House Wrens are chatty birds, and none-more-so than a pair I photographed and filmed from a natural cavity in the Boise Foothills this week. This pair decided to take up residence in the crack of a locust tree directly adjacent to a garden used for environmental education at the Foothills Learning Center.
This garden was used the previous week during a Junior Gardner Camp, and the wrens presence was an added treat for the kids. We watched all morning as the male and female brought caterpillars and grasshoppers back to their noisy nestlings in the tree crack.
I am just returning from a 3-day Bluebird Manshoot in the Owyhee Mountains so I will keep this week’s post short. While they may not be the most spectacular songbirds in terms of plumage, Brewer’s Sparrows sure do produce one of the longest and most interesting songs I’ve ever heard. While sitting in the blind this morning filming a pair of bluebirds, a male Brewer’s decided to perch in a Juniper snag right next to me. I fired off a few shots while he let the world know this was his territory.
Male Brewer’s Sparrow singing. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
The beauty of the Mountain Bluebird tempts me every week. I am out on the bluebird trail frequently this summer and have the opportunity to see these birds up close and personal. Many of you already know that Wild Lens is producing a half-hour documentary about bluebirds and Idaho bluebird legend Alfred Larson entitled Bluebird Man. I have been holding off on using the bluebird as my weekly photo, but couldn’t restrain myself any longer!
Male Mountain Bluebird. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
On July 1st, Wild Lens will begin a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign via Kickstarter to help fund production and distribution costs for Bluebird Man. We are hoping to raise a significant portion of the funds we need to finish making this film via Kickstarter. Without going into further detail just yet, we simply hope you will join us July 1st in supporting this homegrown film about one man’s role in the history of bluebird conservation in North America. Until next week!
It may or may not surprise you to learn that other species of birds use Bluebird nest boxes. There are numerous bird species in North America that nest in cavities (over 60!), and many of these birds also benefit from the creation and maintenance of bluebird trails. One of the more common occupants of bluebird boxes are House Wrens. These loquacious birds will quickly fill up an entire nest box with small sticks and twigs. This effectively constricts the nest box opening and prevents larger birds from entering. While our film Bluebird Man focuses on the three North American bluebird species, we certainly don’t want to forget about all those other cavity nesting bird species that are equally important to the ecosystems they inhabit.
As part of our 52-week project, we’ll be uploading a short video every month of 2013. This month features a pair of House Wrens investigating a nest box in the Boise Foothills.
This is one of those weeks where I really struggled to chose a “best photo”. I spent Memorial Day weekend with some friends camping on Sheep Creek Reservoir just on the Nevada side of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. This reservoir features some gorgeous wetland habitat that is ripe for waterbirds and shorebirds, and I was chomping at the bit to see all of these wetland associated birds I miss seeing in Boise. The area is probably most notable for it’s high nesting density of White-faced Ibis which feed in the flood irrigated fields during the day before returning to the relative safety of the reservoirs at night. I will be sharing some photos from this trip over the next week, but wanted to start out with what I thought was the best. Save the best for first? Sure, why not.
American White Pelican. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
American White Pelican’s share the crown of North America’s largest bird with the California Condor. Both sport an impressive 9-foot wingspan while gliding effortlessly through the skies. During the breeding season, adults grow a fibrous knob on their upper mandible which is subsequently lost after egg laying. The bird pictured above has already lost it’s knob and is sporting some grey on it’s crown and nape. This means it is past the egg laying stage of breeding or is a non-breeding adult. I love the contrast of their pure white body and wing feathers with the jet black of their primary and secondary flight feathers.
I decided to go Morel mushroom and wildflower hunting with a few friends last weekend. We headed north from Boise towards McCall, Idaho and stayed along the shores of Lake Cascade. Man were the wildflowers going off! Camas Lilies were blanketing the shores in a deep purple, and Shooting Stars were highlighting wet meadows in a brilliant pink. Among these wildflowers were many migrating birds newly arrived on their northern breeding grounds.
We decided to take a side trip to Sagehen Reservoir on our way home to continue looking for mushrooms, wildflowers, and birds. This small reservoir is tucked in the low mountains northwest of Boise and featured birds such as Osprey, Common Loon, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ruffed Grouse, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, and many others.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
While scoping out a Common Loon on the reservoir, I noticed a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitting in the shrubs along the shore. He was flaring his ruby-red crown a bit, and I was able to capture that as he posed briefly on a fir branch.
Yellowstone National Park is a magical place. Back in the summer of 2006, Yellowstone was my introduction to the west. Just before my senior year of college, some friends and I packed our bags for a road trip to the nation’s first national park. This was the first time I had been further west than Tennessee, and what an introduction it was! Since then, Yellowstone has held a special place in my heart and I always wish I could visit more often.
