After the off-season observations of the peregrine territory and the series of falcons who stayed in the territory with the tiercel, I submitted an abstract for an ornithological meeting in Boise. Cheryl was co-author, having been an observor. She read and made some good suggestions to the abstract. To my surprise, it was accepted as a talk. I spent a month after the acceptance wishing I’d never submitted it and avoiding making the changes the reviewers suggested. I’m not an ornithologist. I’m not even a particularly good birder. Only a decent observer who had seen behavior that seemed never to have been noticed or reported.
So the trip to Boise is over and the talk went well and was well-received. The field trips were great and our side trips as good as the organized trips.
We went to the Peregrine Fund Birds of Prey Center twice and talked about going a third time. The highlights were the Harpy Eagle and the aplomado falcons. I don’t think I’d like to meet up with the harpy when it’s hungry.
We visited the Idaho Bird Observatory and were able to watch banding and to release some of the banded birds.
One of my favorites was a vireo. We saw thrushes and chickadees and spotted towhees and an orange crowned warbler and others. We got a tour of the raptor banding and hawkwatch areas but it was too early in the day for the raptors to be coming through. Here we get to Hawk Hill by 9:30 to start hawkwatch but they start around 11:30 and go until mid afternoon. The ridge runs north to south along the Boise Plain and the thermals start to form later in the day. We spent the morning there and returned to the conference for the afternoon talks.
I went to a demonstration of bird skin preparation for taxidermy or museum specimens. Three skins were done: a roadrunner, a screech owl and a robin. Each had either been found dead or had been injured but not made it through re-hab. I’d wanted more information about the methods and materials and history of skin preparation. The people doing the skins were all experienced and fast and professional. The skins were prepared as museum specimens.
We went on a trip to the Snake River. Since it was 100, it was not an especially pleasant trip. I’d like to go again but in the spring to see prairie falcons and other raptors.
We saw a bird on a pole that we recognized immediately as a dark morph of a hawk but could not readily identify. It took some looking through field guides and talking with other people to finally decide it was a dark morph Swainson’s hawk. It was a beautiful bird, with white around it’s face, dark breast down to the tail. The tail had the characteristic white underside with a line even with the extended wings. It sat on the pole, then stretched it wings giving us a good look at the underside of the wings.
Finally it took off and landed in a nearby field. Unfortunately it flew over the car where I couldn’t see it and get a look at the relative length of tail and width and length of wing.
On the last day, we went on the Payette River for whitewater rafting. The section of the river is a class II/III river but the water was low and rocks were just at the water’s surface. We hit several rocks, doing some spinners. Once we were stuck on a rock for a long period of time before we were able to shift our weight and get ourselves off. On another stretch of the river, we hit a rock and tipped up sideways, dumping one person out and nearly dumping all four people seated on the lower side. The river is in the mountains to the north of Boise and is cooler than the plains area. The river was tree lined and beautiful. We saw one golden eagle, several osprey and redtails, one bald eagle high up and rising higher on a thermal. A dipper was standing in the shallows on a rock, dipping. A chipmunk stole crackers from our lunch. It was a very relaxing time on the water. I was especially grateful that the rafting day came after my talk and I was completely able to relax and enjoy it. I didn’t even worry that I would miss my flight home. I think I’d given up on the idea of making my flight. We were still at the river at 4 pm, but I was on my plane at 7:10, home by midnight and at work by 8 am the next morning. Culture shock.