Saturday, April 3, 2010

From Jail Birds to a Life Bird!

My kids under the northeast guard tower

For Spring Break this year we decided to do a stay-cation with a few fun family adventures around the Treasure Valley.  Yesterday we took the kids to the Old Boise Penitentiary.  I had not been there since the 4th grade while attending Nampa's Lincoln Elementary School.  Such images as "solitary confinement" and "the gallows" were so impactful on my young impressionable mind that seeing them yesterday made the memories no more vivid than they had been over the last two decades.  I recommend the Old Pen as a fun and historic tourist attraction in Boise.  In the old prison shirt factory they house a couple of other fascinating museum collections worthy of a visit on their own.  May I recommend the guided tour.  We did not take it, but listened in a couple of times to another group and it was way more interesting. I also saw a Red-tailed Hawk, a few Rock Pigeons, and heard Starlings and House Sparrows while visiting the prison grounds (Always be birding!).

Visiting a typical 4-person prison cell.  Anne is pretending to test out the commode.  I just couldn't imagine having to do my business, or other convicts doing their business, in such close proximity.

After our visit to the Old Penitentiary, it started to pour down a slushy rain.  We determined to go and visit Grandma and Grandpa Davenport...well, me and Grandpa would go birding while Jessica and her mom sat and talked and the kids chased Grandpa's cats around the house and yard.

Map Rock - American Indian Petroglyphs determined to be a map.

In spite of the rain, the birding was exhilarating as first-of-year birds were showing up for me at every stop.  We first headed toward Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, which is viewable from the Davenport home.  Then we cruised some of the best birding on our stretch of the Snake River, namely the Sunny Slope and Marsing areas, the Map Rock Rd area, and the Dry Lake area. We were hoping to see first-of-year Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets.

Red-breasted Merganser by Michael Morrison

Several Red-Breasted Mergansers were seen on Lake Lowell; a life bird for me! The Western Screech Owl in the rafters at Williamson's fruit ranch was a nice first of year for me, same for the Burrowing Owl on Nash Rd.  The Green Heron is still present in Marsing and was easy to see along with several Cinnamon Teal.  There we also observed Violet-Green and Northern Rough-winged Swallows over the river near the bridge.  On Map Rock Rd. we observed a Bushtit (an Idaho first for me!) and American White Pelican among others.  There were hoards of Mallards and Northern Pintails in the fields of corn stubble and its always fun to see a few Long-billed Curlew and Wilson's Snipe.  We never did come across either of the two birds we had set out to see, but we had about 50 species total; one life bird, two state birds, and ten first of year birds for me and a few first-of-year birds for Lynn.

Not at all a bad day in the rain!

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