Monday, April 26, 2010

Idaho Birder: Bob & Betty Davenport

Betty and Bob Davenport
Meridian, Idaho

How did you get into birding? 

Betty took ornithology in 1953 at the College of Idaho.

Did you or do you have a birding mentor and can you tell us about that person?

Dr Lyle Stanford, head of the biology department. He made me aware of our native wildlife and plants. The class was a filled in for an easy subject, yet it has lasted throughout my life. Most of the other subjects have been forgotten.

How long have you been birding in Idaho? 

Whenever we are in Idaho. Most of marriage we lived in the western United States. In 1995 we retired and moved into a motor home. Various jobs added to our income. We were camp hosts; hosts of Thousand Springs under Nature Conversancy, volunteer at Bill Williams, Cibola and Pahranagat NWRs and gave birding programs at the Salton Sea Recreational Area (State Park). Betty revised an out of date bird List for the Salton Sea State Park. My husband, Robert joined me in these activities. We did counts of birds in Camas County for 2 or 3 summers.

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

Health issues have cut off time for birding, but we try to take as many trips as we can. Whenever riding in a car we note birds around us. Hope to be able to take more trips this year.

Where is your favorite place to bird in Idaho?

Camas County

In the U.S.?

Pahranagat NWR

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

Camas County, Mormon Reservoir and Spring Creek Area

Where in Idaho would you say is the most under-birded place that may have great untapped potential?

Camas County, Little Camas Reservoir, and Eastern Elmore County

How would you describe yourself as a birder? A “watcher”, a “lister”, a “chaser”, all of the above, or something else? 

A little of each, except not a chaser.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

Binocular, Spotting scope, books, camera sometimes.  Betty has watched birds most of life and didn’t keep records.  Sometime ago I realized the information would be of value so started to keep records for that reason.  We are not sure what our complete life bird list is and they are probably slightly different.

How do you keep track of your birding records?

We enter all out sightings on eBird now.

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

We counted birds for Pahranagat NWR for a number of years. One day while counting birds we saw a Peregrine Falcon on snag at the lower lake. We were watching when a flock of about 50 Avocets landed just off the point. In a few second the falcon lifted off his perch, hit one of the avocets in the back of the neck, flushing the flock. The avocet fell into the lake along with the falcon. The falcon pulled the bird out of the water and flew to his perch and began to consume his meal.

Another time at Upper Lake a Bald Eagle was chasing a large white bird. Both birds dropped into the lake and he eagle keep pushing the bird down into the water. Until the eagle left we couldn’t tell which bird it was. It turned out to be an egret.

Betty’s favorite Idaho memory would be in the mid-1940’s.  I went to Prairie, ID to see relatives. The Mountain Bluebird was everywhere. There were so many birds, I will never forget the sight. It must have been in the fall and the bluebirds were gathering before they left Idaho.

Another Idaho memory would be watching a pair of Trumpeter Swans raise 3 cygnets to fledging stage. We did not see the birds fly as we left the area for the south.

In 1953 for our term paper along with another student we found about an acre of ground partially covered with water. We mapped the area for all objects and visited the site weekly and did a written report of our sightings. We received an A on the project.

Which is your favorite field guide and why? 

Betty started with Roger Tory Peterson's first edition. We now use The Silbley Guide to Birds by David Sibley.

Which books from your personal birding library would you recommend? 

All the Birds of North America
North America Raptors, by Brian K. Wheeler and William S. Clark
Idaho Birding Trail
Ducks by John Gooders and Trevor Boyer.
And would not be without the Birder's Handbook by Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye

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?

We do not consider ourselves experts; but willing to help anyone learn about birds and wildflowers.

What future birding plans do you have?

None at the moment, hope to take at least one trip to Camas County to check out the Spring Creek Trumpeter Swans and would like to visit Paharanagat again.

What is your nemesis bird? 

Blue Jay, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak

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

My Father’s family homestead near Hill City and my Mother’s family on Fall Creek.  My High School Class will have its 60 reunion this fall.

Any funny birding experiences you could tell us?

In 1953 Dr Stanford had the entire class looking for the “rare” Black-necked Stilt. In 1985 traveling from Yuma, AZ to Hesperia, CA imagine my surprise to see flocks of more than 100 stilts. I still think of Black-necked Stilts as “rare”.

If you were a bird, which species would you be and why?

Betty - Lazuli Bunting, my favorite bird

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about?

In 2007 we were given a Lifetime Achievement Award for our work at Pahranagat NWR and other wildlife activities. It was a complete surprise to us.

Total life list?

eBird says 299, many of our early lists are not entered and it is probably higher.

Your mission in life as birder?

To enjoy birds and hope that they will be around awhile longer.

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