Friday, June 26, 2009

nesting American Kestrels on UI Campus

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An adult and young American Kestrel waiting for food in a cavity on the side of the Art and Architecture Building on the University of Idaho Moscow campus. Shortly after taking this photo the female arrived with food so this must be the adult male w/ a young bird in the nest. Another young bird had already fledged and was waiting for food nearby. They nest most years somewhere on campus (I've found them on a number of buildings over the years) and are fairly common breeders in town. As cavity nesters they will readily use man-made structures. Along with Red-tailed Hawks they are the most common diurnal raptors on the Palouse and year round residents.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

recent U. of Idaho, Moscow sightings, 6/24/09

Hi All -

I've got a Cordilleran Flycatcher calling (suwheet suwheet!) outside my office window right now and it's been wandering around this side of campus since Monday. I presume it's an un-mated male as I haven't heard it before this week. They are regular though and have probably nested on campus in the past. A Warbling Vireo was also singing nearby on Monday although not since and I presume the same story. They have nested in the UI Arboretum but probably this bird was not a local breeder.

Local breeders of interest include Western Wood Pewees and Yellow Warblers which are on territory along Paradise Creek and elsewhere in the case of the pewees. I haven't walked through the Shattuck Arboretum recently but have heard a House Wren calling there from the peripherary and heard that Mountain Chickadees were nesting there again. Violet-green Swallows, Barn Swallows, and Vaux's Swifts are also a regular features of campus avifauna in June.

Raptors on campus include Red-tailed and Swainson's Hawks and the Red-tails have noisy young on the southeast side of campus. I don't know where the Swainson's are nesting this year but there must be a pair nearby. American Kestrels have apparently nested in the Art and Architecture building and I heard food begging young there yesterday which I will check out again later today.

Charles Swift
Moscow, ID

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lower Granite Dam & vicinity, Whitman/Garfield Counties, WA., 6/21/09

We wandered over to L. Granite Dam on the Snake R. in the rain yesterday afternoon to see what was happening. This is an area we haven't been to in quite some time but is not that far from Moscow/Pullman. Most notable were American White Pelicans, California Gulls, and several Caspian Terns with the 3 species seen in both counties (although it's not entirely clear from the map where the county line runs along the Snake R., it's mostly a trivial matter as these birds wander back and forth and up and down the river.)

American White Pelican - total of ~70 with most loafing on an island just downstream of Boyer Park, there were as many as 10 or 15 near or just downstream of the dam and a few scattered elsewhere along the river from Almota to the dam.
California Gull - total of ~40-50 with most loafing w/ pelicans on island, and a few others at the base of the dam
Caspian Tern - 2 flew upstream right over the middle of the dam and later a single calling bird flew high above the river near Boyer Park

They are firing a propane canon at the base of the dam presumably to haze the White Pelicans (and other piscavores) away from the area. It didn't seem to have too much effect on the pelicans. Interestingly there were no cormorants in the area although they could be elsewhere up or down stream, perhaps closer to their breeding colonies wherever those are (does anybody know??). The area above the dam and immediately below the dam is not visible or accessible from the Whitman Co. side as there are no dam crossings allowed on Sundays.

Despite the time and perhaps because of the rain and cool temps there was a fair amount of other bird activity. There were lots of swallows over the river with all species except Tree observed. Boyer Park had mostly A. Robins but also Western Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Bullock's Oriole among others. Boyer Pk. is irrigated w/ tall trees and looks like it could be a decent migrant trap but is fairly manicured w/o much undergrowth. The bottom of the grade from Almota up to the hairpin turn has a pretty nice strip of riparian habitat. Birding it requires stopping in the emergency pullouts which didn't seem a big problem w/ very little traffic. This area had among others Western Wood-Pewee, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lazuli Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock's Oriole.

Union Flat Creek could also be checked out on a trip here which is an interesting area and is mentioned frequently in Larrison and Weber's, "Birds of Southeastern WA" including a possible location for breeding Veery. The little bit one passes on the way to Lower Granite looks pretty good.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

west Moscow Mountain (Foothill Rd., Headwaters Trail), 6/15-16/09

photo Sam Hunter (more here

Last evening and this morning I took groups attending the Evolution Meetings here in Moscow up to the west end of Moscow Mountain (north of Moscow) for some birding. Foothill Rd. dead ends at a gated logging road (known locally as the Headwaters Trail area) which provides some great foot/bike access to the west side of Moscow Mountain. A parking area is provided about .25 miles before the gate as this area is heavily used on weekends by locals. The road and lower part of trail pass through typical mixed conifer forest w/ good shrub understory and some riparian deciduous vegetation along a creek. This provides for a nice variety of the typical nesting songbirds in our area. A sampling of species of interest include Calliope Hummingbird (common), Dusky, Hammond's, and Cordilleran Flycatchers, Western Wood-Pewee (common), Cassin's and Red-eyed Vireos (local but regular here), Swainson's Thrush (common), Gray Catbird, Orange-crowned, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Townsend's, and MacGillivray's Warbler (I've had Nashville Warbler here in previous years which is an uncommon breeder in Latah Co.), Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, and Black-headed Grosbeaks. I've never made it up very high on this side of the mountain in breeding season but I'm sure it would be well worth the trip. In fact a traverse of Moscow Mountain on foot ot bike to survey breeding bird would probably be very interesting.

