Saturday, October 31, 2009

Birding Laughs #3

When I lived in Mesa, Arizona, we weren't too far from Red Mountain and the Salt River and some great recreational areas. Granite Reef Recreation was just five minutes north of my home and a favorite spot for getting started in bird watching.

One Saturday morning I headed out as the sun rose. I was surprised to see a couple of vehicles in the parking lot already as I usually had the place to myself.

"Probably a couple of early riser fishermen" I supposed.

I headed up river on a little game trail, ducking under the overgrown thorny Mesquite trees, trying to avoid whipping myself in the face with salt brush. I heard some sound coming from the other side of a large bush just ahead of me. Perhaps it was an Abert's Towhee scratching at the ground. Very stealthily I crept around the bush to sneak up on it without spooking it.

As I rounded the bush, to my utter shock and dismay I had come upon two adult plumage-less homosapien bipeds mating canine style.

"Pardon me!" I squeaked out as I turned away from the scene before me.

As I scampered off as quickly as I was able, I could hear the attractive golden-crowned double-breasted hip-swinger complaining vociferously to the drab male about his choice of location for their little outdoor rendezvous.

I was embarrassed for them and for myself, though I'm still chuckling...nervously.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Where have they been?

Last week I had a post about where my favorite spring and summer birds are now. Today I'm asking, where have my favorite winter birds been all summer. Here is what I've discovered:

White-crowned Sparrow - these cute sparrows can be found summering in Northern Idaho and Montana, but are more typically found in the cooler north of Canada and Alaska. They must like it cold!

Dark-eyed Junco - I have seen Juncos in the mountains during the summer in the areas near Idaho City, and will spend the summer in similar mountain and forested areas where the temperatures tend to be cooler. These guys do like Canada and Alaska's climate during the warmer months in the States.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets - while they are occasionaly seen around here during the summer, they too like the cooler mountain climates during the summer and are found across Alaska and Canada.

Red Crossbills - these pine seed eaters can actually be found from central Canada all they way into Central America year round. From my experience, they like the cooler mountain areas and are seen more frequently in the Treasure Valley during the winter. Cementeries with large spruce trees with lots of pine cones are great places to see Crossbills. Keep you eye out for Crossbills with white wing bars. Last year we had many winter sightings of White-winged Crossbills at Canyon Hill Cemetery in Caldwell.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Avimor Right Now

2nd snow of the season. Growing up in this area as kid, it always seemed to snow on Halloween night. I guess with all the global warming, the snow came a week early!

Up on the roof

I have just about wet myself twice this week! Walking out of my house to go to work just before sunrise, a Great Horned Owl dives off his perch on my roof...scaring me to death. After my initial fright, I am quickly restored to my natural fascination; admiring the coolness of a Great Horned Owl wanting to use my roof from which to hunt. All I ask is that it not leave its white-wash and sticky pellets.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: National Geographic Field Guide

National Geographic: Field Guide to the Birds of North America

I picked up this field guide after about a year of really being into birding. I was advised by many other birders to have at least one other field guide to compare and contrast when trying make a tricky identification. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America has been my go-to field guide for the last five years, but because I tend to lose my field guides so frequently out in the field, the Nat-Geo field guide has steadily served as a solid back-up.

The cover picture shown above is of the 5th edition. I actually have had a copy of the 4th edition. I have seen that the 5th edition sports thumb tabs, which is a nice touch. There may be other changes to the 5th edition that may make some of my comments below irrelevant. Please bear with me as I free-form ramble about my thoughts of the advantages and disadvantages of the Nat-Geo Field Guide.

The cover of this guide is a glossy card stock with a plastic coating intended to help it weather the weather. It has for the most part, but the plastic is starting to separate a bit. Other field guides come with a more vinyl-type covering that seems a little more durable.

I like the thumbnail-sized range maps for each of the species next to its entry. The maps do show state/province boundaries which I prefer. The species are listed in taxonomic order which is pretty much standard anymore. Some field guides list birds by similar shape, size, or color, which may work for some, but drives me nuts.

The artistic renderings of the birds is quite good. In my early days of birding, I thought it was too busy for my eye, too much detail, especially compared to Sibley. Sibley's guidebooks when compared side-by-side are very focused on highlighting the differentiating features. Sibley intentionally leaves the non-essential parts of the birds somewhat washed out in his paintings. With a little more birding experience under my belt, the detailed artistic renderings in Nat-Geo are actually quite impressive.

The descriptive paragraph is pretty standard, giving information about the physical appearance of males, females, and juveniles. It includes song/call onomatopoeia and a mention of range and frequency. I still prefer the Sibley layout overall with the horizontal line separating the species as it lends to a more simple and intuitive feel. The plates with multiple species paintings laid out on them often felt too busy for me. To its credit, Nat-Geo does appear to show a few more plumage variations than does Sibley's.

I like Nat-Geo's "Quick-find" Index in the back. I just wish it was the very last page rather than being found just before the artists' credits. Sibley's Quick Index is in very back and made of card-stock paper. Because it is a different paper type it is really easy to find quickly, as it should be. The regular index in Nat-Geo is user-friendly enough and also includes check boxes for you to mark which species you have seen. This must be a throw-back to the days before eBird where the average birder kept his life list in his field guide. It almost seems unnecessary in my world now, but I am certain there are lots of birders out there that still like this feature.

Price: as low as $9 + shipping online

So my overall recommendation on the National Geographic's Field Guide to the Birds of North America is that every birding should have a copy of least as a back-up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Let it Snow!

Avimor is getting its first snow of the season right now. Bring on the winter birding!

My lunch-time walk revealed that American Kestrels, Northern Flickers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, and White-crowned Sparrows aren't afraid of a little snow flurry.

Eagle Informer...bird feature

For those folks living in the 83616 zip code in Eagle, Idaho, you are likely familiar with the monthly mailer called the Eagle Informer. It's a nice little community news and calendar magazine. The editor has asked me to provide her with a featurette on birdwatching in the area. She was tipped-off to my birding passion by my event submittals for the Avimor Bird Walks and she discovered this birding blog.

This month's edition will have a little section I wrote up about some fun ways to attract wild birds to your backyard along with some tips about which birds you are likely to see at your feeder during the late fall and winter.

