Birding CJ Strike WMA and Ted Trueblood WMA

On Easter, Alex and I drove south towards the Snake River to bird the CJ Strike WMA and Ted Trueblood WMA.  At a small marsh on the Snake River, Alex and I tried calling rails again, hoping to pull out a Sora.  Instead, we were answered by a chorus of Virginia Rails, including one that walked right up to us and ran all over the place by our feet for about 5 minutes. In this area we also picked up a pair of Black-necked Stilts for our Idaho list.  Out on the dam, we passed a Common Loon at a fairly close distance. Not sure what the loon was doing, but it kept throwing its head back and appeared to be yawning repeatedly (no sound was coming out).

Virginia Rail (photo by Anna Fasoli)
Common Loon (photo by Anna Fasoli)
Western Grebe (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Also out on the dam, Western and Clark’s Grebes were numerous, along with hundreds of American White Pelicans.  There were also about 50 Caspian Terns flying around.  Near a campground along the river, we picked up a Western Kingbird, a hopeful sign of spring (even though I am still wearing my thermals everyday).  On another access road, Northern Rough-winged Swallows were perched in a tree taking refuge from a small rain shower, along with a handful of Bank Swallows. 

Western Kingbird (photo by Anna Fasoli)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (photo by Anna Fasoli)
Bank Swallow (photo by Anna Fasoli)

American White Pelicans were congregating at the dam spillway, devouring fish and stealing fish from California Gulls.  A female Red-breasted Merganser flew over as well, and a young Herring Gull hung out in the parking lot with California Gulls and Brewer’s Blackbirds.

American White Pelicans gathering to eat fish at spillway
 (photo by Anna Fasoli)
American White Pelican flying over (photo by Anna Fasoli)
Caspian Tern (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Our next stop was Ted Trueblood WMA. This place is a huge marsh filled with awesome birds. As soon as we got out of the car, we heard Marsh Wrens in every direction.  These tiny birds make a lot of noise, and get pretty upset at eachother while they seem to be constantly defending their small territories. For as loud as they are, they are really hard to see.  You can be right on top of one, and not see it.  They sing from a nearly invisible perch, and you don’t realize they are there until they fly off, still singing in mid-flight.  It took a while to get just a few shots!

In the distance Virginia Rails frequently called, but we heard no sign of Sora.  As we walked a trail around a pond, a small sparrow darted out from near a culvert.  It didn’t act like a curious Song Sparrow that makes itself seen out in the open, and instead flew low and quick into a reed pile. The bird turned out to be a Swamp Sparrow, a fairly common bird in the east, but rare in the west. Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds called, and a pair of American Avocets flew by. There was also a lot of waterfowl nearby, including a Tundra Swan and a Hooded Merganser, two new state birds for us. 

Marsh Wren (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Yellow-headed Blackbird – male (photo by Anna Fasoli)
American Avocet (photo by Anna Fasoli)
Northern Harrier – male (photo by Anna Fasoli)