This location is on my Latah Co. birding sites Google Map here - An eBird lits of this morning's trip is below:

Location: Pond 9 Area
Observation date: 6/16/09
Notes: Evolution meeting field trip w/ ~30 participants. Walked from parking lot up just above Pond 9 and back. Good variety of species.
Number of species: 28

California Quail 2
Mourning Dove 2
Calliope Hummingbird 5
Western Wood-Pewee 6
Hammond's Flycatcher 4
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Cordilleran Flycatcher 3
Cassin's Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Common Raven 1
Violet-green Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 2
Swainson's Thrush 8
American Robin 4
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Yellow Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Townsend's Warbler 2
MacGillivray's Warbler 2
Western Tanager 6
Spotted Towhee 4
Chipping Sparrow 6
Black-headed Grosbeak 4
Brown-headed Cowbird 4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Charles Swift
Moscow, ID

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Paradise Ridge, Latah Co., sparrows, 6/13/09

Paradise Ridge, photo Sam Hunter

I took a group from the UI Evolution meetings up to Kas's place on the west end of Paradise Ridge. We had good looks at Grasshopper, Clay-colored (pair), and Vesper Sparrows and I heard at least 1 Brewer's Sparrow. The main crowd-pleasers (not all present were keen birders) were Eastern Kingbirds, Bullock's Orioles, the Violet-green Swallows and Mountain Bluebirds around Kas's house, and of course the Palouse wild flowers currently in peak form and great views of the Palouse to the north and west. What a great way to introduce the Palouse to this group of mostly out-of-town visitors! The Mountain Bluebirds near Kas's house were carrying food around (confirms breeding) and the Clay-colored Sparrows have to be strongly suspected of breeding at this point. This would be nice to confirm as there are very few confirmed breeding records for Idaho.

Here is a link to a slideshow of images taken by one of the participants:

Location: Paradise Ridge West
Observation date: 6/13/09
Notes: Evolution mtg field trip to Kas's. A pretty good showing of birds despite breezy conditions and large (~20) suze of group. Clay-colored Sparrow pair were seen well.
Number of species: 34

Ring-necked Pheasant 2
California Quail 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Mourning Dove 5
Western Wood-Pewee 3
Willow Flycatcher 1
Western Kingbird 1
Eastern Kingbird 3
Black-billed Magpie 3
Violet-green Swallow 4
Pygmy Nuthatch X
House Wren 4
Mountain Bluebird 2
American Robin 4
Cedar Waxwing 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
Yellow Warbler 2
Spotted Towhee 2
Chipping Sparrow 4
Clay-colored Sparrow 2
Brewer's Sparrow 1
Vesper Sparrow 2
Grasshopper Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 2
Black-headed Grosbeak 1
Lazuli Bunting 2
Western Meadowlark 3
Yellow-headed Blackbird 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 6
Bullock's Oriole 3
House Finch 3
Pine Siskin 4
American Goldfinch 4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Charles Swift
Moscow, ID

Sunday, June 07, 2009

eastern Whitman Co., Little Butte area, 6/7/09

Acting on a tip from Dick Johnson I explored an area a few miles south of Moscow and just a bit into Whitman Co. In an uncultivated shrubby draw and hillside I found a nice variety of typical upland Palouse songbirds (complete list below) with a Veery singing away in their midst. It was also nice to find several Gray Catbirds here. The draw had quite nice shrub growth with running water and was mostly on a north or northeast aspect slope which I'm sure helps keep it lush. The Veery was singing a bit up the hill from the draw in an area that had some scattered pines. (This is my second recent Whitman Co. Veery w/ another on 5/29 on a float trip along the Palouse R. west of Palouse, WA - report to come.)

I didn't get very far up hill (hard to do w/ a 3 year old in tow!) but it looks very interesting higher up and from the satellite images on google maps. I thought I was near the base of Bald Butte but it actually appears to be an eastward extension of the Bald Butte ridge line. I ran into the tenant farmer on the way out and he called it "Little Butte" or something like that. The area is currently unposted and at the end of a public road (Woods Rd.) but the farmer told me it is soon to be posted and gated due to off-roading but will be accessible w/ permission (he didn't have any problem w/ people hiking around and birding). Contact me for information on how to get permission if you're interested.