If you live outside of the 83616 zip code, you can pick up a copy of the Eagle Informer at Rembrandt's Coffee House on Eagle Rd. in downtown Eagle on October 31st. This month's cover will feature Idaho's State Bird, the Mountain Bluebird.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quick Observation!

Tonight on my walk home from work, I noticed a Northern Flicker whipping from roof top to roof top. I had never seen this type of behavior so I stopped a second and watched it through my binoculars (yes, I carry my binoculars with me just about everywhere...and yes, it is nerdy).

The flicker was gleaning Box Elder Bugs off the roofs and chowing down on them. This time of year, invasions of Box Elder Bugs are pretty common.
I'm no avian biologist, but I can tell you with certain confidence that Flickers have no sense of taste. How can I make such a bold scientific statement? Today we had a Box Elder Bug in our sales office and I squished it in a tissue and threw it away in the trash basket under my desk. With in seconds the smell of Box Elder Bug guts was so overwhelming I had to get it out of the room. If it smelled that bad, logic has it that it would taste worse.

Idaho Birder: Jim Holcomb

Jim Holcomb
Nampa, ID
How and when did you get your start in birding?

It seems that I have always been interested in birds, growing up in rural Michigan with woods and lakes a big part of my childhood memories. It wasn't until my junior year in college in 1961 and after completing a course in ornithology that I began keeping a list of birds seen.

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

In April and May I go looking for birds 3-4 times a week. During the rest of the year it is less frequent, but I try to get our at least once a week.

Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge is the place I go most frequently as it is just a few miles from home. If I only have a couple of hours, I go to Wilson Spring Ponds in Nampa.

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

Deer Flat NWR is my favorite place in Idaho.

My favorite place in the U.S. is extreme southeast North Carolina along the Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean.

Do you have any secret birding hotspots that may be yet unknown to Idaho birders that you would finally be willing to share with us?

No secret hotspots, but a new area of interest for me is the sagebrush desert of Owyhee County and its riparian zones.

How would you describe yourself as a birder? A "watcher", a "lister", both, or something else?

I think I am equally both a bird watcher and a lister. I keep a life list, state lists for 4 states and a year list. The year list helps motivate me to get outdoors for a walk, hike or a drive to places where I can find birds.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

I carry my Nikon 60x20-40 spotting scope almost everywhere I go. I have learned to appreciate the fine detail of a bird as seen through a spotting scope. I also have Nikon Monarch 8x42 binoculars.

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

I keep a small spiral notebook of all my bird outings which consists mostly of the bird list, but also of other interesting observations. I do this to support my formal bird lists, to establish dates and places when/where I might look for the birds in a subsequent years, and for reliving some great birding times.

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

There are lots of favorite sightings such a the first time seeing the Snowy Owl, the Painted Bunting and the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, but an awesome sighting was one which occurred here in Idaho on the Snake River. I was participating in a goose nest survey on the Snake River islands with US Fish & Wildlife Service and went ashore on one island which had a dense growth of mature trees and brush. Not until I stepped on the shore did I notice it was rookery and densely populated with all of our herons and egrets including Cattle Egrets and more than 400 Black-crowned Night-Herons. It was a scene one might better expect in the tropics and one that left me breathless.

Your experience at the rookery is amazing. How can folks sign up to participate in survey's with US Fish & Wildlife?

To volunteer for the goose nest survey at the refuge, people need to be registered as a volunteer with Deer Flat NWR. The refuge has an extensive volunteer program which includes many activities such as wood duck nest box maintenance, staffing the Visitor Center on Saturdays, doing weed control, doing youth educational activities, etc. The refuge has an email newsletter which it distributes regularly and anyone who is interested can call the refuge at 208-467-9278 to be placed on the list and then will know when various volunteer opportunities exist.

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

My favorite guide is the National Geographic Birds of North America. The drawings are large, artistic, and the text has more information than identification.

What do you have in your home library birding reference set?

My first bird guide was a 1961 printing of Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds (Eastern) which I still enjoy looking through, and my references include the 1957 Audubon Bird Guide 3 book set, several of the Bent books in the life history series (reprints from the 30's and 40's), most of the contemporary bird guides, several special guides such as for warblers, shorebirds and hawks, several state guides to birdsing, Sibley's Guide to Bird Life and Behavior and the National Geographic Reference Atlas to the Birds of North America.

Your 1961 Peterson guide is now selling for $300 as a collectors item. I'm sure your other books have similar values.

I think each of my old bird guides or references had a role in my developing interest and activities with bird watching, they are kind of milestones. One book on my shelf, Bird Guide Land Birds East of the Rockies, goes back in my family two generations. It is a small leather covered pocket sized book (6"x3") published in 1905 and written by Chester A. Reed. About the Ivory-billed Woodpecker it says the range " now confined to a few isolated portions of Florida and, possibly, Indian Territory."

(Free electronic versions of this Chester Reed Bird Guide are available here online)

Do you have any formal bird-related education background?

I studied wildlife management at Mich. State Univ., to include courses in zoology, waterfowl science, ornithology, and several botany and ecology courses which give bird observations meaning as they establish a context.

What is/was your career?

I was a park ranger with the National Park Service, with the privilege of working in places likeYellowstone, Crater Lake and Yosemite.

If a fellow birder had a question about a bird, do you consider yourself an expert (or at least proficient) on any specific family of birds?

Proficient with most North American birds except Empidonax Flycatchers and immature gulls and sea birds.

Any other thoughts on the past-time of birding? What do your foresee in the future of birding?

The computer and the internet has drasticaly changed bird watching and birding. There is such a vast wealth of bird information and pictures on the internet along with information on good places to bird. Many more people are seeing more unusual birds because of the bird alerts, maintaining their interest in wildlife and strengthing the national voice for the preservation of wildlife habitat.

With all this new technology, do you see a down side or negative affects on the bird watching hobby? Birding associations?

Yes, there is a down side to bird watching with the current computer technology. There are so many more very mobile birders now and when a rare bird is found or its in season at one of the eastern or southwestern birding meccas, the number of birders which come almost trample the birds, certainly creating more stress for the bird. With birding associations, the new technology has given birders more independence to do individual birding, with less dependence on bird clubs for education and group bird watching.

Are you involved with any local or national birding organizations?

Board member of Southwestern Idaho Birders Assoc. and member of Golden Eagle Audubon Soc.

I know you volunteer a lot of time at Deer Flat. Can you share with us your history and involvement there?

