Friday, January 30, 2009

Red Spots

I took an afternoon stroll along the creek and park today and I enjoyed a few different species of birds. I noticed two with red spots that I want to tell you about really quickly.

The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet has a ruby spot or stripe on the top of its head. It isn't always visible, but sometimes it really stands out. The little fella I saw today had the sun glistening off of his red mohawk. This isn't a picture of the bird I saw today, but it gives you an idea.
The other bird with a red spot today was a Downy Woodpecker. While the females have a pretty black and white pattern, the male has a bright red patch on the back of its head. On our bird walk in January we saw a female. I saw a male today along the creek. Very beautiful!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Are you all ready for the Lovebird Bird Walk on Valentine's Day!

Pets are the only lovebirds of the avian types that I know of in Idaho. Native to the arid Namib Desert in western Africa, the Peach-faced Lovebird is a popular domestic bird in the United States. Due to the arid desert climate of Arizona there is a booming population of feral Peach-faced Lovebirds in the Phoenix metro area. I'm not sure if they escaped or if someone intentionally released them, but they are thriving in the climate that so closely matches their native climate.
While I grew up here in the Treasure Valley, I did live and work for SunCor in AZ for four years. Because of the heat my kids hardly used their swing set, so I turned it into a bird feeder paradise. We had half a dozen Peach-faced Lovebirds visit our feeders regularly. They are really beautiful and we enjoyed their loud and distinctive chirps.
I find it humorous to see that they sell in local pet stores for $80 a piece while I had them for the few cents worth of birdseed and I didn't have to clean out their cage, nor the long-term committment.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pine Siskins have dropped by!

Most mornings we have a mixed flock of American Goldfinches and House Finches at Avimor. I spooked them a bit and a lot more birds flew up than I had expected, so I knew we had more than the normal amount of visitors. The flock circled inthe sky a couple of times and dropped back down to glean the sunflower seeds covered with beautiful frost. I started seeing some yellow wing bars that helped me to realize that we had nearly 120 Pine Siskins enjoying the plants on the revegitated slope behind the model homes. There was also an American Crow and several Black-billed Magpies squaking away down along Spring Valley Creek this morning.
At Avimor, we like to decorate our trees with goldfinches, house finches, and pine siskins.

Inaugural Avimor Bird Walk

About two dozen guests joined me for the inaugural Avimor Bird Walk. The highlight of the morning adventures had to be the Great Horned Owl at Foothills Heritage Park discovered by Stephanie. He was well camouflaged in the tree, but was at about eye level so we all could see those eerie large yellow eyes. A total of thirteen species (pretty good for winter in this area) of birds were seen:

Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
American Kestrel
Great Horned Owl
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Finch
American Goldfinch (pictured below decorating a tree along the creek)

We also enjoyed other winter wildlife wonders like deer and coyote tracks, rodent tunnels in the snow, abandoned beehives, and the seed-bearing plants that keep the birds fed through the cold season.
After the walk, everyone was treated to hot cocoa, coffee, and cookies in the warmth of the Avimor Information Center. A drawing was held for some bird feeders and bird seed. The four kids that participated in the morning bird walk all won a prize. I can’t guarantee that kind of luck every month, but it was fun to see them all going home with something.

Special thanks to Kent Mortensen and Roberta Stewart for taking the pictures.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yellow Breasted Chat

The Yellow Breasted Chat has been a bit of a nemesis bird for me - meaning that it is a bird I have been trying to see for some time, with no luck. I have heard it on three or four occassions, but have never seen it. I remember once on Harris Creek Road outside of Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, I risked life and limb to climb through thorny brush and was through the creek trying to catch of glimpse of this little cuss, but without luck.
Recently, the conservation specialist working with us at Avimor asked me for a list of the birds I have seen at Avimor so that they can compile a book for the residents. I asked Michael Wiegand for his list. Michael Wiegand is a landscaper specializing in native plants and wildlife enhancing landscaping, also a contractor for me at Avimor. His company is called Habiscapes. He has a home very near the Avimor property in Pearl, Idaho. His home is surrounded by feeders and native plants that birds like and so you can imagine the thousands of birds around his home.
Anyway, Michael's bird list for Avimor included a Yellow Breasted Chat. Quickly I emailed him back and asked where and when had he seen it. He explained that as they were revegetating the retention pond just north of the water reclamation building that the Chat had made regular appearances in the willow trees along Spring Valley Creek. He and his whole crew got to know the loud little fella.
Finally, Tuesday morning around 8am this week I made it out there and drove down the newly asphalted access road to the water reclamation plant. On my first pass I saw lots of birds, but no Yellow Breasted Chat. On my second pass through I heard him. I started imitating the call and it bounced right up to the top of the trees and as I continued imitating it, it came closer and closer to me so that I could see it without the need of my Eagle Optics Ranger SRT's 8x42.
So the habitat in which I have seen a Yellow Breasted Chat is in a riparian area - creek, just outside of a small canyon, surrounded by shrub steppe, yet along a busy Hwy 55. The weather was mostly sunny. It was on a warm summer morning, Tuesday July 15th.