Monday, June 25, 2012

Joel BBS route (Nez Perce & Latah Cos.), 6/24/12

Hi All - 

I ran the Joel Breeding Bird Survey Sunday morning which is a bit later in the month than I usually run it but there was still plenty of bird song (which accounts for the bulk of observations on most BBS routes). BBS's are comprised of 50 3 minute point counts at .5 mile intervals along a 25 mile route.The Joel BBS starts down on the Clearwater R. and comes up Coyote Grade then proceeding east on Genesee-Julietta Rd. and north on Lenville Rd. up on to the Palouse. Traversing this elevation gradient and its variety of habitats results in a nice diversity of species despite a number of stops in agricultural areas. I usually start at ~4:30 AM (was a bit late today) with nighthawks, Rock Wrens, Western Kingbirds, etc. in the canyon and end at ~9:30 AM (again a bit later today) with Eastern Kingbirds, Tree Swallows, etc. on the grassland. Interesting birds found at various stops include Willow Flycatcher, Western Flycatcher, Veery, Gray Catbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock's Oriole among others. 

Every year is a bit different and I usually find a few uncommon species (for the route) along with the regulars. The only trend I've noticed in ~10 years of doing this is the increase in Lesser Goldfinches although there is a fair amount of inter-annual variation especially in the small forest patches. In addition to all the birds I almost always have some cool experiences in the way of mammals, weather, and scenery, etc. such as a cow Moose (Alces alces) Sunday along Genesee-Julietta Rd. which is a first in ~10 years of doing this BBS. (Just as a side note I saw a cow and calf moose at the upper end of Payette Lake just this morning.)   

Of interest on Sunday were 2 different Brewer's Sparrows (a first for the route I think) in somewhat atypical habitat. They were in shrubby areas at the edge of wheat fields along Lenville Rd. and Genesee-Juliaetta Rd. They sang short songs so after the I finished the point count I played my iPod which elicited a response from each. (No coaxing allowed on point counts but can be used post-count to confirm an individual identity.) It seems to me Brewer's have showed up in atypical habitat later in June some years perhaps as a result of drought(?) elsewhere so could be worth keeping an eye/ear open for them. I wish I could post a route summary but will have to wait until the data are processed and ready for final review (something the BBS folks could probably improve if they had the time/money to do so!).

thanks, Charles.

Charles Swift
Moscow, Idaho
46°43′54″ N, 116°59′50″ W

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