I started volunteering at Deer Flat NWR about 9 years ago when I noticed that the Wood Duck nest boxes on the north side of Lake Lowell were in poor condition and it seemed no one was looking after them. Inquiring about them with the refuge staff, I learned that no one was maintaining them and I volunteered to do the job. Other volunteer opportunities came along about the same time to help with the goose nest survey and the waterfowl banding projects. Deer Flat NWR has one of the nicest Visitor Centers in the refuge system, but it was noticed that the staff was too small to keep the center open on the weekends. The Southwestern Idaho Birders Association formed a small pool of volunteers and the refuge management gave us the job of staffing the Visitor Center on Saturdays. That was several years ago, and the birding group is still doing it. My other current volunteer activity at the refuge is to present a wildlife education program to brownies and cub scouts on Scout Day (1st Sat. each month). I am a member of the Friends of the Wildlife Refuge which works to support the refuge in clean-ups, special occasions and at Canyon Co. public hearings regarding land development along the refuge boundary.

What is your nemesis bird?

My nemesis bird changes every couple of years, the last one being the American Bittern which was finally seen in 2008 at Malheur NWR. (eBird map of American Bittern sightings in Idaho and neighboring states in the last five years)

My new nemesis bird is the Pinyon Jay. (eBird map of Pinyon Jay sightings in Idaho and neighboring states in the last five years)

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

My wife Beverly enjoys bird watching, but not too much. After a few hours she is ready to hunker down with a book. Our two grown sons live in the east and it is nice to see them develop an interest in birding as much as their busy schedules allow.

As a life-long Scouter myself and boy who practically grew up on the edge of Lake Lowell and now as a birder, thank you so much for all that you have done and are still doing Jim!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In the beginning...Reflections on my birding addiction

I was recently reflecting on my interest in birds and I realized that my passion actually started earlier than just a few years ago.

Back in my days at Lincoln Elementary School in Nampa, Idaho, when we had library time, I recall checking out the Audubon bird guides at least once a month along with my other enduring favorite, the Guiness Book of World Records. Mrs. Johnson wouldn't let me check them out more often than once a month as I was supposed to be reading "real" books. I loved to peruse the pictures and explanations about the birds. The facts about which bird was the fastest, traveled the farthest, or laid the most eggs fascinated me. My parents also subscribed to National Geographic and I read that magazine from cover to cover.

At the end of the summer of 2001, my wife and baby boy and I stopped off at my uncle's home in Cedar City, Utah. We stayed a couple of nights with them as we were on our move back to Provo after my summer internship with Pulte Homes in Las Vegas. My uncle had several bird feeders up with a variety of seed and a really nice bird bath pond. We sat out in that backyard almost all day and he pointed out the variety of species we were seeing. I only remember him talking about the Pine Siskins, but I'll never forget how much I enjoyed the relaxation and the thrill of seeing wildlife so up close and personal.

That all led up to that Sunday afternoon when my bird-brained father-in-law handed me a pair binoculars and said, let's go for a walk....It all went downhill from there!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Birding Laughs #2

A couple of years ago I took my family out one morning to the Old Fort Boise to see the Spring migration of tens of thousands of Snow Geese. The Snow Geese weren't cooperating that morning, so we drove around on the dirt roads in the area to see what other birds and wildlife we could see.

There were two large trees overhanging the road ahead of us chuck-full of Cedar Waxwings. Hoping to pick out some possible Bohemian Waxwings, I pulled up underneath of the tree and opened my sunroof for a better view. Big mistake! Suddenly it started to rain, but it wasn't water. Some of the grossest bird droppings I had ever seen fell into our hair and all over, inside and out, of the family minivan. My wife was not well pleased.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: The Encyclopedia of North American Birds

I have to admit up front that I bought this book at a second hand book store and it was on the discount table there. It was about birds and it was cheap, so I had to buy it! I've never heard any one recommend this book as a "must-have", but I'd like to highlight a few advantages and disadvantages about this book.

1. It has great photography! Some of the shots are simply amazing and capture the birds in a variety of profiles and life situations. The photography is so good that I consider this more of a coffee table book rather than guidebook or an identification toolbook. Its a large book with a hard cover like coffee table books generally are. Some of the birds it lists and describes don't have a companion photo which disappoints a little. Since I don't consider it a guide book, I'm okay that it doesn't have photos of multiple variations of each species.

2. The book is organized in taxonomic order which is always nice. Some common North American species are missing from its pages and I don't know why.

3. It has range maps with each photographed bird. I love range maps and maps in general. I used to pin up the National Geographic maps on my bedroom walls and ceiling as a boy. My only complaint about the range maps in this book is that they don't show state/province boundaries which are often very helpful. Another pet peeve I just have to get off my chest...I hereby call upon all range map makers to establish a uniform range map color coding system!

4. Each bird has a blocked out section with the scientific name, the size, the habitat, ID info, and comparisons to similar species. This is followed by an encyclopedia style paragraph about the bird including info about nesting and other behaviors. All great info, but not my go-to source for this kind of information.

My recommendation: Michael Vanner has put together the perfect book to have around the house for kids to pick up out of curiosity and hopefully prompt a lifetime of interest in birds.

Price: new and used online for very low prices.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Birding Blogosphere

There have been some really great birding blog posts recently. Below are some links that I encourage you to check out.

Bill Schiess' Wild in Idaho blog always has interesting articles and cool photography. Check out this post on Cedar Waxwings.

If you haven't been following the fun and friendly competition between IBO's Hiedi and Jay, then you've been missing out. But, you can certainly catch up by reading their blog. They are trying to see as many Idaho species as they can in 2009 and they are very close to 300. We can help them out by reporting anything you might see on their updated wish list. You can also keep up with their awesome updates from the Idaho Bird Observatory blog.

Greg Gillson is the Pacific Northwest Backyard Birder whose blog features his own amazing photography. About once a week he highlights a specific bird. This one is on the Mountain Chickadee.

Bill Thompson III is the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest and has a great blog that occasionally features silly contests. Create the caption for a garden gnome peering through a spotting scope.

I just discovered this well-written blog this week from Idaho's neighbor to the south, Utah. Check out Melissa's Backyard Birds Utah blog.

