Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Birds on Open Water

With ponds and lakes frozen, one of the best places to look for birds is wherever you find open water. Silver Creek Preserve, the South Fork of the Snake, the Boise River, the Salmon River and its tributaries and the Henry's Fork are just a few places to check out for excellent winter birding.

Flocks of waterfowl congregate at deep river pools; you'll see many species now that can be difficult to spot in large flocks at other times of year. Look for American and Barrow's goldeneye, bufflehead (pictured above) and other diving ducks. Gadwalls, green-wing teal and widgeon also spend the winter on Idaho's rivers.

American and hooded mergansers are a common sight. These birds are fun to watch as they dive under water and come back up with whitefish and small trout. At times, a merganser will seem to swallow a ten-inch or longer fish, which seems a difficult feat for a bird of that size.

In East Idaho, trumpeter and tundra swans make a dramatic sight as mist rises on the Henry's Fork and South Fork.

It's probably the best time of year to see bald eagles. I've seen as many as six along the Boise River while sitting quietly there in the early morning. While in Coeur d'Alene last week, many nature lovers reported seeing a lot of eagles around Cougar Bay.

Willows and other vegetation along streams are alive with black-capped chickadees, red-shafted flickers and many other birds. In the early morning and at dusk, great horned owls--hooting as the begin to nest--can often be seen silhouetted on tree branches.

So take a walk along a river or stream this winter--the birds are there in abundance.

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