Monday, December 13, 2010

Chasing Idaho Winter Birds

American Kestrel at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
Saturday morning, my father-in-law, Lynn Davenport joined me and my minivan full of kids on a trek through the rural countryside south of Nampa, Idaho in the area locally known as Dry Lake.  The goal was to find large flocks of Horned Larks, sift through them and find the recently reported Snow Buntings and Longspurs which would be life birds for me.  Warmer weather and rain had melted much of the snow and nary a bird was seen in the fields...well, we did see a few American Kestrels , Red-tailed Hawks, and a Belted Kingfisher on the power lines and poles.  With heavy fog and not much going on in the greater Dry Lakes area, we decided to check out nearby Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge.

Lake Lowell with a little ice at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
Stopping at the north dam and boat ramp turned out to be a fantastic alternative to finding Longspurs and Snow Buntings as we found another life bird for me, a Pacific Loon!  It was just beyond the ice and gave us great views through Lynn's spotting scope.  It was educational to identify this winter plumaged bird's characteristics and narrow it down to a Pacific Loon while studying our Sibley's and Stoke's field guides.  Without a digiscoping rig and with bad light, I didn't even try to get a photo of it.  I'm glad that other Idaho birders have been out to confirm the sighting and identification of our Pacific Loon.

We also scoped thru this flock of gulls looking for rarities.  There were loads of Ring-billed, California, and a couple Herring's in the mix, all special in their own right, but not uncommon.

Being that we had my four kids with me, we were delighted to have a Bald Eagle perched on a cottonwood tree near the road and all the kids were able to see it.

Cooper's Hawk - that gave chase to House Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos
A Rough-legged Hawk was also a nice addition to our morning list of wonderful birds.


  1. Robert,
    I'm just dropping by to let you know that your blog has been picked as one of the featured outdoor bloggers of the week over on the Outdoor Blogger Network. The announcement post is up and your RSS feed is live on the home page. Great job on your blog here, it's fantastic.
    Rebecca and Joe

  2. Sounds like a wonderful outing with the kids! Congratulations on the Pacific Loon sighting! Gorgeous image of the American Kestrel on the sign. A joy to view your blog, as always.

  3. Sounds like a lovely time with you family..and wow..great bird sightings!

  4. I'd say you had a great outing Robert! The puffed up American Kestrel is shot is great (I've been trying to get a good Kestrel photo for quite awhile now). I love visiting wildlife refuges, especially when there doesn't seem to be much else going on bird-wise. You can always find something of interest at the refuge.

    That Cooper's Hawk looks like it was doing its best to stay hidden and its always nice to see a Rough-legged Hawk.

  5. Love the photos- especially the kestrel. My son says it his favorite bird!

  6. @OBNetwork Thanks for the nice comments and for featuring my blog on yours!

    @Julie G and Dawn - it was a good outting with the kids. I'm glad there are a few birds that really capture their hearts and minds. Throwing rocks on the ice and hearing the cool sounds it makes helps the kids enjoy the outdoors too.

    @Larry - I've been trying to get good photos of Kestrels, Belted-Kingfishers, and Common Yellow-throats with very little luck. That Kestrel photo turned out okay, but I'm still on a quest to get that definitive photo.

    @Mike B. - I have to agree with your son. All though they seem abundant, Kestrels are just cool birds. My kids like to see them munching down on deer mice and voles while perched on the power lines.