Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birding is extra fun when...

...you are helping another birder find life birds!

Finally! a Black-capped Chickadee photo I am happy with.
My friend Jason, in Idaho, has been getting back into birding this year after a couple decades off.  We've been Boy Scout leaders together this last year so our campouts have included a little element of birding.  I have been a bad birding influence on him, like a drug dealer. 

Being home in the Boise area this weekend, Jason and I determined to get out and do a little birding together.  The target bird was a Hooded Merganser, the male being one of the most showy and beautiful wintering waterfowl in this area and one that Jason has never seen before.  I was happy to see a recent report of a Hoody on eBird in a nearby pond, so I felt our chances were good.  Jason and I set out with a couple hours planned for a whirlwind tour of about two dozen Eagle, Idaho area ponds near the Boise River.

"I really want to see a Brown Creeper too," Jason tells me while hiking down a leaf strewn yellow trail.

"All right.  I've seen them in this area before around this time of year.  We need to find a big flock of chickadees.  Creepers seem to hang out with them.  While the chickadees bounce all around the branches I seem to find the creepers on the larger more mature tree trunks; either low to mid-way up the trunk," trying to sound as expert and experienced as possible.

A couple of stops later, we had a nice patch of woods, a mixed flock of about a dozen Black-capped Chickadees, a half-dozen Ruby-crowend Kinglets, and a nice male and female pair of Downy Woodpeckers all hanging out together.  "This is the place!" I announced.  "Start watching the trunks."

I thought I heard the high pitched sounds of a creeper, but I wasn't completly sure.  We kept watching.  We circled the little grove of trees and I thought I caught a glimpse of a creeper, but several birds flew out at once toward another tree.

"I think I see one!" Jason exclaimed.  Sure enough, there zooming up the tree trunk was a Brown Creeper...a life bird for him.  "Amazing how we found them just like you said," he commented to the utmost gratification of my pride in bird mentoring.

Downy Woodpecker - male because of the red patch on the back of the head.

Downy Woodpecker - female because of the lack of red on the back of the head. 
Also cool because it shows the false-face on the back of the head.

We also spooked a Wilson's Snipe and got good looks at in flight to which Jason replied "After all those years in scouts trying to catch one in a gunny-sack in the middle of the night, I finally see one in real life!"

Sadly, we found two Tundra Swans recently shot and abandoned on the bank of one large pond. This was the area I could count on finding a pair of Tundra Swans every year in the late fall or winter. Jerks!!!

Bathing or hunting?

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - one of my first pictures of the day before I realized my settings were off!  I broke the cardinal rule of checking your settings before you go out.
We never did see a Hooded Merganser during the morning trip.  Turns out that a couple more northern cold fronts need to happen before the hordes of wintering waterfowl return, but we did see some good birds like American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, and Wood Ducks, along with loads of Mallards and Canada Geese.

Helping Jason see and identify two life birds that morning was particularly fulfilling and fun.  So, grab a friend and show them some new birds!


  1. A nice blog, and are the birds, chickadee, woodpecker and the heron.

  2. @Bob Bushell, Thanks for the nice comment! I love the photos on your blog too.

  3. The shot of the chickadee is really nice. It is hard to get a good photo of those little guys!

    I love the woodpeckers too. Really nice work you have here. :)

  4. Some of those birds look a bit familiar to a UK birder - substitute Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Great-spotted Woodpecker?

  5. @Halcyon Thanks for the nice comment and understanding about the challenges of photographing Chickadees.

    @Phil I've been noticing the same thing about the birds pictured on your blog.

  6. great post ( love those lifer moments) ... and wonderful Chickadee capture!

  7. Fabulous shots - all - and disgusting about the tundras - jerks is a kind word for these destructive folks who think nothing of just shooting whatever.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful birding world!

  8. Nice post. Helping other people get lifers is definitely one of the most satisfying aspects of birding. Part of my work involves helping folks connect with lifers in Costa Rica and theres nothing better than seeing the smiles on other birders faces when they get a bunch of new birds.

    Such a shame about the camera settings and the kinglet! That image would have been perfect.

    As for the swans, what a tragedy!

  9. Debbie, Barbara, and Patrick,

    Thanks for stopping in and leaving such nice comments!

  10. So true! I was married to a non-birder for 40 years, but for the past 10 years have re-lived the experience of finding each new life birds with my birding spouse Mary Lou. This year we celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary!