Monday, November 23, 2009

Idaho Birder: Heidi Ware

Heidi Ware at the IBO holding a hatch-year Red-tailed Hawk - photo by Rob Miller

Heidi Ware
Boise, ID

Where did you grow up?

I’m a 5th generation Idahoan! I was born in Nampa, and have lived in the same house in Boise since I was 6 months old.

What are you studying?

I’m halfway through my Jr. year at Boise State, studying Biology with an emphasis in Ecology.

How and when did you get first get involved in birding?

I’ve always loved animals, but my strongest memories of a specifically ‘bird’ interest are from my 4th grade science class. Our science book had a whole chapter on bird species we could see in our yards and how to feed them. I also brought in a Northern Flicker that hit my grandma’s window, and my teacher let us dissect it in class. I remember thinking it was so pretty, and so cool to see how its tongue wrapped around its skull so that it could be extra long. One of our art projects that year was to draw a picture of a bird from a photo. I drew a Say’s Phoebe: which made it a very cool Lifer for me this spring!

I got my first field guide about age 10, and started a life list after seeing my first Black-crowned Night-Heron while visiting Seattle (a list which I promptly lost and forgot about until last year!) But I didn’t do any actual “birding” during that time.

Last year is when I’d say I “officially” started birding. By that I mean: I got a good field guide, real binoculars, re-started a life list and started birding with other people in other locations besides my backyard :)

How often do you go birding? And where do you regularly go birding?

I guess I’m always looking and listening for birds whenever I’m outside, but I go birding (with binoculars) at least once a week. This summer I was pretty much birding 24/7, since I had a job through the Idaho Bird Observatory doing point count surveys all over Idaho (yes, it really is as terrible of a job as it sounds, heehee)

Of the places I’ve been birding, I guess the spots I visit most would be Lucky Peak/IBO, CJ Strike Reservoir, my daily walk from Julia Davis Park to BSUs campus, Pickle Butte Landfill (yep!), Deer Flat NWR, the Snake River Birds of Prey area, and Boise parks.

Where is your favorite place to bird in Idaho? in the U.S.? in the world?

Hmmm, now THAT’s tough!! I guess some of my favorite places in Idaho would be CJ Strike Reservoir and the Snake River area since they’re nearby and have a lot of variety year-round. And, though I’ve only been to each place twice, I really like: Island Park, American Falls reservoir and Camas NWR because of all the cool things I’ve seen there this year!
I haven’t left Idaho for more than a few hours since becoming a ‘real birder’ last year :) but I’d love to go back to the OR/WA coasts (now that I’ve stopped pretending there is only one gull species: the ‘seagull’. haha!) And I’d love to go to Mexico or someplace in South America.

If you haven’t already mentioned it, do you have birding mentor or birding buddies that you regularly go birding with?

My first ‘birding mentor’ was actually none other than Boise’s Mike Morrison! I used to come into the Bird House and Habitat store and bombard poor Mike with all my little-kid birding questions! Lucky for me, Mike had all the answers, and probably got a kick out of it :) He was the one who helped me decide whether I had Cedar Waxwings or Bohemians in my backyard and explained the difference between Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks. He was also the first one I told when I found Lesser Goldfinches at my house! I first heard about the IBO from him, though it was years before I actually visited.

I guess anyone who looks at IBLE or has seen the “Heidi vs. Jay” blog knows that I’ve pretty much become the sidekick of the crazy ornithologist Jay Carlisle. I met Jay last June when I came to the bird observatory looking for an internship position through Boise State. Before meeting Jay and the rest of the awesome crew at the IBO, I’d never even positively ID’d a Yellow Warbler, let alone knew that there were seemingly a bazillion other warblers in Idaho and that they all had different chip notes! Pretty soon I was soaking it all in, and couldn’t wait for my next quiz on empidonax call notes!

I also love hanging out with the super awesome GEAS and SWIBA birders, and am planning on going on more fieldtrips and some CBC’s this winter as well :)

How did you come to be involved at the Idaho Bird Observatory?

I came to the IBO looking for a potential internship project. I didn’t end up putting together anything official, but after one day of MAPS breeding season banding I was hooked, and spent the rest of ‘08 volunteering there as a songbird processor. This spring, I was hired by IBO and got to do tons of bird surveys all over Idaho in places like the Wood River Valley, Shoshone area, and the Sawtooths near Stanley and Redfish Lake. Then I returned to Lucky Peak migration banding in July and just recently finished up the 2009 hawk and songbird banding season!

How did your 2009 competition with Jay come about?

I guess it very first started when some of the people I birded with started asking me if I kept a lifelist, and suggested it might be something fun for me to do. While Jay was in Venezuela in December and January, he suggested that it might be fun if I kept an Idaho year list. From there, we thought it would be fun to make it into a competition between the two of us. We were chatting about the idea of the competition while on a birding trip with friends Louie Quintana and Harry Krueger when the ideas of ‘punishment’ for the loser and making a blog came about…and the rest is history!

