Thursday, April 16, 2020

Some tips on learning about birds in SW Idaho on outings close to home

Red-winged blackbird at Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve in Boise
Hi all,

I find that I am treasuring the small things in life right now during these weird times with the COVID-19 pandemic.

When out on a Boise Greenbelt ride or hiking the trails, I enjoy seeing things like the first wildflower blooms of the year, or watching the buds beginning to emerge on trees and shrubs. The stunning beauty of fruit tree blooms in our yard and the local 'hood. Just all kinds of little things make me smile.

We've all had to slow down the pace of our lives because of the coronavirus, stay closer to home, etc. At times like this, why not learn a little more about nature? For instance, why not take a little time to pay learn about the birds in your yard, your local neighborhood, the Boise River, the foothills or parks nearby? 

Yellow-headed blackbird at Hyatt Hidden Lakes
Springtime is a good time to watch for birds because there are lots of migrating birds passing through on their way to northern destinations and residents returning to nest. Songbirds we might see right now are feeding on buds and bugs, i.e., robins eating worms. Birds of prey are hunting for mice and ground squirrels. We see red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, kestrels and Swainson's hawks in the foothills doing courtship flight.    

Wendy and I went by the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve today (near Chinden & Marigold) in Boise just before noon to take a few fresh pictures and see what kinds of birds we'd find in the wetlands and ponds. Wendy was happy to see that some yellow-headed blackbirds had moved into the area to establish nests for the next generation. We also saw a great blue heron at close range hiding in a little thicket as we walked into the reserve. We heard red-winged blackbirds everywhere in the wetlands.

On the ponds, we saw mallards, american coots, northern shovelers, pied-billed grebes, buffleheads, gadwalls and american wigeon. Elsewhere on our bird walk today, we saw snow geese, wild turkey, swainson's hawks, song sparrows, house rinches, robins and Canada geese.

If you're interested in a program about birds, the Boise River Enhancement Network is providing an educational program at 11:35 am-1 pm on Friday (April 17) by Louisa Evers of BREN and the Golden Eagle Audubon Society. The program will be presented via Zoom, and it's limited to the first 100 people who login tomorrow. Ms. Evers will talk about how to find and identify birds.


Great-blue heron getting hassled by a red-winged blackbird
Golden Eagle Audubon has a TON of birding programs coming up, so be sure to watch their web site for more information. Next week's program is on the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. 
The Idaho Birding Trail, sponsored by Idaho Fish and Game, is an excellent resource for learning where to find birds and what species you should expect to see at various locations. In the Southwest Idaho region, there are about 40 birding locations on the Idaho Birding Trail, including the Boise River, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge/Lake Lowell, Black's Creek, Bruneau Dunes State Park and much more.

If you're on Facebook, the Idaho Birding page is fun to watch because a number of expert birders are posting really high-quality photos of songbirds, ducks and raptors on a continuing basis. Once you've spent some time on that page, you can friend some of the frequent posters who take amazing photos and share them with the group.

While you're out birding, start building your life list. I am lucky that Wendy is so knowledgeable about birds. She can identify songbirds from their calls or from sight. I have a long ways to go on that front.

Here's some video from 2010 when our backyard kestrel box yielded big results ... four baby kestrels fledged the nest that year and we watched how they did in their first few days out of the nest. Consider building your own kestrel box for your backyard ... it's fun!

Have fun! 

- SS  

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