Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Birding Hotspots near Star, Idaho

I lived and birded in Star, Idaho for two years.  I found a couple of good birding spots at the stream and ponds within the boundary of my own neighborhood, Pinewood Lakes.  One pasture on the corner of Star Rd. and Joplin Rd. would be flooded every spring and all kinds of bird life could be found there; from Wilson's Phalaropes to Stilts and Avocets.  From Marbled Godwits to White-faced Ibis.  Yet another field, right in town almost, hosts returning Long-billed Curlews in spring for a couple of weeks.  I'll even bet most local Treasure Valley birders never thought of Star as a birding hot spot.  But gets better!

Yesterday, I had a meeting in Star, but I had a couple hours before the meeting started to go birding.  I decided to expand my own horizons and drive around and check out new potentially birdy areas.  Below is a map of the area I covered in about an hour and a half.  I observed 43 species, five of which were first of year birds, and one was a life bird.  I am confident more great birding areas are all around us if we will only just go exploring a bit!

View Birding Hotspots near Star, Idaho in a larger map

The area on the left is a community that has been developed along with several large beautiful ponds.  The developer must have gone under or the project is moth-balled until better economic times as there are no homes yet.  For now, it is fabulous birding!  Access is from Highway 44 on Bent Rd.  There is also sportsman access to the Boise River from this area.  Much of the Boise River in the Star area is closed and private land, but song birds along the river during spring/summer are plentiful.  Here I saw Belted Kingfisher, Common Mergansers, and Tree Swallows, to name a few.

The small area marked above is a private sportsman lake right off of Star Rd. called Pheasant Tail Lake.  It is a deep and good-sized lake, thus enticing more diving ducks.  Don't count the decoy waterfall as there are plenty of real ducks there!  I observed Canvasback, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Shovelers, Green-winged Teal, Goldeneye and much much more.  I need to contact the owners of this lake and verify that birding is allowed.  It could be a dangerous place for birders during duck hunting season.  I know they charge for hunting and fishing memberships on this lake, but I don't yet know if they are okay with casual birders like me checking in now and then.  There is a number on the sign as you enter that you can call.  UPDATE:  I called Lance Sellers, the owner of this lake, and he is very proud of his birds and the habitat he has created for them.  Birders are welcome to view the birds on his lake, please just be respectful of anglers and hunters, and you might not want to go there during duck hunting season.

That large swath of area is agricultural land and marshland viewable from Joplin Rd.  I was very impressed with the number of species I could see in this area.  At the eastern edge you get elevated views over a wide expanse of pasture and marsh land.  Listen and watch for Wilson's SnipeSavannah Sparrows, Ring-necked Pheasants, and Brewer's Blackbirds.

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