A month into the winter raptor season and still no snow! What the heck, I thought this was supposed to be another La Nina year?! Last winter Boise Idaho had a huge snow storm right before Thanksgiving, which drove a lot of the early season trends in wintering raptors counted. This season has been a bit different so far with certain species sticking around in higher numbers taking advantage of the little to no snow cover. I have already counted nearly as many American Kestrels, Red-Tailed Hawks, and Ferruginous Hawks as I did all of last winter, and we still have two and a half months to go.
While there has been no snow, it certainly has been cold enough with temperatures rarely making it out of the 30s the last few weeks, making for crisp and clear survey conditions: Perfect! Here are my raw count totals from November 15 through December 15, 2011 inside the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area:
Things are just starting to get going, and it seems after a slow start the Rough-Legged Hawks are finally here is full swing. There have also been 4-5 Snowy Owl sightings in southern Idaho already this winter, one in my study area seen by another biologist. These arctic breeding owls rarely make it down this far south, so it is likely their main source of food up north, Lemmings, is in the midst of a cyclic population decline. This means they need to migrate further south than normal to find food during the harsh winter months. I have yet to see one of these magnificent birds, but I am keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes that one of these days it may fly right in front of my face! In the mean time, here are a few great photos taken by a fellow biologist during road surveys conducted last week. Enjoy, and until next time, everyone have a great Holiday and New Year…