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29949Oneida & Cassia County highlights: Northern Mockingbird, Lark Bunting, Blue Grosbeak

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  • Stoddard Davenport
    Jun 19, 2017

      Hi birders,

      Saturday afternoon Ellen and I headed out to camp at Curlew Campground (Curlew National Grasslands) and bird around Oneida and Cassia counties. Saturday evening didn't turn up anything too interesting, but Sunday was much better. My apologies for the tardiness of this report - we had very little cell service over the weekend and got home pretty late last night.

      First, we searched the Stone Hills for Scott's Orioles. No luck on this trip. Although we succeeded in 2014 and 2015, our batting average has gone down quite a bit since then. We tried on 6/5, 7/2, 7/4 of 2016, and have tried on 5/13, 5/14, 5/21, 6/17, and 6/18 so far this year and have not had any success yet. The May dates were likely a bit early, but we've been trying to figure out how early in the year they typically arrive. After studying the typical amount of time typically required for pair formation, nest building, incubation, fledging, etc. in Birds of North America, and comparing that to the dates people have reported seeing juveniles in past years, I'd guess that they typically arrive sometime between 5/15 and 6/9, but the earliest date confirmed so far in eBird is 6/9. On a positive note, the road that drops down into the Stone Hills looks like its had some work done on it this spring and it's actually in pretty good shape right now. Additionally, I'm not sure how long it will stay this way but so far the gate has been unlocked every time we've been this year - I think the cattle that had been grazing in there have been moved over to another nearby plot. With the road repairs, not having to mess with the fence, and the lower temps this spring, it's been much more pleasant to visit the area than past years.

      Our best find in the area was a Northern Mockingbird (lousy pictures are on our eBird checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37682805). They don't seem to be particularly unusual for the area, but are always a treat to see in Idaho. This is our fifth time finding Northern Mockingbirds in the area, and they've all been probably within 1/2 a mile of the same area each time (42.05298,-112.8226.)

      Next, we headed towards City of Rocks with a detour through the area along Narrows Road (just east of Almo) that had a Blue Grosbeak a couple of weeks ago. Just 10 minutes or so before we got to that area we were treated to a surprise Lark Bunting on Stanrod Road. The exact location is in the map link from our eBird checklist (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37682809). Unfortunately we were moving pretty quick on a gravel road and couldn't come to a stop before we passed (and flushed) the bird. When we did get stopped we saw it again briefly on the top of a sagebrush further out on the east side of the road before it dropped to the ground and we lost track of it.

      Next, we were able to re-find the Blue Grosbeak that had been reported a couple of weeks ago along Narrows Road. I think the first report was on 6/3, and the last report (before yesterday) was 6/6, and I wasn't sure if that was because it had moved along or because nobody had been back since 6/6, but it looks like the latter. That makes at least 2 weeks for this bird in the same location. Hopefully it's got a lady friend somewhere nearby and is planning to stay put for the summer. Photos and the exact location can be found in our eBird checklist (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37682810). We had a brief but dissatisfying glimpse at Austin's Blue Grosbeak from Big Cottonwood WMA last year, but this encounter was much much more satisfying. You can also find a few pictures of the bird on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/102015389@N03/?). Many thanks to the original finders of this great bird!

      After that we spent the afternoon at Castle Rocks SP and City of Rocks. We had lots of the usual pinyon/juniper/scrub specialties, which is always enjoyable, but nothing really out of the ordinary. We were hoping for a Pinyon Jay but didn't find any. 

      Good birding!

      Stoddard and Ellen Davenport


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