It looks like Bald Butte may be accessible over land from here but may be better accessed from the west (although there may may be access issues from the west according to Dick Johnson). This whole area looks very interesting and Bald Butte in particular is mentioned frequently in Weber and Larrison ("Birds of Southeastern WA") for among other things Clay-colored and Brewer's Sparrows. (Burleigh also mentioned Paradise Ridge for Clay-colored Sparrows and both of these publications are now ~30 years old.)

Hopefully more exploration to come. It's always nice to discover (or in this case rediscover) a nearby location w/ birding potential and natural features.

thanks, Charles.

Location: Little Butte
Observation date: 6/7/09
Notes: A nice discovery of a shrubby draw (w/ audible flowing water) at the end of Woods Rd. south of Moscow (although actually in Whitman Co.). It is visible from Paradise Ridge to the east and may provide access overland to Bald Butte.
Number of species: 22

Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 2
Great Horned Owl 1
Northern Flicker 1
Western Wood-Pewee 1
Horned Lark 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
House Wren 10
Veery 1
American Robin 6
Gray Catbird 2
European Starling 1
Yellow Warbler 6
Spotted Towhee 2
Chipping Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 4
Black-headed Grosbeak 5
Lazuli Bunting 2
Western Meadowlark 3
Brown-headed Cowbird 10
American Goldfinch 5

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Charles Swift
Moscow, ID

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mann Lake , 6/5/09

I spent a pleasant 1.5 hrs at Mann Lake on Friday around noon finding 45 species. Highlights were 6 American Avocets, 4 Bonaparte's Gulls, 3 Franklin's Gulls, and 3 Black Terns among a nice variety of species (complete list below). Some shorebird habitat is present on the west side of the lake. Earlier in the morning I conducted a breeding bird survey on a private canyon property along the Snake R. south of Lewiston - I'll post results later. (American Avocets and Bonaparte's Gulls pictured at right.)

thanks, Charles.


Location: Mann Lake
Observation date: 6/5/09
Notes: Covered from main parking lot/boat ramp area and south side parking lot near model airplane club. Heat shimmer was fairly bad on the lake making scoping a bit tricky.
Number of species: 45

Gadwall 4 2 pairs
Mallard 20
Blue-winged Teal 1
Northern Shoveler 4
Green-winged Teal 2
Lesser Scaup 2
Ruddy Duck 3
California Quail 1
Pied-billed Grebe 1 calling on south side
Eared Grebe 5 possible breeder ??
Western Grebe 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sora 1 calling from marshy area near south parking area
American Coot 8
Killdeer 2
American Avocet 6
Spotted Sandpiper 3
Wilson's Phalarope 2
Bonaparte's Gull 4
Franklin's Gull 3
Ring-billed Gull 1
Black Tern 3
Rock Pigeon 15
Mourning Dove 6
Western Kingbird 1 entrance road
Eastern Kingbird 1
American Crow 1 appeared to be looking for nests to predate (seen carrying an egg at one point)
Tree Swallow 5
Violet-green Swallow 2
Bank Swallow 10
Cliff Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 2
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 1
European Starling 10
Yellow Warbler 3
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 3
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Yellow-headed Blackbird 3
Brewer's Blackbird 10
House Finch 2
House Sparrow 5

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Moscow neighborhood breeders, 6/6/09

A morning walk around my east Moscow neighborhood highlighted by some interesting in-town breeders (and lots of the expected). Only migrants were a couple Western Tanager and a Black-headed Grosbeak which moved quickly off to the north. I had some fly over crossbills including possible White-winged - some flight calls were ambiguous.

thanks, Charles.

Location: Moscow - East City Area (centered on E. City Park)
Observation date: 6/6/09
Notes: Pleasantly cool and cloudy w/ increasing wind and light rain. Walked north as far as F St. (Water Tower Park) and then back on Garfield. Counts of robins, house sparrows, and house finches conservative.
Number of species: 25

Ring-necked Pheasant 2
California Quail 6
Swainson's Hawk 1 near water tower park (F & Orchard) probably nesting nearby
Mourning Dove 4
Vaux's Swift 2
Northern Flicker 2
Cordilleran Flycatcher 1 Lincoln & A Sts
American Crow 9
Violet-green Swallow 3
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 5
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1 Garfield & E Sts., presumed local breeder (uncommon breeder in town probably)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
American Robin 65
European Starling 25
Cedar Waxwing 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Western Tanager 2 presumed migrant
Black-headed Grosbeak 1 E. City Park, moving north, presumed migrant.
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
House Finch 20
Red Crossbill 15 Possible WW Crossbill fly-overs and in flock of ~15 crossbills
Pine Siskin 1
American Goldfinch 15
House Sparrow 30

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(