill, where there was a pretty good number of birds, including this super-cooperative female SOOTY GROUSE:
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And the deer, as you can see, were extremely tame:
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The wildflowers also put on a radiant display alongside the trail.
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Nice photo of an uncommon GRAY JAY in front of the mountains:
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HORNED LARK, by far the best photo I have ever obtained of this species:
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Near the summit of Hurricane Hill, there was a rather large snowfield. Time to do an obligatory July snow angel!
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This Mountain Goat, although a nonnative species, was super cool to see and allowed for some fantastic photo ops in front of the mountains:
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This silly young deer obviously hasn't learned how to follow the rules:
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It was another great day in the Olympic Mountains! What a fantastic place! I only obtained one life bird on July 15, Sooty Grouse, so that will be my bird-of-the-day. Runners-up to the Gray Jay & Horned Lark.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 09:26 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes mountains people trees animals birds snow Comments (1)

Day 1: Emerald Princess!

semi-overcast 82 °F

Yesterday I returned from a fantastic Caribbean cruise aboard the Emerald Princess. I will make one post for nearly every day (like I did for Costa Rica last summer), so here is day 1:

After taking an evening United Airlines flight from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale and staying in the Renaissance hotel near the cruise port, my dad and I woke up bright and early to bird the best birding hotspot nearby, according to eBird.org, Evergreen Cemetery:
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Although it was not as productive as I had hoped and I missed my three main target birds (Short-tailed Hawk, Painted Bunting, & Prairie Warbler), there were definitely birds around and I got two life birds (although they were common ones). Here is a GRAY CATBIRD - ironically, a house cat was a mere six feet below this bird at the time!
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My first lifer was this WHITE IBIS, which is a very, very common species in Florida:
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Then, a sizable and noisy flock of parakeets flew overhead and I snapped this photo. If anyone has any ideas as to the identification of these birds to the species level, it would be much appreciated - these were in a larger group of about 35 birds that were flying around, mobbing a juvenile COOPER'S HAWK and calling raucously:
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Here is the juvenile hawk they were mobbing:
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It was definitely Florida alright! Reptiles abounded, and many geckos (not pictured), turtles, and iguanas were seen in and near the cemetery:
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This ANHINGA was a rather interesting find, and the first time I have managed to photograph this species:
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Later, I found another (or possibly the same one) in its classic wing-drying position. These birds actually swim in the water for their prey (fish) but they have to completely dry their wings before they take flight. Very cool to see!
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EASTERN PHOEBE:
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MUSCOVY DUCKS (like this one perched on a tomb stone), although a feral/introduced species and exceedingly common, are countable for my life list:
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Tiny BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER:
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This NORTHERN PARULA may have been the most uncommon find at the cemetery:
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This COMMON GALLINULE was another nice species to see:
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Pretty soon, my dad and I were getting tired and hot (not being used to the warmer weather) so we headed back to the hotel pool and met my mom and sister there for a swim. Then, it was time to leave for the cruise ship and after a very easy check-in process, we were boarding the gigantic Emerald Princess ship! For this cruise, my mom, dad, and Pearl roomed together while I roomed with my uncle John, who joined us for his 35th (!) cruise.
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At sail away time, sitting with my family in a prime location at the aft of the ship and enjoying an icy cola, I spotted a few birds as the boat slowly started its journey.

Nonbreeding adult LAUGHING GULL:
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OSPREY:
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Another LAUGHING GULL:
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ROYAL TERN, life bird!
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Because the ship departed behind schedule, I did not get to see any pelagic species because it was time to get ready for dinner by the time we started getting far enough away from the shore; however, this delay did allow us to enjoy some great views and witness a beautiful sunset:
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Here is the area of the ship where we were sitting:
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It was a fun day and fairly productive for birding all things considered. Although this cruise was certainly not a birding-centered vacation (relaxation-centered, which I needed after a busy semester), I did see many neat birds and had some really cool experiences.

Bird-of-the-day to the ROYAL TERN, my most uncommon life bird of the three I gained. The full species list for the day is attached below.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 870 Species (3 life birds, see list below)

  • indicates a life bird

34 species + 2 other taxa:

  • Muscovy (Feral) Duck

Domestic (Feral) Duck
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga
Magnificent Frigatebird

  • White Ibis

Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Cooper's Hawk
Common Gallinule
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull

  • Royal Tern

Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Parakeet Sp.
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Grackle
House Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 11:34 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains bridges buildings skylines people animals birds sky boats Comments (0)

Day 3: GHO!

sunny 79 °F

Today was my first full day in the beautiful town of Sun Valley, Idaho on this trip. From 9:00am to 1:30pm, I birded the Warm Springs Trail that leads essentially from our condo's backyard up a large mountain called Mt. Balde, famous for its ski runs in the winter. I bird this trail every year and it is always very, very productive for finding montane bird species.

When I woke up this morning, it was a frigid 39 degrees, but thankfully it was a "balmy" 52 degrees by the time I left the condo at 9:00am. The difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures here in the mountains is always surprisingly drastic. It was a beautiful day, however, with completely sunny skies again and temperatures reaching the upper seventies in mid-afternoon.

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS such as these enjoy roosting on the nearby ski lodge:
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A beautiful view along the trail with some nice sunflowers in the foreground:
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A little way along the trail, I found a GHO - the title of post! "GHO" is birding lingo for GREAT HORNED OWL, one of the most common and largest owls in North America. This owl is also commonly referred to as a "Hoot Owl" and it is about the size of a large hawk.
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I also found its mate hiding in the trees:
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Juvenile YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
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Doe Mule Deer:
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This WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER, typically a hard-to-find species of higher-elevation conifer woodlands, is a relatively easy bird to see about two hours up the trail:
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This uncommon OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER was also a great species for the day because they are listed as a declining species, technically federally "near-threatened," mainly due to habitat loss of the naturally disturbed conifer woodlands they prefer.
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Female MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD:
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I always stop hiking at a ridge with beautiful views of the mountains about two and a half hours up the trail. Here is a beautiful view of the Pioneer Mountains. The third mountain peak from the right in this picture is Hyndman Peak, the 9th highest mountain in Idaho, standing at just barely over 12,000 feet above sea level.
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Male WESTERN TANAGER:
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Female of the same species:
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Juvenile TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE with a very interesting speckled plumage:
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HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER:
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This reliable AMERICAN DIPPER was foraging along Warm Springs Creek behind my condo when I returned from the hike around 1:30pm.
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I spent the afternoon at the condo and then attended a concert in the evening in which my mom performed as a soloist with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony in a fantastic performance of Bernstein's "Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs." Great job, Mom!

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I just realized I have forgotten to do "bird-of-the-day" awards recently! I will resurrect that tradition with the cooperative pair of GREAT HORNED OWLS being the bird-of-the-day. Runners-up to the uncommon OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER.

The full avian species list for the day is below. Stay tuned because tomorrow my dad and my sister will be joining my mom and I here in beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 855 Species (no life birds)

31 avian species today:

Red-tailed Hawk
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Great Horned Owl
Lewis' Woodpecker
WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER
Hairy Woodpecker
OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER
Hammond's Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Clark's Nutcracker
American Crow
Common Raven
Violet-green Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
American Dipper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Mountain Bluebird
TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE
American Robin
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Western Tanager
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Brewer's Blackbird
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch

Posted by skwclar 19:16 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes mountains animals birds Comments (1)

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