Other great blogs that I follow are listed in the right-hand column of my blog. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Field Guide Review: Sparrows of the United States and Canada

Are you ready to take your birding to the next level? Then spend some time getting to know your LBJ's (little brown jobbers) by investing in the book Sparrows of the United States and Canada: A Photographic Guide.
No field guide less than a foot thick could ever show all the possible variations of birds, but for sparrows, this book comes awfully close.
I have been using it recently to learn the subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-crowned Sparrows. A recent sighting of a White-throated Sparrow in the Boise area sent me running to this book to learn all about them.
The layout of the book is fantastic and the photography is excellent. My compliments to compilers David Beadle and James Rising. This is a must have reference book for every serious birder.
Price: As low as $18 online.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where are they now?

As I briskly walked along Spring Valley enjoying the crisp coolness of this Autumnal morning and seeing very few birds, I admit that I longed for the flashes of color common to Spring and Summer birds. I started wondering, where are my favorite Spring-Summer birds right now?

Our general understanding since our tender-minded youth is that birds go South for the winter. But now I ask, how far and where in the south do they go? With some quick online research, here is what I've discovered about winter residences for Idaho's summer birds.

Swainson's Hawk - these guys travel more than 6200 miles south to central Argentina where the seasons are opposite of ours. Ahhhh...perpetual summer! But, traveling 124 per day to get there over a couple of months would be grueling.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - the west coast of central and lower Mexico make for a nice winter retreat.

Western Wood-Pewee - Make a west coast trending crescent starting in Venezuela, through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and part way into Bolivia.

Say's Phoebe - a jaunt to the Southwestern United States or about anywhere in Mexico works well enough.

Western Kingbird - the west coast of southern Mexico and Central America, right down to the Panama Canal. Some winter residents even show up on the southern tip of Florida.

Eastern Kingbird - it looks like these guys migrate down the east coast of Central America and winter in a central swath of South America from its northern tip down to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Sorry Eastern Kingbirds for you!

Bank Swallow - Throughout South America; also common along Pacific slope of southern Mexico.

Gray Catbird - Ahhh...these guys know how to have a good time in the winter as they hang out on the Gulf Coast of the United States, along the Gulf of Mexico, all the way down to the northern most tip of Colombia, and across all the Caribbean islands. Nice!

Yellow Warbler - the west coast of southern Mexico and throughout Central America and the northern countries of South America. They have even been known to winter in the Arizona, Nevada, California border corner.

Yellow-breasted Chat - both coasts of southern Mexico and throughout Central America.

Western Tanager - central Mexico through most of Central America, but thinning out by Nicaragua.

Black-headed Grosbeak - a winter and year round resident in Mexico.

Lazuli Bunting - a little strip of south-central Arizona down along the west coast of Mexico.

Brown-headed Cowbird - in winter they head for the US west coast, toward the eastern states, or down into Mexico.

Bullock's Oriole - throughout most of Mexico.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Idaho Birder: Mike Munts

This is a weekly blog segment, posted on Monday's, profiling Idaho's best or at least most enthusiastic birders. I hope you enjoy learning about your fellow Idaho Birders as much as I do. If you have recommendations for Idaho Birders that I should interview for future features or even more stimulating questions to pose, please e-mail me by clicking on "Ask the Avimor Bird Guy" in the right column of this blog page.

Mike Munts
Arco, Idaho

Mike Munts birding at Iron Bog Lake, on the Challis National Forest

How and when did you get your start in birding?

I started out college in a pre-veterinary program. I was in interested in doing zoo medicine and started hanging out folks in wildlife biology. I started working with a professor who was not only an excellent ornithologist but an avocational birder. Next thing I knew I was studying Great Gray Owls and chasing birds all around SW Idaho. Then the change to wildlife biology.

Do you have any formal bird-related education background?

I have an MS in Wildlife Biology with an emphasis in Avian Biology.

Where did you do your undergrad and graduate schooling?

BS in Biology at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa. MS in Wildlife Biology at University of Montana.

What is your career?

I do wildlife biology with the National Park Service. If you watch PBS, we're the folks Ken Burns just spent 12 hours on.

How long have you been birding in Idaho?

Since college which for me was mid 1980's.

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

I only occasionaly go birding. I will go almost anywhere and see birds. Anytime I am outside I am always on the lookout for wildlife, especially birds. So where do I do regular birding: everywhere I go. I live in Arco which is the interface of the Rocky Mountains and the ecological Great Basin. As many readers will know I work in national parks, so I am able to do some birding almost daily at work even if only from my office window.

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

In Idaho that's tough question. I have birded all 44 counties in the last several years and they are so many great places. Craters of the Moon where I work is simply an amazing place for birds although is virtually unknown. I also have a fondness for the panhandle where I grew up. Pend Oreille Lake and Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge and other sites on the Selkirk Birding Loop are certainly among my north Idaho favorites.

In the US: the Chiricahuas in SE Arizona, Redwood and Olympic National Parks on the coast, the Yukon stretch of the Alaska highway and my favorite areas. Yes I know the Yukon is in Canada, but it is on the way to Alaska.

The world: for birding and other wildlife watching Mount Field and Port Alberni National Parks in Tasmania.

You are certainly well traveled. Is the travel due to your role in the National Park Service or personal travel?

Both. Besides Craters I have worked at Olympic National Park in Washington and I have short assignments at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Pinnacles National Monument (Condor country) and Klondike Goldrush National Historical Park in Alaska. I have also traveled extensively throughout the Western US and southwestern Canada. Mostly for fun.

Do you have any secret birding hotspots that may be yet unknown to Idaho birders that you would finally be willing to share with us?

Craters of the Moon and City of Rocks are both impressive birding sites that are virtually unknown. For example Craters was recently designated and Important Bird Area of global significance.

Where are the best places at Craters of the Moon to see birds? I stopped there in April or May when the loop had just barely opened for the season. I had my wife and kids, so birding was not my primary focus, but I don't recall seeing many birds. I didn't actually drive the full loop either, so I figure I missed the best spots.

Depends what time of year what one wants to see and how much time one has. Waterfowl can be found at the Lava Lake overlook on the highway. The Carey Springs marsh is good for wetland birds like rails, Marsh Wrens, and Yellowthroats. The Loop Road has the densest concentrations of Mountain Bluebirds in Idaho and possibly in the world! Areas like the Sunset Flow have high concentrations of sage brush obligates with the highest counts of birds like Brewer's Sparrows and Sage Thrashers in Idaho. Trails like Broken Top, Tree Molds and Devil's Orchard have high numbers of migrants in season. Devil's Orchard has several dozen Common Nighthawks that roost next to the trail with excellent views. For shear diversity the Little Cottonwood Creek day use area is superb in spring and summer. Most of the park is wilderness and one is willing to backpack many jewels can be found in the back country.
Craters of the Moon - Loop Rd Map

Do you ever organize guided bird tours at the National Parks?

