Birding around McCall, Idaho – 3 lifers!

This past weekend, Anna and I made a last minute decision to drive up to the McCall area to do some birding for our days off work. We left Saturday night after work and drove up to Cascade. We birded Cascade Lake till dark and camped there for the night. When we first arrived to the lake, it seemed pretty deserted of birdlife besides a few Western Grebes. However as we continued around the southern tip of the lake, things changed, and the lake was very obvisouly loaded with waterfowl. There were hundreds of Western Grebes, thousands of American Coots, and thousands of other individual waterfowl. Mixed in with a flock of coots, was a few Barrow’s Goldeneyes. This species was a lifer for me and one I have been trying to see for years. Until that moment, Barrow’s Goldeneye had been my number one nemesis bird. As we continued, the lake offered more and more looks at all the waterfowl that were present. I was completely shocked at how many waterfowl were present! There were 17 different duck species on the lake, plus coot, Common Loon, Western Grebe, Clark’s Grebe, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, and American White Pelican.

Barrow's Goldeneye - male and female (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The next morning we woke up early and continued driving along the western side of the lake. We stopped at the first patch of aspen we came to and began searching for Red-naped Sapsuckers. This would be a lifer for Anna and I. We were excited to instantly find two sapsuckers close to the road! Farther along West Mountain Road, we found many more sapsuckers plus Mountain Bluebirds, Townsend’s Solitaires, Sandhill Cranes, Bald Eagles, and many other exciting birds.

Red-naped Sapsucker (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Red-naped Sapsucker (photo by Anna Fasoli)

Farther along West Mountain Road, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a raptor in a small  spruce along the left side of the road. I quickly stopped and turned to look what it was and was quite happy to see that it was an adult Broad-winged Hawk. Broad-wings are rare in the west, especially during spring migration. The hawk sat for me to take one quick picture, then flew up into the sky and soared above us a few minutes and then flew out of view into the forest.

Broad-winged Hawk - adult (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Broad-winged Hawk - adult (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Broad-winged Hawk - adult (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

We finished up birding around Cascade Lake and then drove up towards McCall. Our first stop in McCall was Lick Creek Road. There wasnt too much bird activity, but while we stopped to watch some Stellar’s Jays and Common Ravens, I spotted two American Dippers foraging in the creek alongside the road. Anna also spotted a Pileated Woodpecker up on the side of a mountainside in a snag, but I couldnt get on the bird and so missed it.

After lunch, Anna and I drove to Bear Basin. This is a famous birding area in McCall that is well-known for its Great Gray Owls and Williamson’s Sapsuckers. This sapsucker species would also be a lifer for us and so was out goal for this stop. Sure enough, without much looking, we were able to find three adult male Williamson’s Sapsuckers, two of which put on a good show fighting on the top of a snag.

Williamson's Sapsuckers - males (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

We spent a few more hours birding around McCall and then headed south towards Council and Weiser for more birding before heading home. We were able to find a lot of cool things near Weiser and Midvale, which I will talk about in another post tomorrow. During our birding in McCall we were able to see a lot of very cool birds and we added a lot of species to our Idaho state list! Below are two more birds we saw a lot of; Mountain Bluebirds and Ospreys.

Osprey - adult male (photo by Anna Fasoli)

Mountain Bluebird - adult male (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)