This past weekend was my third trip to the park, this time with a lucky group of 5/6th graders from Boise who were awarded a grant to spend the weekend in the Lamar Valley. We had a great 4-days and while on a hike Sunday we flushed up a Dusky Grouse along a Douglas Fir/Sagebrush forest edge. While pointing out the bird to the kiddos I grabbed a few photos as the female Dusky tried to stay completely still in the middle branches of the Doug Fir. She was hoping I didn’t see her…
Female Dusky Grouse, Yellowstone National Park. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
Did you know that a group of Turkey Vultures is called a “venue” and that Turkey Vultures circling in the air are known as a “kettle”? A group of birds can have many different names, with my personal favorites being a “charm” of Hummingbirds and a “murder” of Crows. This venue of Turkey Vultures was circling at sunset in the Owyhee Mountains last week.
When I spent two years working with California Condors, I witnessed condors soaring in the evenings many times. There seemed to be no other reason for them to be flying than for the sheer joy and social-ness of the occasion. They would have already fed and eaten food that day, and could have easily not flown and just picked a roosting spot. But they always flew in great numbers right before it got dark, providing often brilliant scenes of 30-40 condors flying against the sunset sky. These Turkey Vultures seemed to be doing the same thing, flying around the same area for almost an hour when they could have easily bedded down for the night. Perhaps this is where some of their dominance hierarchy is established. They eventually flew until it was nearly too dark to see, and then disappeared over the horizon to a find roosting place for the night.
Turkey Vultures at sunset. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
This weeks post is a double-whammy! Not only is today Wednesday, when I post my weekly bird photograph, but it is also the first of May when I post the monthly highlight reel from April. We’ll start with this weeks photograph:
While in British Columbia filming Western Bluebirds for Bluebird Man we had the opportunity to see many other secondary cavity nesting birds. Secondary cavity nesting birds are birds that require another animal or bird to create a cavity for them to nest in; they cannot build their own nests. Most secondary cavity nesters use old woodpecker holes to nest in, but by providing bluebird boxes to these birds, we can increase the amount of nesting habitat available to them. Many other species will use and nest in bluebird boxes including Chickadees, Nuthatches, Swallows, Flycatchers, and Wrens. Of the swallows, we saw both Tree and Violet-Green Swallows in British Columbia. We wanted to capture both these species on film as representatives of other non-bluebird cavity nesters, and also get some photos as well. This female Tree Swallow was particular cooperative.
Female Tree Swallow. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
British Columbia was our best chance to see and film Western Bluebirds on a consistent basis, and we captured a lot of great footage of birds setting up their nest boxes and territories. This months highlight reel features some of the footage we captured of Western Bluebirds during our time up north. We wanted to capture both the males and female around nest boxes preparing for the mating season. As we’ve mentioned before, we also had the privilege of assisting PhD student Catherine Dale in trapping two male Western Bluebirds. Enjoy this preview of some of our bluebird footage from BC.
I figured since we are in British Columbia shooting for our new film Bluebird Man, that this weeks photo should reflect our experiences. We spent most of the last two days with North American Bluebird Society president Sherry Linn, who has a small bluebird trail on her property. While we were mostly filming, I still wanted to capture a few photos for this weeks blog post. Here is a beautiful male Western Bluebird nesting on Sherry’s property.
Week 16 photo: Male Western Bluebird. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
Obtaining the NABS perspective on bluebird conservation was very important to us, and Sherry is truly a great ambassador for the organization. We were able to follow Sherry around on her bluebird trail near the Okanagan Valley of south-central British Columbia on Monday. Tuesday morning was also spent on Sherry’s property following around her bluebirds. We got great footage of male and female Western Bluebirds going in-and-out of nest boxes with nesting material, and Sherry even had one pair of bluebirds already incubating 6 eggs!
North American Bluebird Society president Sherry Linn. photograph by Neil Paprocki.
Wednesday we will take a break from bluebirds (only briefly!) to spend the day with Lauren Meads filming Burrowing Owls. Lauren works for the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia, whose mission is to re-establish a self-sustaining population of Burrowing Owls to BC. We will be getting a tour of the captive breeding facility, as well as visiting one of the release sites for these endangered grassland owls. We’ll have a full wrap up of our time in BC once we return state-side on Friday. Until then enjoy a few more photos from the last few days of production.
Sunset over the town of Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
Two of Sherry’s bluebird boxes. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
Spotted Towhee. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.
Yellow-rumped “Audubon’s” Warbler. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.