Because I am on the science side of the National Parks, that wouldn't be a normal part of my job. However, I do organize the Craters CBC
and International Migratory Bird Day program. I have also done walks with the local Audubon chapters on my own time.

How would you describe yourself as a birder? A “watcher”, a “lister”, both, or something else?
Since I am trained in ornithology and behavior I do a lot watching. On the other hand I know exactly what my life list count is and what the last lifer was. So a fair amount of both.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

Vortex binos and Nikon fieldscope, Ford Ranger 4x4 (you have to get where the birds are)

Good point about the 4x4. There are many places in Idaho I wouldn't be able to bird without mine.

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

I use a software package called Birder's Diary. For me it is far away the best commercial product out there. The reason I prefer this one is that it can use almost any type of taxonomic list out there. I currently use it to record observations of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, dragonflies, trees, cacti, mushrooms, trees, wildflowers, and fish. Yes I have a life list of wild cactus.

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

Only one, I'm not sure I can narrow it down. My first Great Gray Owl, my first Spotted Owl, Wonga Pigeon (lifer # 500) all come to mind. I think I will go with my first drake Harlequin Duck. I was in college and we were on field trip to the Oregon coast. First the camaraderie of the class then the amazing color of the bird that was when I was hooked.

Which birding publications, websites, blogs do you read and recommend?

Too many to list. Ible, the Bird Guide websites. David Sibley's web site is fantastic for ID information. Cornell Laboratory Of Ornithology's web site is incredible. Birder's World is a great little magazine which is not as popular as several better known titles but is great resource. On the more technical side journals like the Journal of Field Ornithology, Western Birds, Northwest Naturalist are some of my favorites.

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

Sibley's North American Guide is the one I carry. David's paintings are amazing and is book is one of the most well researched. For a digital guide, I use Thayer’s Birds of North America. It’s great software package. It has a quiz feature and the song features are great. When I need to practice or study for survey work this is what I use.

What do you have in your home library birding reference set?

Too many to list. (Mike wasn't kidding. He did later send me a list and it is about a page and half long. I'm jealous.) A quick count of my bookshelf has at almost 50 bird titles. Some favorites would have to be National Geographic and Kaufman's field guides. The specialty guides in the Peterson series including Hawks, Warblers, and Advanced Birding. The new all of North America Peterson's Guide, Paulson's Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest, Hawks in Flight by Dunne and Sibley, A rather unknown book I use is A guide to Nest, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds by Baicich and Harrison which is great book.

I also have a pretty good collection of technical and “gray literature”. Many readers may not familiar with the term gray literature. This refers to very large body of primarily agency publications. While frequently free and available online as pdf documents, most are not widely circulated.

Journals on my shelf include the Auk, Journal of Field Ornithology, the Condor, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Northwest Naturalist, Western North American Naturalist, The Journal of Wildlife Management.

Did I mention I read a lot?

If a fellow birder had a question about a bird, do you consider yourself an expert (or at least proficient) on any specific family of birds?

I have dabbled in a number of things but much of my experience is with owls and coniferous forest passerines and woodpeckers.

Any other thoughts on the past-time of birding? What do your foresee in the future of birding?

It's a great past-time and a great excuse to get out of the house and into nature. Even if you live in large city like Boise or Salt Lake there are city parks, greenbelts, and even your own backyard. Birding has a bright future and unlike many hobbies has the ability to contribute to our collective knowledge of the world through citizen science programs like the CBC, BBS, Cornell's Ebird and many others. These programs can and do make a difference every day.

What is your nemesis bird?

Boreal Owl. I have spent years surveying forest owls. I have gone to known active breeding territories, I have accompanied Forest Service staff on survey to known sites. If I'm there it will be the only night all season they won't get them. (eBird map of rarely reported Boreal Owl sightings)

Any funny birding experiences you could tell us?

Of course, but then the other victims might never speak to me again. Let alone find me that Boreal Owl.

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about?

When I was seasonal employee at Olympic National Park we had Northern Spotted Owls nesting in the back yard and Harlequin Ducks in the front. It's dirty job but somebody had to do it.

Thanks Mike! Keep up those IBLE posts about all the great birds in your neck of the woods.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Product Review: birdJam

birdJam is a software program that organizes Stokes bird songs into a user-friendly system for iPods. I found that with a little manipulation I could load the software on my Zune player. The main purpose for this software is to help you learn bird song on the go. It can also be used to identify the bird sounds you hear in the field. One of the main uses of this tool, although no one wants to publicly admit it as the ethics of such are still being debated, is to call the birds using their own calls in for easy viewing. Rather than continue that debate here, please adhere to the birdJam Ethics.
The software works great! It is so easy to use on the iPod and the loading was not even that difficult for a somewhat tech-savvy guy like myself.
Price: Ranges greatly depending on the iPod you want to purchase. You can buy the software as well as the bird song CD's a la carte to customize it to your wants and needs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Downy vs. Hairy Woodpecker

We've been raking machines the last couple of days preparing the ground to be seeded with native plants and then hydro-mulched to give the seeds a good healthy chance. This afternoon I spent several hours down at Foothills Heritage Park raking away. And let me tell ya...this desk jockey body of mine is not in any kind of shape to do prolonged manual labor. I'll be paying for it for a few days.

A little Downy Woodpecker didn't seem to mind me being there and hung out on the low willows within just a few feet of me. A half hour later another woodpecker came flying in and landed on a nearby tree. It had the same color pattern as the Downy but was much larger and had a different call. I grabbed my binoculars which I had close at hand just for such an occasion. I noticed this larger woodpecker had a bill that was about as long as its head. Sweet! A Hairy Woodpecker. Another Avimor first and only the second I've seen in Idaho. Within minutes I had both the Hairy and Downy on the same tall snag which gave me awesome side-by-side comparisons. I wish I had a camera as this was the perfect teaching moment to learn how to distinguish the two very similar looking species. Below are some pictures I borrowed from a Google Image search. Because they are photos you won't be able to compare their overall sizes, but using the notes I made above, can you tell which is which?

