A studio for bird study

Tag: idaho

First Idaho Record of Red-flanked Bluetail – December 2016

by Bryce W. Robinson

_MG_5166.jpg

On 31 December 2016 I made the five hour trip from Boise to Lewiston to see Idaho’s first record of Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus). On arrival, the bird already had a crowd watching it forage along the Russian Olives that bordered the river.

_mg_5271

It was a sunny and relatively warm morning, and the bird was actively foraging. It would appear on the tree edge and making foraging sallies to the ground. It looked like the bird was eating the Russian Olive fruits, but one of my photos show it with an arthropod in its bill as well.

_MG_5140.jpg

It made its way foraging between four trees along the river, heading south to the last tree and then returning north. Occasionally it would disappear low in the trees along the rivers edge, and return to foraging within a few minutes.

My favorite aspects of this bird were its subtle hues in the plumage, particularly the blue throughout and the white throat patch. I also enjoyed its behaviors, such as the constant tail dabbing. The bird was extremely cooperative, providing all watching with excellent views. At times when it would come to the ground to forage, it would do so only feet from the birders. I’d say it was behaving about the best anyone could hope for concerning a high profile vagrant.

I spent some time attempting to capture video of the bird perched on a limb, tail dabbing. I mostly was unsuccessful, but did manage the following clip that is poor quality. It’s worth sharing just to show the birds behavior.

 

The Red-flanked Bluetail was a great end to 2016, which was a bummer of a year for so many reasons, but was incredible and profitable regarding birds. Hopefully 2017 will match or exceed. Happy New Year.

A Green Heron GIF to illustrate Tail Flicking Behavior

by Bryce W. Robinson

GRHE.gif

While photographing a vagrant juvenile Green Heron (Butorides virescens anthonyi) along the Boise River in early November, I noticed a behavior I wasn’t aware of for this species. When I would get a bit too close the heron would notice me, stop foraging, and flick it’s tail while it slowly walked away, as if it had a nervous tick.

Tail flicking is a behavior that many species exhibit. A recent study with the Black Phoebe found support for the explanation that tail flicking was a sign of vigilance to predators, a topic I’ve written about here. When the bird flicked its tail, the predator got the cue that the bird was aware of its presence and the predator had lost the advantage of surprise. This seemed to make sense in explaining the behavior of the Green Heron I stalked on the Boise River. Each time it began flicking its tail, I’d let off until it relaxed and continued to forage.

Banding Calliope Hummingbirds in Idaho

by Bryce W. Robinson

_MG_7042

Palm release of a male Calliope Hummingbird – Selasphorus calliope

Last week I was fortunate to join my friends Jessica Pollock and Heidi Ware of the Intermountain Bird Observatory for some hummingbird banding near Idaho City, Idaho. The banding location is located in the mountains of central Idaho, consisting of healthy Ponderosa Pine forests complete with associated bird life.

_MG_7262

Last week was a bit early in the season, but we did have some luck catching Calliope Hummingbirds. We caught 7 birds, all males. Catching only males also indicates the early season, as in most species males are tasked with setting up territories before the arrival of females and are thus the first to arrive. The banding seemed to tell this story. Unfortunately the Rufous Hummingbirds weren’t around yet, but capturing a number of North America’s smallest bird was more than enough to satisfy my desire to see hummingbirds in hand.

 

_MG_7244

Weighing a male Calliope Hummingbird.

The whole day was excellent, but the perhaps the most exciting part of the day came with a recapture of a bird that has been captured every year for the past five years. It’s remarkable to hold proof of the resilience and livelihood of such a small and well travelled animal.

To find out more about IBO’s hummingbird work, please visit their website and get involved.

Singing House Wren on the Boise River

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

I recorded a singing House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) today while banding birds along the Boise River with the Intermountain Bird Observatory (note the bird is banded!).

Although spring migration hasn’t hit in its entirety at this site, the House Wrens seem to have arrived in full. There are at least three different individual males singing in the area, and I’ve noticed an additional four individuals in the area as well. The House Wren population at this site seems to be healthy.

Unfortunately the video I recorded does not capture the song of the House Wren. I wasn’t too far from the wren, but I believe the inability of the phone to capture the song is related to the masking of other noises in the environment (and the iPhone’s lack of a directional mic). First and foremost it was a windy day, which I believe is the main contributor to the masking. On top of the wind was the noise of the busy highway, the noise of the Boise River, and nearby construction (all large bandwidth, but mostly low frequency). With both natural and anthropogenic noise, I wonder how House Wren territory distributions differ between an area like this and a relatively noiseless area such as a remote forest location away from a river.

HOWR

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) banded at the Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Boise River site on the east end of Boise, Idaho.

Despite the heightened noise, the wrens in this area seem to be thick and continuing with life as they would. A study may enlighten us on the human noise impacts coupled with natural noise (rivers, etc.) on bird territory distributions like in this case, but if I were to hedge a bet I’d say the House Wren is one species that seems to weather the added impacts of humanity enough to maintain a regular and healthy population within human disturbance areas.