Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boise Christmas Bird Count

Wood Duck male at MK Nature Center, Boise, Idaho
On Saturday, December 15th, 2012, I was able to participate for a few hours in the Boise Christmas Bird Count. Because of an activity and my children's school and other family obligations I wasn't able to join the Boise counters at dawn. My wife and I were able to mingle birding with errands Saturday afternoon. I texted Heidi Ware and Jay Carlisle and asked them where I should go or with whom I should meet up. They asked me to go to some specific locations to look for some specific species. Other groups were already assigned to these areas, but it's always good to have some back-up sightings in case they were missed.

Even though it was a big "listing" day, I took a moment to enjoy a mule deer.
Cedar Waxwing, Dry Creek Cemetery, Boise, Idaho, but unfortunately no Bohemian Waxwings on this day.
One of the really cool things about Christmas Bird Counts is the high intensity focus on a certain geographic area. It drives birders to explore every nook and cranny which allows them to discover great birds and new birding hotspots. For me, I found two great birding hotspots, both new to me.

There had been a report of an Eurasian Wigeon at DeMeyer Park in Boise. It's a small park with a pond tucked into a suburban neighborhood a couple of blocks off of one of Boise's main roads. You'd hardly know it was there, but it'ss a great spot for some winter water fowl. I failed in my mission to see the Eurasian Wigeon, but I did a hard count of all the ducks and geese present using my BirdLog app and then emailed it to Heidi who was in charge of this area. Heidi and Jay's group revisited the park a bit later and found the ratio of geese to wigeons had changed dramatically...half the number of geese and twice the number of wigeons. Oh, and they did find the Eurasian Wigeon too. Thank goodness the ratio of birds had changed, otherwise I would have felt very incompetent.
American Wigeons and Canada Geese at DeMeyer Park, Boise, Idaho
DeMeyer Park, Boise, Idaho
My wife and I then headed for the MK Nature Center in Boise to relocate the Pacific Wrens I had seen a week earlier there. I dipped on Pacific Wrens too. Fortunately, a couple other groups did see them in the course of the day at different locations. I did get some Wood Ducks in some decent light and took a moment to digiscope them with my on-loan Swarovski ATX scope and iPhone 4S.
Wood Duck, female, MK Nature Center, Boise
I made some video of a male Wood Duck preening and doing some duck yoga...as if such a gorgeous bird needed to be any prettier. I added music to the video..."You're so vain." It just seemed appropriate.
Jay called me up and asked me to look for a Greater White-fronted Goose and a "white" goose (Snow or Ross's) hanging out with Canada's in some of the big Boise parks. Well, I didn't have to go to those parks because I saw a Greater White-fronted Goose on the edge of a flock of Canada Geese in a vacant lot between destinations. What luck!
Another of my assignments was to find an American Dipper. The Boise River Diversion Dam is the only spot in Ada County I've heard of where they are found, but I had never been there. The location and the bird were easy enough to find. I was able to digiscope the dipper, but it was way out there and in bad light, but for documentation purposes, this was good enough. This was actually a county first for me too, so an especially fun sighting.
The Greater White-fronted Goose and the American Dipper I photographed ended up being the only two of those species seen on the count day, so while I dipped on the wigeon and white goose, I still received the title of "Insurance Agent".

While looking for and at the American Dipper, on the sheer rocky cliffs above this section of the river I was hearing a couple of birds. A hiked up the hill a bit and discovered rambunctious Rock and Canyon Wrens. I didn't expect to see them as I incorrectly believed they didn't winter here. Turns out that this area of Idaho, having a comparatively more temperate winter, is a regular place for some wrens to spend the winter.
Above: Rock Wren
Below: Canyon Wren
As darkness fell, and the ambitious owlers ended their quests, we weary birders made our way to Sue Norton's lovely home for the celebratory list compilation and potluck dinner. The best part of birding events like this apart for the birding is being able to meet and chat with other birders, some I've known and others I met for the for the first time.
Christmas Bird Counting is Fun!


  1. Robert it sounds like you're a highly sough after specialist now, taking assignments to go find particular species like some sort of secret agent birder. Very cool

  2. Sounds like you had an enjoyable time participating in the CBC. I love the photos of the Canyon and Rock Wrens, as I have never seen them in person before. Great work on your assignments!

  3. I had no idea that American Dipper could be found at the Diversion Dam! I hope you enjoyed your first visit to that hotspot. It was my patch when I lived in Boise a couple of years ago, and I'll have to make a point to look for Dippers when I move back in a couple of weeks!

  4. Great post Robert. Love the canyon wren - one of my favorite calls to hear.