Answer: Hairy is the top picture. Bill length is the strongest feature difference in a photo.

Product Review: iMainGo2 portable speaker

I purchased the iMainGo2 portable speaker system to go along with my Zune MP3 player to enhance my BirdJam experience. The sound quality of this portable speaker is excellent. It is very simple to use and the battery life was better than expected. The plastic protective screen does not limit your ability to use your iPod or Zune. The structure of the case if durable and well padded, yet the unit fits easily into my paw. My only complaint is that in the cold weather the hot-glue used to secure the speaker broke loose. I'll have to figure out if I can disassemble the unit to resecure the speaker and restore the sound quality.

Price: $39.95 plus shipping when purchased online.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Avimor dressed in Autumn

A Great Blue Heron passed by my office window which is a rare treat up here in the foothills. I ran out with camera in hand knowing that it was heading for the Avimor Town Lake. Unfortunately the Heron spooked before I could get a picture, but the recent rains and fall foliage begged to be photographed.

I love the brilliance of this tree contrasting with the nest.
Autumn beauty surrounds Spring death. The egg shell remnants in the nest show evidence of a brutal raid and unsuccessful brood.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why I love Eagle Optics

Regular readers of this birding blog have learned that I love Eagle Optics. They don't even pay me to advertise for them. When I find a product or service of great value, I am happy to promote it. Here is my most recent experience that will keep me coming back to Eagle Optics to purchase my birding equipment:

My Eagle Optics Ranger SRT 8x42 binoculars broke. Well, at least the little neck-strap connection ring on the side broke. I had removed the neck strap that came with it and replaced it with the shoulder harness. The harness has a plastic clip that is just too large for the ring and the pressure finally snapped the ring.
Thanks to Eagle Optics Platinum Protection unlimited, unconditional lifetime warranty I sent in the binoculars and I got them back a week later. They not only fixed the ring, they added zip-ties and secondary rings to keep the pressure of the harness hook off of the main ring. I love it when people find long-term solutions to problems rather than putting a band-aid on it. They showed that they go the extra mile.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some cool mid-day birding

I went to visit my boss's new home in Meridian. Its on a two acre lot filled with all kinds of trees. The previous owner must have loved birds as the variety of trees supplies food for a variety of birds. Not to mention the corn and sunflower garden put in specifically for the birds. I'm told that he used to raise and release Ring-necked Pheasants and Chukar and that you can see them around the yard in the evening when they come into roost. There is even a small pond full of wild ducks.

Anyway, as I was walking up the drive I was so distracted by all the bird activity I barely spent any time walking through the home. There was so much bird activity that I got a little sensory overload and had to calm myself down and focus on one bird at time. The trees were teaming with American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, House Finches, House Sparrows, a couple of Warbler species, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and my favorite bird of the day...the cute little spectacled Cassin's Vireo. It was only my second time seeing them in Idaho and only my 4th or 5th time ever. I watched it for a long time as it ate bugs. I saw 16 species there in just a matter of minutes. What a great yard!

Since I was in town and I had a few minutes before the Building Contractors Association meeting, I popped over to the Hyatt Wetlands in Boise. This is a great little birding hotspot, but very under-birded. It has a few groves of trees, sage brush, and a shallow marsh and lake with great hill-top viewing sheds. There is a nice little trail all the way around the place. A great spot for wintering waterfowl and the site of my first ever Virginia Rail. The Hyatt Wetlands are off of Maple Grove, between Chinden and McMillan. There were 21 species there that I counted including Ring-billed Duck, Gadwalls, Pied-billed and Eared Grebes.

Bird Sighting of the Morning - alliterated poem

Great Horned Owl
Perched precariously on a puny pole.
Pitch-black profile
Perfectly propped against the
Pre-dawn light.

Monday, October 12, 2009

White-throated Sparrow in Boise

Thanks to Lew Ulrey's notification of the White-throated Sparrow feeding in his backyard I was able to drop by this afternoon and see it. Sometimes you go chasing a bird and it requires multiple attempts and lots of patience with no success. Other times, like today, you get an instant reward and satisfaction. Life Bird #312!

A beautiful and fairly common sparrow of the eastern United States, it is a rare treat in Idaho. Funny how bird interest is so localized. Folks are going crazy chasing a Swainson's Hawk in New York this week (story here), but here in Idaho they are very common during the summer.

Idaho Birder: Cliff Weisse

This is a weekly blog segment, posted on Monday's, profiling Idaho's best or at least most enthusiastic birders. I hope you enjoy learning about your fellow Idaho Birders as much as I do. If you have recommendations for Idaho Birders that I should interview for future features or even more stimulating questions to pose, please e-mail me by clicking on "Ask the Avimor Bird Guy" in the right column of this blog page.

This week's guest...
Cliff Weisse and Jay Carlisle, photo by Heidi Ware

Cliff Weisse
Island Park, ID

How and when did you get your start in birding?

I started casually looking at birds around the house in Island Park in winter of 1992-93. I can remember seeing some Pink-sided Juncos under my truck picking at the bare gravel in the driveway. They looked pretty drab but the cinnamon flanks were a real surprise when I looked through binoculars. A Red-naped Sapsucker just outside the window in April really piqued my interest. In May I went on a ten day trip to Missouri and caught warbler migration there. Those brightly colored spring birds were amazing. That's what really hooked me.

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

I visit Island Park Reservoir more than any other location. I also try to visit Camas NWR during migration and, to a lesser extent, Market Lake WMA. I spend a lot of time outside and I'm always paying attention to the birds around me so I guess you could say I bird almost every day year round.

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

Camas NWR during spring migration. I also enjoy birding New Jersey on annual trips to visit family in late winter or spring.

Do you have any secret birding hotspots that may be yet unknown to Idaho birders that you would finally be willing to share with us?

I don't really know any secret places. Island Park Reservoir is really underbirded and not well known but has produced excellent concentrations of waterfowl and shorebirds. While it doesn't get the huge numbers of birds seen at American Falls Reservoir it has hosted Red-throated and Yellow-billed Loons, Glossy Ibis, Mew, Glaucous-winged, Little and Sabine's Gulls, Long-tailed, Parasitic, and Pomarine Jaegers, Whimbrel, Hudsonian Godwit, Red Knot, and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. There's also a place near St. Anthony on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River that attracts good numbers of migrant songbirds in fall but it rarely gets birded. It's a fisherman's access locally known as "Seeley's". It's at the end of Fremont County 2950E. The last 1/4 mile of the road is along the river and there are thickets and large Cottonwoods that seem to hold migrants that are moving down the river. Profuse mayfly hatches on the river help too. I don't get there as often as I'd like but I've seen Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warbler, and Indigo Bunting among the regular migrants there.

