When I arrived at Tibby's last night, I noticed some very nice aspen groves in the foothills behind her house. She said she occasionally hears grouse drumming in these hills. Armed with this encouragement, I took a short walk through this area before it got dark last night. I did not find much. However, when I woke up this morning, a hunch told me to bird this area again rather than riding to Fox Creek. Tibby actually accompanied me to provide a extra set of feet for grouse-flushing. We climbed up a steep, sage-covered pitch before dropping into the aspen-dotted drainage. The foliage was really thick and made navigation a fun challenge. We bushwached our way back down the drainage towards the house when we finally flushed a grouse. The bird did not fly far, and it actually landed on a log where I could get a good enough view to ID it as a Ruffed grouse! I instantly flipped the camera into manual focusing to try to get a shot through a the incredibly thick undergrowth. I captured a record shot before the bird flushed again and headed back up the drainage behind us. Its not great, but it leaves no doubt!
Not much visibility under the aspens
Obscured Ruffed grouse - no way to get this shot in autofocus,
so I had to go old skool manual
Mike, Loren, Tibby on the farm!
You can see the aspen groves on the hills behind them.
Resident Sandhill cranes
Great horned owl from the morning's walk
Finding the grouse leaves Gray partridge as the next very crucial bird I need to find. There a smattering of sightings of this species from the Victor area, and both Tibby and husband Mike say they sometimes see this bird on their land. After the grouse triumph this morning, I decided to use the afternoon to try for the partridge around here. The best way to find this bird is to walk the edges of farm fields, and being that I have access to farm field right here, this decision made sense. I could run into this species at any point along the road, but I really can't properly search for it on private lands. Looking at the habitat around here, I though I had a really good shot at this bird today. However, despite much tromping, I was unable to find the partridge today. It would have greatly simplified my life (more on this in a minute) to find this bird today, but I guess asking for two Gallinaceous birds in the same day was wishful thinking.
I walked many miles of field edge like this today
I did bike ~20 miles between field tromping sessions
Bad weather is going to complicate my next few days. Here is the forecast for Rexburg for the next 4 days. I was planning on using Rexburg as a base to search for Gray Partridge at Camas NWR, but I am seriously considering skipping Rexburg and Camas completely so to hammer west and get out from under this weather. I REALLY REALLY could use some intel on Gray partridge around Boise or anywhere in Western Washington. If I could get this bird around elsewhere, I'd skip it and the miserable weather here. Biking in rain is bad, but birding in rain is worse - especially when the birding will involve walking through wet, waist high grass. I'd prefer to make miles in this weather than bird in it.
Weather in Rexburg the next 4 days
Many people have asked if I use eBird. The answer is a resounding "YES". I frequently use it to give me an idea of where/when birds have historically been seen. For example, I can see that Mew Gull historically starts showing regularly in Northern California between October 19 and 23 or so (since it shows this late, I will have to go up to the Oregon/Washington coast this summer to make sure I get it). eBird is fantastic as a record keeping device and can help to point me in a productive direction. It gives me a general idea of what I can expect in a given area. However, the best form of bird finding information comes from actual discussions with local birders. I can't, after all, ask bird questions. My favorite motto this year has been "Boots on the Ground". Oral information from people who have birded a particular area in the past week is gold. I saw a grouse in area X 3 years ago is not terribly helpful. It becomes more helpful when coupled with the other sightings collectedin eBird, but no amount of pins in a map will ever trump a local birder saying "I have a spot for that bird, and I am willing to take you there." So, I am very well versed in eBird, but if anyone wants to talk to me about particular species, I always welcome it.
For instance, there is a Northern hawk owl nest north of Boise that I would LOVE to hit, but the location is not in eBird. If someone knows about this site and wants to share info with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The same goes for the exact whereabouts and protocols for the partridge in Western Idaho or Eastern Washington! In an ideal world someone would email me tonight or tomorrow and say "I have a really good spot for that bird other than Camas". I would then skip the northern ride to Rexburg and ride south to Idaho Falls instead. If I don't get any more intel, I am not sure what I am going to do. This is one of the primary reasons I am so religious about the blog. The more people that read it and like it, the more help I am going to get along the way!