Sunday, October 11, 2009

1st Annual BIG SIT @ Lucky Peak (& some Merlin action)

On Sunday, Oct 11, the gung-ho hawkwatch team decided to initiate a 'Big Sit' (in which observers attempt to document as many species as possible from one vantage point) from the top of Lucky Peak. Thus, John (who'd done one in coastal New Jersey last year) was up on top by dawn listening and looking for any songbirds, owls, or anything else they might miss later in the day. During the AM, Dave, Eric, and Preston took shifts (allowing the others to eat breakfast and get ready for the hawk count to start @ 10am) on the peak.

The 2009 Lucky Peak hawkwatch crew (from left, Eric, Dave, Preston, & John) on duty counting hawks during the BIG SIT on Oct 11, 2009

The total for the day was 39 species, mostly consisting of raptors and landbirds but also including Mallards, Canada Geese, Ring-billed Gull, and Great Blue Heron that we (especially Dave) picked out along the Boise River using his 60x Swarovski scope!

A few other highlights included a couple of Merlins (coming in pretty good #s of late - see below for more info/pics), a fly-by Northern Shrike, Evening Grosbeaks, Clark's Nutcrackers, and some migrating Western Bluebirds. It was a fun thing to do and something I hope will become an annual event!


In other news, we've been enjoying a pretty impressive flight of Merlins in recent weeks (great for me as they're my favorite raptor!!). As an example, here are three shots of 2 immature male Merlins of different subspecies that I captured in a matter of 7 minutes yesterday (the highlight of an otherwise very slow hawk flight due the passing cold front). The first bird to come in was quite dark and might represent the 'Black' (suckleyi) subspecies whereas the second bird looks to be of the 'Prairie' (richardsonii) subspecies. What do you think?

Two immature male Merlins captured and banded on 10-10-09. Pretty strikingly different appearances: on the right is a bird of the 'Prairie' subspecies (more common further east but seems to be annual but rare in Idaho) whereas the bird on the left might represent the 'Black' subspecies (that hails from the Pacific Northwest and also seems to be a rare, annual visitor to Idaho) - photo by Brad Ware

The same 2 Merlins in reverse order - photo by Brad Ware

In this picture, note especially the tail pattern (bold white bars on the 'Prairie' vs. a predominantly dark tail on the possible 'Black') as well as the overall coloration - photo by Brad Ware

The expected subspecies in Idaho (and most of the continent) is the nominate (columbarius) subspecies, which I captured and photo'd a few weeks ago:
(for comparison) An immature female Merlin of the nominate columbarius subspecies captured on 9-17-09; note the medium brown color and the moderately distinct tail bars - photo by Holley Carlisle

A shot of the chest/undwerwing of the same columbarius individual caught on 9-17-09 - photo by Holley Carlisle

Cheers & happy birding!



Robert Mortensen said...

That's so cool that you guys did a Big Sit up there. I think we should look at doing a state-wide competition for a Big Stay in the Spring. I've been thinking about good locations and places like the IBO and Deer Flat could be very interesting.

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