Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake
Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wildbird Wednesday: More Birds of Yellowstone and the Centennial Valley

I haven't been trying to take pictures of birds, especially, but the pictures keep building as I've done some raptor surveys and visited Yellowstone three times.

And I wanted to give you an update on my eagle survey.  I'm now sure that the Idlewild Eagles had a failed nest.  They have not even been sitting near their nest for the last several days.   But the last time I saw them, one of them returned from lower lake without any food.  So there were no babies this year.

I spent about an hour looking for the Upper Lake Eagles last Thursday.  I saw an adult at the nest they are not using this year.  Then I saw two eagles in the area I walked, while trying to find a nest.  One sat on the top of a spruce and exercised its wings like a fledgling would do.  Both birds flew down out of sight.  I didn't have enough light to see if they had white heads.  But I think they were dark and possibly fledglings.

While Teri and I were on our survey, we found a little Honda Fit would get all the way back to Culver's Pond. There we were able to find two juvenile bald eagles.  (AND then the first one turned out to be a golden eagle - the ONLY one on our count.)  Last year, I was the person who spotted three.  This year, I spotted this bird but was wrong on my call. One was on the rock hillside to the right of the road, and the other was about a quarter of a mile away near the nest tree.  The latter was much smaller and very dark and may not have yet fledged. I was also excited to see my first sage thrasher on Red Rock Lakes NWR while we were at Culver's Pond.

The first immature we found - but it turned out to be a golden eagle - probably a 2 -year old


The second immature we found - note nest in lower right corner this is a bald eagle

Sage Thrasher  - my first at Red Rock Lakes

We dragged ourselves away from the eagles and other local birds,  and discussed how we were having lots more fun doing the survey by ourselves and getting to spend more time with the birds we found. But when we calculated the time already passed vs. the distance already done, we realized we would have to pick up the pace.  And even though we did move faster, especially in long stretches without raptors, we had to stop and spend a little time with some of the special birds we saw.  And we had to really look for the Golden Eagles, which successfully hid from us.  I had found three last year but only remembered where I'd seen one of them. Teri remembered a second place but they were both without golden eagles.  (We didn't discover we had see a golden eagle for several more days. )


Adult eagle by dam on Lima Reservoir

We finally started seeing ferruginous hawks on the north side as we got closer to Lima.  We even had one or two more just before we re-entered the refuge from the west side.  We had a very enjoyable day and found twenty-nine raptors, including bald eagles, American kestrels, prairie falcons, red tailed hawks, Swainson's hawks, ferruginous hawks and the golden eagle.


Ferruginous hawk on a electric pole 

We also got one short-eared owl - the one that I know from my fencing days.  Teri is amazing and can spot birds at at least 300 yards while driving. So I don't think we missed many.  Imagine my dismay, when I went to the dam at Lower Lake and found a peregrine falcon which had managed to hide out from us on the count. But we had run out of time a few hours earlier and had to get to our reserved campsite in Yellowstone before we could rest.

We continued to keep a lookout for birds while in Yellowstone and took time to look at the ducks.  Most of them were mallards, but we think we found a female pintail duck with babies.  (Please comment on this and help us confirm this ID.) We also saw swans and pelicans as well as the ever present Canada geese and ravens.

Think this is a female pintail and part of her brood


A mallard female at a distance but showing her speculum

One of the begging gray jays that  could always find us lunching


One of the many spotted sandpipers we saw - this on on Grebe Lake

Back at Red Rock Lakes I found I had even more hummers in my yard and that the juvenile pine siskins had found my feeders. So now I have Cassin's finches, pine siskins, white -crowned sparrows, robins, cliff sparrows, broad tailed hummingbirds and, I think, one immature rufus.  My adult male had moved on while I was in Yellowstone.  But I did have a beautiful Swainson's hawk hanging out in the fire tower, just above my trailer, for most of a morning. And I get a lot of kestrels flying across my yard.


Swainson's hawk on fire tower


Two of my yard white-crowned sparrows


My yard is abuzz with (mostly) broad-tailed hummers


Sometimes two will share a flower head

 I did my next to last bluebird survey last Friday.  I had one nest of four 19-day old bluebirds and three nests of tree swallows.  They should all fledge before I visit them again.  When I stopped to clean the restrooms at Upper Lake Campground, I found a beautiful male western tanager posing for me.


Western tanager

The swallows and yellow headed blackbirds are making up large flocks while disappearing from their breeding spots. I'm still seeing a few swallows feeding babies in the nests, but most of them or either finished parenting or feeding fledglings.  The mornings are so quiet, and dark, that I'm sleeping  later then I ever have here. The numbers of all birds are decreasing and reminding me that fall will be here in just a blink or two of my eyes.

Gangs of yellow headed blackbirds are sitting on fences on Lower Lake

For more wild bird blogs, click on the picture: