Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer Trip 2015 Birding Part 2

Here is the second of three birding installments from our 2015 Summer Trip. As many of you likely recall from previous blog posts we visited many statesleft the countryvisited my sister on the west coast, and stopped at many National Parks and Monuments. We still have some unprocessed photos from spring/summer 2015 with all our travels, but alas most of the bird and mammal photos from this trip are done. Below is my recollection from our drive back from Oregon, almost none of it covered in previous reports or photos. 

After birding a bit on the coast I realized how much I had missed looking for birds over the previous month and was anxiously looking forward to searching for new species along our drive home. The Van was leaking transmission fluid when we stopped in Boise, but luckily all was fixed and we were on the road again a day later.

Letting fate determine where to Bird in Idaho and Wyoming

I benefited from using the BirdsEye app during our 2015 Spring Break trip as well as this trip. The app makes it easy for me to search reported birds to eBird and identify areas to explore, which increases my awareness of expected species, and allows me to target areas to add life birds. 

Their reaction after being apart for 30 minutes!
Our primary goal was putting time behind the wheel and miles behind us so I focused on the most desired birding outcome....LIFE BIRDS!  A life bird is the first time a species is seen, and brings me a huge level of enjoyment when I see a new bird. 

Late in our second day from Portland I decided to stop at the Juniper Rest Stop just north of the Utah/Idaho border on I-84 with hopes of seeing a previously reported Juniper Titmouse. The girls were stir crazy so Christine took them for a walk while I went in search of birds along a quieter path. I did not add any new lifers, but I was fortunate enough to have a Say's Phoebe sit in the open and allow me to take photos. The girls followed me back and were able to see and hear the Ash-throated Flycatchers call.

Say's Phoebe
I've seen Say's Phoebes in a few states as their eastern range is the Midwest.
We drove out of Idaho, through Utah, and into Wyoming before we found a hotel for the night. It had a pool and we lounged around it late into the morning. Before we left town we stop at the state visitor center, which yielded few birds but did offer a chance to see a new mammal for the trip.

We headed down the road a couple hours before stopping at Green River - Scotts Bottom Nature Area as once again I used BirdsEye to find a location. I had hopes of finding previously reported Lesser Goldfinch and Sage Thrasher as lifers. We walked around the southern campground area and struggled to see anything in the afternoon heat. A distant Brewer's Sparrow perched and sang as we were returned to the Van, but this lifer seemed like charity and was very unrewarding given the overall limited bird activity, distant views of this bird, and sweltering heat.

After the initial walk our return to the freeway took us by water treatment ponds. Birders have a weird affinity for these sewage lagoons, so we stopped in. An American Avocet chick in the middle of a pond caught our attention so we stopped to watch. I'm not sure if the parent was concerned with the van 30 yards away or just curious, but it flew in and walked with feet of my window.

American Avocet
 The Avocet will loose it's salmon neck and head colorization after the spring breeding season.

As we slowly left the ponds along the dirt road Christine spotted a goldfinch with a dark crown. This was almost certainly a Lesser Goldfinch, which is yellow and black similar to American Goldfinches but with a green hue to its back and dark cap for the male. I missed the bird and was frustrated by my perceived bad luck of not seeing it! Christine's cooler mind reminded me that it would be okay to park and wait on the hopes that the birds might return. After a while the Lesser Goldfinches returned!!

 Mountain Cottontail
Lesser Goldfinch (Left) and Mountain Cottontail (Right) from Green River!

With all the time birding during the third day, limited hotel options, and the late start we decided to drive late into the night all the way to Walden Colorado. At dusk we saw Greater Sage Grouse in the road, that were easily seen from a mile away. They were so large we initially thought they might be turkeys! As we got close they flew off, but it was a decent look at another lifer, the third of the day!! As fate had it, my birding plan for the next day would bring us closer to two of these lifers.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Future Stages

On June 26th we spent the day at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City at the 3rd Annual Future Stages Festival that showcased over 800 youth. Below are videos of their wonderful performances.

My personal favorite performance is below with three different songs including Disturbed's version of "Sound of Silence" at 3:47!!