How would you describe yourself as a birder? A “watcher”, a “lister”, both, or something else?

Both. I enjoy picking through warblers, gulls and shorebirds hoping to find something rare and I'll drive just about anywhere in the state to add a rarity to my Idaho list if time permits. But I also enjoy watching the feeders and just being out looking and listening to our regularly occurring birds. I often stand in one place for long periods of time when I'm out on walks or cross-country skiing and just soak in what's going on around me.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

Nikon Premier LX 10 x 42 binoculars and Swarovski 80mm HD scope with 20-60x eyepiece. I use a Bogen tripod with Manfrotto fluid head. I also have an old Olympus digital camera that I shoot photos with, mostly for documentation purposes and often through the spotting scope.

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

I use Thayer Birder's Diary for keeping track of sightings and I upload the data to eBird. I started keeping track of sightings just so I knew what I'd seen. Now I include nesting/breeding notes and other details about sightings. When I began birding seriously there were huge gaps in what was known about bird distribution/occurrence in the area where I live (Island Park/Latilong 16). I began adding more details to my sightings when I got interested in documenting bird distribution in my home area.

I too am a big advocate of eBird - Can you share with other Idaho Birders why you think eBird is important?

As simply as I can, eBird compiles millions of observations from birders around the world into a database that can be viewed by anybody. You don't have to be an expert or professional, anyone can enter data. As an individual, eBird provides a way for an amateur birder like myself to contribute my personal observations to the larger picture. It would be difficult to overstate the value of the eBird database.

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

Finding a male Hermit Warbler at Camas NWR. I'd been talking with friends about the possibilities at Camas and we all realized it was a good migrant trap that hadn't been thoroughly birded before. I was walking along and spotted Greg Rice so I went over to say hello. He pointed out that a Townsend's Warbler was singing high in a Cottonwood tree so I tried to find the bird with him. When I saw one move that looked right, I put up the binocs and saw a Hermit Warbler. I said something like "That's not a Townsend's, it's a &*!$@^* Hermit Warbler." Just then a bunch of birds blew out of the tree and we couldn't locate the bird, which Greg hadn't seen. I made some phone calls and Chuck Trost and Marty Collar showed up to help look for it. Hours later the bird was relocated close by and it stayed in a small area all day so many birders got to see it. I'd never found a first state record bird before and it was very exciting. Ironically, I'd made a prediction a few months before; "All the vagrant warblers on the accidental list for Malhuer NWR would eventually be recorded at Camas NWR, except for Hermit". The next really rare bird recorded at Camas was Hermit Warbler and Greg never let me forget that prediction.

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about?

The thing I find most satisfying is my contribution to the Idaho Latilong database for my home area. I've submitted somewhere around 150 status changes for species in Latilong 16. While a few of those have been for rare birds most were for regularly occurring species that had never been documented before. I feel like I've filled in one of the many gaps in our knowledge of bird distribution in Idaho.

Which birding publications, websites, blogs do you read and recommend?

I belong to American Birding Association and Western Field Ornithologists. Both have good publications that contain a lot of interesting and valuable information. I also use the latilong database on the web site on a regular basis and I highly recommend checking it out and making contributions when possible. It has graphic maps that illustrate statewide status for each species. I also visit all the time to check the email lists of other states/regions to keep track of what's being seen in neighboring states.

What areas of Idaho could use more contributions from Idaho Birders for the Latilong Database?

All areas of Idaho could use more coverage. A good rule of thumb is the less populated and more remote an area is, the less it gets birded. If you read the IBLE and Inland NW Birders email lists you get a pretty good idea which areas are being birded and which aren't. Or you could peruse the maps in the Latilong database to see if you can make a contribution for your latilong.

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

Big Sibley. I just find myself going to it more and more. Between the illustrations and limited amount of text it manages to give you the information you need to identify even difficult birds. I still use other field guides but I always grab my Sibley first.

What do you have in your home library birding reference set?

-Hawks in Flight, by David Sibley, Pete Dunn, and Clay Sutton
-Raptors of Western North America, by Brian K. Wheeler
-Hawks From Every Angle, by Jerry Ligouri
-Gulls (2nd Edition), by P.J. Grant
-Gulls of North America, Europe and Asia, by Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson
-Peterson's Gulls of The Americas, by Steve N. G. Howell and Jon Dunn
-Skuas and Jaegers, by Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson
-Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest, by Dennis Paulson
-Shorebirds of North America, by Dennis Paulson
-The Shorebird Guide, by Michael O'Brien, Richard Crossley, and Kevin Karlson
-Warblers, by Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett
-Hummingbirds of North America (Peterson), by Sheri L. Williamson
-Hummingbirds of North America, The Photographic Guide, by Steve N. G. Howell
-Guide to the Identification and Natural History of the Sparrows of the United States and Canada, by James D. Rising and David Beadle
-Bird Song Identification Made Easy, by Ernie Jardine
-Birding Basics, by David Sibley
-Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part 1, by Peter Pyle (part 2 will be my next purchase)
-Advanced Birding (Peterson), by Kenn Kaufman
-Birds of Idaho, by Thomas D. Burleigh
-The Sibley Guide to Birds, by David Sibley
-National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 2nd and 3rd editions
-Peterson Western Birds
-Peterson Eastern Birds
-Golden Field Guide
-Life Histories of North American Birds of Prey (parts 1 and 2), by Arthur Cleveland Bent

That is some library! Can you leave it to me in your will?!

If a fellow birder had a question about a bird, do you consider yourself an expert (or at least proficient) on any specific family of birds?

I don't consider myself an expert on any family of birds. I've studied gull identification more than any other family and I feel that I have a reasonably good handle on identification of North American species and hybrids.

Are you involved with any local or national birding organizations? If so, which ones?

I've been a member of the Idaho Bird Records Committee since 2006. I also review reports for eBird.

What is your nemesis bird?

What is your career?

