Day 3: Chilling out...When I woke up early in the morning the first bird I saw in 2016 was my lifer flock of Bohemian Waxwings flying out in the distance! What a way to start the year! January 1st was one of the few days when we decided to take it easy and just do a little local birding. While the Noe family and I hiked around Post Falls along a scenic river, with a lake and some falls, I noticed some birds flush up out of the running water and onto a rock. I borrowed Walker's binocs and saw that they were our lifer American Dippers! The American Dipper is the only songbird in the United States that swims underwater.
Day 4: A triple owl chase!Walker and I's birding luck lately hasn't been as good as it had the first couple of months we first birded together. The first time we birded we had a multi day trip in the Chiricahua Mountains and we got several lifers (including some clutch Mexican Chickadees at their nest!). The second time we birded we cleaned house and then some at Tres Rios and the B and M when we found a Painted Bunting, got the all-time high count of Yellow-billed Cuckoos for AZ, found a strange Bonaparte's Gull, some Caspian Terns, a Ridgway's Rail, and more! And our blessed birding continued on! However, our most recent birding expeditions haven't been nearly as good, so to make up for our slacking off we pretty much had to throw a hail mary and pray that it would work! Our hail mary was to wake up at four in the morning, drive to look for a Northern Hawk Owl that was four hours away, then look for day roosting Northern Saw-whet Owls, and then finish our day with a Snowy Owl search. So walker, Dalton, and I woke up long before first light and headed out the door praying for the best. To be honest, both Walker and I were nervous that the day was gonna be a total fail like our recent Snowy Owl search, but neither of us let each other know. A song that has strangely seemed like our good luck charm, The Final Count Down, was now playing and we were very anxious to see some owls! As soon as we turned off the highway onto Cassimer Bar Road we kept our eyes peeled for the fearless Northern Hawk Owl. We weren't exactly sure where the bird had been seen but we saw a car parked and hoped that they were looking at the bird. We then stopped and I spied a bird high up in a dead tree.
Garth The Northern Hawk Owl!
Later on we said "Peace out Garth!" and he said "Peace out, good luck on your search guys!"
We named the Hawk Owl Garth because the name seemed to fit him well. Garth was fearless, tough, a little scary, and he did what he wanted, until the land owner shot him a week later! The whole story about Garth, the Northern Hawk Owl being shot and killed is a whole different story and I don't really want to get into it too much, but if you want to get into it just google "Washington Tweeters Northern Hawk Owl" and I'm sure you'll get enough drama for your week! Anyways, back to the story. While we were watching Garth the car that we thought was watching the owl drove up to us and a guy rolled down his window and said "Well we've been here since sunrise and haven't seen the Northern Hawk Owl yet, but we aren't done looking yet." We chuckled a little and pointed up to his perch and said the three best words "There it is." The man said "really?! Are you sure?! And then we let him take a look through my scope and we could tell that he was pumped. As a matter of fact, this was his 730th ABA bird I believe. After observing the Northern Hawk Owl for about a half hour we decided to look for a day roosting Northern Saw-whet Owl. Before long we parked at the large park that they had been seen at recently and started scanning the coniferous trees. However, after about a half hour of searching we started loosing hope. Could the Northern Hawk Owl be the only life bird I got that day? Could the rest of the day be a total waste? No, I couldn't think that way! I had to keep my head high and keep on searching. After another fifteen minutes we decided to leave, but just before we left a car of birders came in with the good news that they had just found a Northern Saw-whet Owl on its day roost! After getting directions we drove up to the tree that they described and started our search. We stood under that tree for a good five minutes before Walker said "Caleb, I see it!" I then walked over to where he was and the bird was only about eight feet from us! We named the Northern Saw-whet Owl Jimmy.
Jimmy the Northern Saw-whet Owl
Jimmy was a nice bird. Pretty much the exact opposite of Garth. Garth looked like he wanted to tare my heart out, Jimmy looked gentle and laid back. Garth kept his distance from us, Jimmy would have let us pet him if he weren't too high. And so on... Now the time was coming, the last target bird of the day, the Snowy Owl! As you would imagine we had mixed feeling for this chase. We were pumped at the thought of getting a Snowy Owl yet we were afraid that we'd end up spending the rest of the day searching for this bird without success, like we did the other day. However, you can't just pass up a chance at chasing one of the coolest birds in the world! This bird was what could possibly make the trip a total success.
There we were, on the road heading towards what could potentially be our best bird of the trip! Our hopes dropped though after we found that the fog was super thick. As a matter of fact we could barely seen 80 feet in front of ourselves! Our hope was fading with every mile we drove, at one point Walker asked me "Caleb, you wanna head back?" and I thought about it but we both came up with the conclusion that since we were close to the owl's territory we might as well try. However, once we entered the Snowy Owl's territory the fog had only gotten worse so we decided to pull over and just wait the fog out. Unfortunately the fog was only getting thicker so we started doing some research on where the owl had been seen most of the time. According to past reports the owl was usually scoped out from the road WAY out anywhere across its six square mile territory! The news only made us taste defeat even more. While Walker was doing research and Dalton was trying to catch up on some rest I starred out into the thick fog. I then noticed a large bird flying strait towards us! The bird's flight style was distinct and I proclaimed the sighting of our large white owl by screaming "OH MY GOSH!!! OH MY GOSH!!! OH MY GOSH!!!!!! GUYS IT'S THE SNOWY OW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" The moment was so serial! But it only got better when the bird landed on a telephone poll directly above us! The Snowy Owl, which we named Bianca, just stood on the top of that poll proclaiming her amazingness!
Bianca the Snowy Owl!!!
After watching this crazily awesome bird for nearly a half hour she decided to fly to a distant rock pile when we decided it was time to head back.
Bianca, the Snowy Owl, was queen over the day and even the trip. But wait, The day wasn't over yet! We still had a couple of spots to stop by on our way back. On our way back we got some nice birds including a Ring-necked Pheasant, Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, Chukars (lifer!), a Barn Owl, and an American Tree Sparrow (another lifer!).
Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, and Horned Larks
American Tree Sparrow
The rest of the trip had nothing to compare with our triple owl day and I didn't bother taking too many photos. However, I got some more lifers including Iceland Gull, Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, Red-necked Grebe, and Glaucous-winged Gull!
Man I still can't get over that Snowy Owl!!! Even now,nearly three weeks later, I'm still thinking about that awesome experience! All in all, seeing the Snowy Owl was a miracle! And for that I praise my savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with such an amazing bird and trip!
Overall, my Idaho/Washington trip was a HUGE success!!! Thanks Walker, Dalton, Emmie, and Mrs. Noe for having me over and birding hard with me! This trip was one I will never forget!
In the mean time, I hope to add photos of the scenery later on and maybe a few bird photos. Have an awesome week everyone!!!
God Bless and BIRD HARD!!!