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

I got a pair of Vortex Viper 10 x 42’s for Christmas last year…and for now I make friends with birders who have scopes :)

How do you keep track of your bird observations? And why?

I use an Excel spreadsheet, and keep track of my overall lifelist, Idaho lifelist, and Idaho yearlist. Though maybe I shouldn’t admit this publicly, I’ve also started keeping a “poop list”…which is exactly what it sounds like: a list of (currently 50) bird species that I have seen poop :) And that basically answers the ‘why’ about my list keeping too: I do it for fun!

In your bird chasing around the state this year, what birding location do you think has the most untapped potential?

My first week of work this summer was doing nighttime surveys for Flammulated Owls with Jay and the owl crewmembers Matt and Jack. We did surveys in the Owyhee Mountains, Black Pine Mountains and the South Hills, among other areas, and I felt that these were great places to bird that I hadn’t heard a lot about before. I saw my Lifer: Virginia’s Warblers and Gray-headed Juncos in the Black Pine Mountains; Black-throated Gray Warblers, Plumbeous Vireos, and Green-tailed Towhees in the Owyhees; and the South Hills Crossbills, Fox Sparrows and a Blue Grosbeak in the South Hills! (Other birders also found Indigo Buntings during an annual survey of the South Hills this year). If you made me pick just one location I’d say the South Hills.

What is your favorite bird sighting and what is the story behind it?

Hmmm, well I have a TON of favorite bird sightings from the past year, so instead of choosing from those, I’ll pick one that people haven’t read about on the blog this year.

One Saturday morning in early spring when I was in 5th grade, there had just been a big thunderstorm and I was in my kitchen watching the Waxwings in a fruit tree and a Flicker eating ants. Within about half an hour of watching these birds, I had spotted: a male Western Tanager, a Steller’s Jay, and a Blue Jay! All three were species I’d never seen before, and it was exciting to sit at the window with my mom and look them up in my field guide; and we even got a video of the Blue Jay! (If only I’d known then that it would still be the only Blue Jay I’ve ever seen in Idaho!) My mom and I theorized that the storm has something to do with all these crazy birds being in our yard…little did we know! It was a fun sighting for me because it was the first time I really remember searching through a guide to ID a bird, and it was also the first time I ever wondered about things like bird migration.

Which is your favorite field guide?

I like the Big Sibley guide.

What future birding plans do you have?

Right now I’m most excited about getting to go to Kenya in January for a BSU class on African Raptor Ecology!!

What is your nemesis bird?

In general I’ve been pretty lucky in finding the species I’ve really gone searching for….plus I don’t know that I’ve been seriously birding long enough to have a true nemesis bird. :)
My nemesis yearbird is actually Gray Partridge! (eBird map for Idaho) It’s a species that Jay has seen for our yearlist competition that I haven’t….and to make it worse, Jay saw two fly in front of the truck this summer while I was looking down typing points into the GPS unit!

Anything about your family you’d like to share with us?

Well…I live with my parents and my two younger brothers. They all enjoy outdoor things like hiking and camping, and also birding when I can point out a cool bird to them. And I love when they come to visit me working at IBO. They’ve also learned when to expect me home from a day of birding: if I’m two hours away, I’ll be home 2 hours after dark!

Any funny birding experiences you could tell us?

This summer while doing work in the Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley, Jay and I headed up to Rainbow Creek, the next site for our point counts. For these counts, we had to leave my car at a campground and backpack in with our supplies to our starting point. After cooling our feet in a mountain stream, we sat down on a log for dinner. I noticed some little green poops on the log, and Jay said they were probably grouse poo. Then while setting up camp for the night, we were clearing sticks and rocks and heard 2 clacking noises from near the road. It sounded like a rock hitting something, but neither of us had thrown a rock over there. We peeked around the trees onto the road, and there we got our first glimpse of the guy we dubbed ‘Jacques’ the Spruce Grouse! And he was NOT happy to see us! Apparently we were setting up camp next to his favorite strutting logs, and he was trying to scare us away from them :) I was able to get really close to him as he continued to clack his wings and display at us. He even came toward me a few times! As I set up my tent, he flew to the tree right above me and sat watching. From inside my tent just before dark, I could see Jacques displaying on the ‘dinner log’: puffing up and fanning his tail. He was such a beautiful bird, a lifer, and he was so silly!

What are your other interests outside of birding?

I pretty much don’t do anything that’s not at least a little bit nerdy :) I’m really interested in biology and other organisms in general, not just birds. Right now I’m taking entomology, and am having a ton of fun working on my insect collection! I enjoy doing anything outdoors and also like reading a good novel (when I have the time) or watching a good movie with friends. This semester I’m also having fun learning to do some data analysis, and enjoy checking out the Lucky Peak banding data; just the other day I found out we recaptured an 8 year old MacGillivray’s Warbler!

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