Friday, September 26, 2008

HUGE raptor flight at Lucky Peak today!

Kyle left me a message saying that the hawkwatchers counted 895 raptors and vultures heading S past Lucky Peak today!! If my memory serves correctly, this is a 1-day record for the site and this makes close to 2000 counted in the last 4 days! Highlights from today included ~650 Turkey Vultures and 5 Broad-winged Hawks (including a dark-morph adult).

With a long stretch of nice weather forecasted, it will be interesting to see if these great flights continue!


Lucky Peak migration update & Magnolia Warbler

Hi Folks

We've had a run of busy days since last weekend's storm front. In particular, yesterday (Thurs, Sep 25) was likely the biggest combined songbird & raptor movement of the season. In addition to hundreds of raptors and Turkey Vultures, the hawkwatchers estimated 600+ American Robins as well as numerous finches (including increasing numbers of Evening Grosbeaks and Cassin's Finches), swallows, bluebirds, etc. Our songbird captures were dominated by Yellow-rumped Warblers (including one of the 'Myrtle' subspecies - Harry Krueger also saw a Myrtle at Kathryn Albertson Park in Boise yesterday) as well as RC Kinglets and WC Sparrows. A single Golden-crowned Sparrow was seen today.

This late Sept/early Oct period is often characterized by great raptor diversity (with maybe a chance for the season's last Broad-winged Hawk or a rare Red-shouldered as well as increasing chances of seeing Merlins and N Goshawks) and the highest songbird abundance of the season. This has also been a time in which we sometimes see/hear Blue Jays, Varied Thrushes, and other rarer visitors.

Thus, while it's great up there all season, the next 10 days or so (weather pending) are some of the best days to enjoy migration at Lucky Peak.

Also, we captured a rare Magnolia Warbler on Sunday, Sept 21 - this was our 2nd in 12 years of work at Lucky Peak (though I gather it occurs a little more frequently in E Idaho - esp. at migrant traps like Camas NWR). The below picture is not great (I'm not a photographer by trade ;-) but other folks took much better shots.



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

IBO publications on our website

For anyone (whether you've visited Lucky Peak or not) with an interest in some of the details of bird migration and the research we've conducted, I encourage you to visit the 'publications' page of our website:

All are available as PDF files and we've recently added a few new ones, including:

(1) final (annual) reports from our Lucky Peak and Camas NWR projects,
(2) a link to an Alaska Bird Observatory newsletter article discussing a bird banded in Denali NP that we captured at Camas NWR, and
(3) several new journal articles (use the 'More' link at the bottom of the page to access more journal articles)

As a timely example, we've recently added an article published in 2007 entitled, "Status of Broad-winged (Buteo platypterus) and Red-shouldered Hawks (B. lineatus) during autumn migration in southwestern Idaho, 1995-2006." This article includes photos and a table showing timing of all Broad-winged Hawk sightings at Lucky Peak over a 12-year period.

Of course, nothing beats seeing the migration spectacle in person but I thought some of you might enjoy seeing some of the written fruits of our efforts.



Blackburnian Warbler 9-2-08

On our closing net run on Tuesday, Sept 2, we captured an immature Blackburnian Warbler! Here are 4 pictures of the bird (click on photos for enlarged versions/greater detail):

For comparison, here's a shot of an immature female Townsend's Warbler (taken by Bob Whitlach in 2007):

Key features that helped in the ID of the Blackburnian (especially in separation from Townsend's Warblers which have similar patterning but different colors) include:

- brownish-gray cast to upperparts and head (greenish on Townsend's)

- orangy-yellow on chest and facial stripes (more pure yellow on

- slight hint of a pale central crown stripe (seen on picture #4)

According to the list on, it looks like this is the 6th report for this species in the state. This is the 3rd we have captured at Lucky Peak: 9-2-01 (1st state record), 9-7-05, and 9-2-08. Thus, looks like a pretty tight window in early Sept (similar to when we have captured some other eastern/northern vagrant warblers).

We also captured our first White-crowned Sparrow and Cedar Waxwing of the season yesterday - thus, 3 new species for the season in one day!



Songbird Migration mid-season update (Lucky Peak)

Hi Folks

On Sunday evening I added up the season totals for our songbird captures through Aug 31 - which is the mid-point of our season.

Totals so far (July 16 through Aug 31):

2487 birds of 43 species

1) Nashville Warbler 240
2) MacGillivray's Warbler 234
3) Dusky Flycatcher 228
4) Yellow Warbler 212 (2nd best season-total; after record year in 2007)
5) "Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler 193
5) Western Tanager 193
7) Chipping Sparrow 182
8) Ruby-crowned Kinglet 151
9) Spotted Towhee 121
10) Pine Siskin 102

Willow Flycatcher (2)
Gray Flycatcher (2)
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (2)

In sum, after a slow start, it actually was a pretty impressive 1st half of the season (better than average). The 2008 totals are ~ 400 birds & 9 species fewer than at the same point of the 2007 season (see my blog post from 9-2-07) but still some good numbers of many species. And, I expect the diversity will climb as we head into September.

A few pics:
An adult female Wilson's Warbler - note the pretty extensive crown patch but with a lot of green/yellow feather tips.

An immature male Wilson's Warbler - note the similarly extensive crown patch that is glossier black (than the adult female above) and has the green/yellow feather tips mostly confined to the rear of the crown.

An immature Dusky Flycatcher - note the greenish back, greenish-gray head, moderate-sized bill, and relatively short wing extension.


Mission: to contribute to the conservation of western migratory landbirds through cooperative research and public education