Just for the birds: Fall Birding Activities Abound! – Idaho Press


Verreaux’s eagle-owl by Derek Keats.
Harris’ hawk by Andy Morffew.
Aplomado falcon by Jose Amorin.
Lanner falcon by Ian White.
Red-tailed hawk by Mark Bohn.

Verreaux’s eagle-owl by Derek Keats.
Harris’ hawk by Andy Morffew.
Aplomado falcon by Jose Amorin.
Lanner falcon by Ian White.
Red-tailed hawk by Mark Bohn.

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As autumn in southwest Idaho rolls around, it’s fun to start thinking about all the fall birding activities in the area. I’ll start by blowing my own horn. After taking a break in August, I’ll be resuming my bird talks at the Foothills Learning Center (FLC). These take place at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.
After about a one-hour presentation, with many opportunities for questions and contributions from the audience, we all go birding around the FLC. Binoculars are available to borrow, and you can stay as little or as long as you like. The same is true for my presentation. If you don’t like it, you can leave at any time!
My September talk happened last week. Sorry I didn’t provide more notice! Future talks are: Oct. 5, Common Winter Feeder Birds in Idaho; Nov. 2, Population Monitoring — The Christmas Bird Count; and Dec. 7, Winter Birds That Don’t Visit Feeders. Spring titles will be on the FLC website (bee.cityofboise.org) near the end of this calendar year.
The FLC is located along upper Eighth street, after the blacktop turns to dirt. Our bird walks are super easy. I always emphasize you don’t necessarily need to go somewhere to bird. Let the birds comes to you. Beginners and experts are both welcome. It’s a great opportunity to learn from each other. Attendance is free, but FLC does ask you to register to attend.
The Golden Eagle Audubon Society offers a variety of bird walks and bird presentations throughout the year. Check out “Explore” and then “Events” at their website (goldeneagleaudubon.org) for a list. You’ll quickly see Audubon goes beyond birds to offer content on plants, insects, pollinators, and other aspects of our natural world. Field trips range from short outings at local parks to half-day and day-long trips.
I’ll again take advantage of my place here to point out my talk on Nov. 15 about my recent birding trip to northeastern India. I always spend some time on people, food, roads, and other aspects of the country I visit, as well as the birds and the birding. I previewed that talk a bit in my column of June 16, 2022, “Birds with Curry.” Many other presentations are given throughout the year. We all learn a lot from these.
There is no doubt the most amazing autumn events are the Fall Flights at the World Center for Birds of Prey. If you’ve already been to one of these, you probably already have tickets for this fall. If you haven’t been before, get your tickets now. They sell out pretty quickly.
In Fall Flights, we sit outside at the World Center while expert falconers fly five or six species of raptors over our heads. They are literally right over our heads. I’ve felt the wind from the wings of hawks and falcons on many occasions. Not only do you get super close-up looks at beautiful birds of prey, but you also learn amazing fun facts about each species.
The World Center experts fly different species, depending on the year and what species are available. But I sure hope to see Oliver, the Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl again this fall. This is the largest African owl and always amazing to see! We also typically see a Harris’ hawk, Swainson’s hawk, lanner falcon, and Aplomado falcon.
The date range for Fall Flights is Sept. 23 through Oct. 30, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. You must purchase tickets online ahead of time – no tickets will be available at “the door.” Visit peregrinefund.org to get your reservations.
And don’t forget The World Center for Birds of Prey has all of its usual birds, displays, and presentations available year-round. With a recent expansion of facilities under way, their capacity in bird education just gets bigger.
More extraordinary opportunities are offered by the Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO; boisestate.edu). One thing I plan to do this fall, that I haven’t done for years, is visit the Lucky Peak Station to observe the capture and banding of raptors migrating out of the mountains north of us. IBO also nets and bands songbirds earlier in the day and begins capturing owls after dark. Check out their website for important details on how to get there and what to take with you.
IBO is also banding hummingbirds near Idaho City. Although that station is not open to the public this year, do make a note to check in next year. A third IBO songbird banding station is located at the Diane Moore Nature Center on the Boise River a bit upstream from Boise itself. Be sure to check their website for the latest on dates of public availability and registration.
Another great local organization with field trips and presentations is the Southwestern Idaho Birders Association (SIBA; facebook.com). SIBA operates a bit southwest of Boise and includes Malheur County, just over the border into Oregon. This gives birders opportunities to see and learn about a lot of species that are more common in that region than in the Boise area.
The Morrison Knudsen Nature Center in Boise offers a variety of wildlife and nature-oriented programs, including some focused on birds. Check their website for details on upcoming events and presentations (idfg.idaho.gov).
Many readers have attended classes offered by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Boise State University (boisestate.edu). Among the seemingly limitless variety in their classes are some focused on birds. You can “Browse Curriculum” at their website to look for bird-oriented classes. I’ll be giving a class on Idaho raptors in the spring.
If you are like me, sometimes you just want to go birding alone. Sometimes I don’t want to sit in a room or even visit with other birders. And, if you need an excuse for ditching your birding friends, you can point out that research shows clearly that lone birders see more than groups of 2. Groups of 2 see more than groups of 3, and so on. And I know for sure I get better photo opportunities when I go alone.
So, if you get that urge, check out the Idaho Birding Trail (idfg.idaho.gov). Quoting from the website, “Originally launched in 2005, this auto-driven way to wander deep into Idaho’s rural communities and along backcountry roads, was created as a tourism initiative to promote outdoor recreational opportunities, provide education and an increased awareness of the state’s important wildlife resources, and create a diversified economic income for rural communities.” I love driving slowly through the boondocks and stopping wherever I get the urge to see what birds are right there.
The Southwest Region has a map with 94 locations, spread from McCall to Twin Falls. Each site has a description about how to get there, what birds are most interesting in that location, and other interesting details about the location. And, of course, you can visit these sites with friends, if you must.
And don’t forget that if you are out of town, you can drop in on birding activities in other towns. For example, check out the Prairie Falcon Audubon Society if you are in Twin Falls (prairiefalconaudubon.com), the Portneuf Valley Audubon Society when in the Pocatello area (pvas.us), or the Palouse Audubon Society if you are in Moscow (palouseaudubon.org), to name a few.
The same goes if you bail on our mild Treasure Valley winters for even more southerly destinations. There are birder groups everywhere, and there’s no quicker way to learn new birds than to go out with the locals. We recently traveled to Albuquerque to watch the Boise State Broncos on the road. I found birding locations and the best food from birding friends in the area.
Fall is a wonderful time for birding. We have young birds in immature plumage to puzzle out, most species are moving around, several species have already left for the winter, and before long birds from the mountains will start moving downslope.
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