I'm a flyfishing guide in summer and I tie flies (for fishing) all winter.

Along with birding and fly-fishing, do you have any other interests or hobbies that fill your time?

I enjoy cross-country skiing, hunting, gardening, and picking mushrooms. But I'm always birding when I'm outside regardless of what else I'm doing.

Keep up the great work Cliff and thanks for allowing us to learn a bit more about you!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Avimor Big Sit Report

With excited anticipation I barely slept through the night. I got up at 4:30am and made up some of my secret recipe gourmet hot chocolate. I layered up and headed over to Foothills Heritage Park and started the Big Sit a little early at 5:30am.

The sky was clear and the stars shone beautifully. The half moon was so bright that I didn't even need my flashlight. It was also surprisingly warm.

Today is the first day of open season for deer and the traffic of hunters going up highway 55 that early in the morning was considerable. A couple of them stopped to say hello.

I started playing owl calls and within minutes I had a Great Horned Owl in the tree just to my left. Very cool! I played other owl sounds for the next hour with no success.

At 6:40 am I was surprised to have a late migrating Killdeer calling while flying over. I have not seen any Killdeer in the last week. Perhaps today's was the last of the season.

The clouds started rolling in over the hills from the west and hid the stars and moon. The temperature started to drop quickly.

At 7:20 I started to hear the "whreee" of Spotted Towhee. At least three separate Spotted Towhee's would spend the morning with me. About this time my son, Kyle, showed up on his scooter to keep me company.

In rapid succession between 7:30 am and 8:30 am I observed in order of appearance:

White-crowned Sparrows - numerous all morning, but a noticeable lack of males.
Dark-eyed Juncos - numerous all morning with one text-book Slate-colored Junco.
Song Sparrows
Northern Flickers
Red-tailed Hawk (feeding on the flesh of something on top of the power pole which Kyle thought was pretty cool)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Robin
European Starling
American Kestrel
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Goldfinch
House Finch

At 8:45 a Downy Woodpecker showed up, but the Sun still had not. It was destined to be a cold and overcast morn.

Not until 9:30 did a Common Raven make itself known. Finally a chorus of Western Meadowlarks singing from the hills broke through the glume.

A Black-billed Magpie wafted over the hill whose call alerted me to its presence.

Then another hour passed without any new species. All morning long between sightings I played various bird calls with very little response. There were numerous species I thought I would likely see, but the cold caused a lack of bugs which meant a lack of birds and my growing frustration.

At 10:30 I decided to put the spotting scope on the roof-tops of the homes and I was rewarded with the final species of the day, a pair of Mourning Doves.

So that was my Big anti-climatic Sit! 20 total species. 8 short of the goal.

It was a cold and lonely morning. Just me, my 8-year-old son, and a few birds. The hot chocolate was good!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Avimor Big Sit! Goals

The goal for tomorrow's Big Sit! is 28 species of birds. Other locations in the state and around the world will likely see much more. The record for a Big Stay (or Big Sit) is 139 set by world famous birder Pete Dunne. It was set in May as part of the World Series of Birding, not on the official 2nd Sunday in October which is the Big Sit! (You can read about this story in Birder's World magazine here.)

Given our foothills location, the season and the every-day-colder weather, 28 species will be a challenge. Today I counted 14 species on an early morning and a mid-day visit at the site of our Big Sit!. This week I have seen 24 total species at the site.

Going the through the Avimor Bird Guide, I tallied 10 species that we are "almost certain" to see. Another half dozen are "probable" with around 30 that I would consider "possible". Of course there are a hundred species that would be classified as "possible, but not likely". After seeing a Northern Shrike yesterday, I like our chances of attaining the lofty goal of 28 total species.

Book Review: The Idaho Bird Guide: what, where, when

Are you planning a birding trip in Idaho? Do you want to know the best places to see a particular species in Idaho? This is a must have guide book for every Idaho birder's road trip planning. Folks from out of state will enjoy Idaho's birding trails and most majestic scenery by following the directions it contains.

My favorite part of the book is in the back under Idaho Rarities and Specialties were great information is given about when and where to see specific species. This book is very intuitively put together. There are great maps, precise directions, and very helpful information about fuel, food, and lodging for each part of the great state of Idaho.

Looking at all the fantastic locations they discuss, I've only been birding at a few of them. I was surprised to find Jump Creek near Marsing in there. As a teenager my buddies and I would hike back in there pretty often. There is a cool waterfall just a little ways up the draw and a couple miles up the creek there is a natural water slide. Back then I wasn't into birding, so I'll have to go back with my new perspective. The poison-ivy is really bad there and the book even covers those kinds of important details.

This guide really makes me want to get out and cover more turf. With over 50 contributors, Dan Svingen and Kas Dumroese did a great job compiling and editing it into a very consistent book. Well done!

The Idaho Birding Trail website by the Fish & Game is quite similar (so much so that I wonder if the authors of The Idaho Bird Guide were not part of its development) and is also a good tool for birding road trip planning.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Avimor Stewardship Organization

Here at Avimor take outdoor recreation and conservation seriously. Under the direction of Avimor resident and Conservation Director, Charlie Baun, we have organized the Avimor Stewardship Organization and we have just launched a pretty nice little website. Check it out here!

ID Help Please!

While I was putting out more seed to lure in birds for the Big Sit! I saw this bird fly over head and I knew immediately it was different. It landed on a tall snag in the creek which gave me great views for several minutes...enough to make these notes and drawings. Can you help me identify it?! I'm still trying out that field-guide-less observation which is really tough, but probably for the betterment of my birding skills. Now that I am back in my office looking at the field guides, I'm afraid to admit what I think it is.

Sorry for the sloppy handwriting and awful drawing, but hey, my fingers were freezing. Here is the translation with post-note clarifications in parenthesis:

In flight dark/wht contrast pattern (on wings), Solitaire-like, Shrike-like, Big hook on bill, calls with kay-kay, About size of a Kestrel, head browner than body, Black line at eye level, slightly below - white at top/back of eye (the black arch I show on the drawing indicates boundary of white near the eye, not a dark mark on the bird), Black wings with white showing, Light tan/gray body, long tail white edges, faint wavy breast, other birds terrified of it, House Finch attacked it.

Other behavior notes - flew over head, perched on snag for several minutes, dove into large shrub after other birds, came back to perch for several minutes, dove into large shrub. I never saw it agin.