Sunday, March 29, 2015

Trip to Arizona

Last week my wife and I flew to Arizona to visit friends, do some warm weather hiking and look for some new birds.  All were a very good success.  The first new bird I saw was a Greater Roadrunner in the cool morning (for Southern Arizona) just as the sun was coming up.
 
I did not realize that the Cactus wrens were so large, but they drill a lot of holes in the cactus plants that are used by many birds as nests.

 
When I first saw this bird at a distance, I thought I was getting pictures of a Mountain Chickadee, only to find out is was a Bridled titmouse.

 
Each morning I watched the Gambel's quail as they were everywhere we went. 


One of the most exciting bird I wanted to seen was everywhere we went.  The Vermillion flycatcher was one of my most favorite sightings as I saw them every day we were there.

 
The Phainopepla was a noisy bird but new to me.  When they fly the have beautiful white patches on their wings.

 
On the second day we were there we hiked to the ruins of the Salado Indians that inhabited these caves.  They built individual houses inside these caves. 

 
It was fun exploring the wilds of Arizona through hiking, hunting rocks, looking for birds and enjoying friends.  Rocks are easy to find except for the special ones we were looking for.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Raptors, migrating big game and Burrowing owls

This week was very warm with no moisture and all the migrations continue with birds and big game.
It looks like an odd pairing up with a "Harlin's" Red-tailed hawk matching up with a regular colored Red-tailed.  A Harlin's is almost black on top with light coloring showing when flying above you.
 
Its mate is a light colored, near a light-morph.  They are in the Burton area near Rexburg.

 
Here are two more Red-tails that show the different coloration of the Red-tails the migrate through the area.


 
On Tuesday last week this Bald eagle was being harassed by a pair of Kestrels near Sand Creek Ponds north of St. Anthony.

 
Also on Tuesday from St. Anthony to Sand Creek area there were 17 moose working their way across the desert.

 
Right with the moose, there were over 100 deer also migrating to the high country.  With two light winters in a row, the mule deer population is growing.  Here is one of the few bucks still wearing their head-gear.

 
A large flock of sandhill cranes joined 108 Trumpeter swans on the grain field planted and left standing for migrating birds at Sand Creek.

 
Then on Saturday I found my first Burrowing owls of the year.  There were three pair from Roberts to Hamer that had moved in since last Monday.

 
It is the wildness of Southeastern Idaho that inspires me.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sage Grouse Morning

The weather prediction promised cloudy weather and I gambled that the sun may make its way through during the early morning for some pre-sunrise birds.  I wanted to be ready long before the sage grouse came to the lek, so at 4:30 I was in position below the ridge on lek #10.  After an hour and a half and listening to the males for an hour, I finally was able to take some pictures in the purple predawn.




Then the sky turned bright orange as the sun got nearer to the horizon.

 
The males continued to be active in their showing off to the ladies of the dawn.

 
Even a few fights broke out  - I think it was an excuse to warm up because the ladies where having none of their advances.

 
As the sun rose behind the thick clouds, the sky turned a light lavender making it difficult to shoot pictures.

 
After about a half hour wait, I was able to start getting a few.

 
Showing off is the great ability of all the 37 males gathered along the ridge.

 
More fights broke out and there was not enough light to be able to stop the flailing wings.

 
Finally a pair of Northern Harriers showed up.  One of them attack a male grouse, lifted him up about a foot only to drop him.


 
After the attack, the grouse ruffled his feathers, and I could not see any injuries or blood.
 
And then he flew off, looking okay.

 
On the way home I stopped at Cartier Slough and found three Great-horned owl nests - that is another story.
 
Oh, what a wonderful morning in the wilds of Idaho.  May each of you have a wonderful and bless'ed day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sage Grouse and migration day

I started early this morning looking for Sage grouse leks and about froze my tail off waiting to get enough light to take pictures of America's largest grouse.  I was parked near a ridge so the first pictures were silhouettes of the grouse in the frosty air.
 
Then as the sun came up, warming both the birds and I, the males started showing off to the ladies.  But the girls stayed only a minute or two and then flew off - a little too early for any serious relationship.

 
The boys did not stay long either, so off I went to Camas NWR to see if the water was in the ponds.  The Big Pond was about a fourth covered but most of the action was in the air.  Here a Short-eared owl was encouraging a Rough-legged hawk to go to the Artic Circle where most of the others had gone.

 
Two Northern harriers decided to play tag over the Big Pond.

 
I saw my first Sandhill cranes of the year.  There were several flocks that came in.
 
 
And the Snow and Ross's geese made their grand appearance off and on throughout the morning and early afternoon.

 
Just a slight breeze - warm sun - and many of God's creatures prepared me for meeting the taxman to settle up with Uncle Sam - and he treated me fairly good.
Oh, the Wildness of Idaho in the Great Outdoors.