[Tweeters] Cassia Crossbill trip, Sept 19-22, 2018

Byers byers345 at comcast.net
Sun Sep 23 16:43:26 PDT 2018


Hello Tweeters,

Bill and I had read with interest the reports of Jim
Danzenbaker, Stefan Schlick and others, who had made the pilgrimage to the
Sawtooth National Forest south of Twin Falls, to find the newly minted
species of Cassia Crossbill. We decided to have a try for this bird
ourselves and waited until September because other have complained of the
heat (100 degrees F) and smoke from wildfires. So we left last week and
drove all the way to Twin Falls, Idaho, in one day. One birder who had seen
something like 72 Cassia Crossbills only a few days before us recommended
getting there early. We arrived at Porcupine Springs campground, an area
where many birders have found this bird, at 8 am. It was quite literally
freezing cold. There was only one other camper in the whole campground,
quietly running a generator to stay warm I presume. Though we stayed long
enough to have breakfast (brrrr!) and a cup of coffee, we did not hear or
see much bird activity at all. There were lots of robins and Turkey
Vultures migrating through, though. We checked out several other areas in
the same vicinity where the Cassia Crossbill had been seen and heard, but to
no avail. Using GPS and other navigation tools, we worked our way up over
the nearby hill (about 8,000 feet) and down the other side to Bostetter
campground. By now it was noon and warmer. As we ate lunch, we began to
hear crossbills, though never many or for long. We finally located a mixed
flock of Cassia Crossbills, Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches,
and Pine Siskins. What seemed to be the method for the other birds was to
wait for the crossbills to open the tough Lodgepole Pine cones, then the
smaller birds would move in and clean up. The birds stayed in the same area
for over an hour and we stood there and watched them and took pictures.
Aside from the chill, which moderated throughout the day, it was utterly
clear and beautiful, with not much wind. The scenery is rounded hills with
sagebrush and grass on top and trees in the gullies. The aspens were
turning gold and the maples red. There were a few other people around,
apparently it is bow hunting season, so occasionally we passed a
four-wheeler puttering along with bow hunters.

The following day we headed back part-way, stopping in Malad
Gorge State Park (more robins!) and Bruneau Dunes State Park (coots). The
best place in the area was the Bruneau Duck Ponds, which had a good variety
of birds from ducks, to Great Egrets, White-faced Ibises and other shore
birds. Farther along, back in Oregon now, we stopped at Farewell Bend State
Park. Again we found birds in migration, this time an Olive-sided
Flycatcher and Vesper Sparrows along with Yellow-rumped Warblers. There
were many more birds down along the Snake River, but we didn't have time to
inspect that part.

Yesterday, on the final leg of our trip, we stopped in the
morning at Deadman's Pass Rest Area, just west of Emigrant Springs State
Park in Oregon. We were treated to a fairly close look at a Black-backed
Woodpeckers chipping bark off a tree. After a few minutes a Hairy
Woodpecker flew in and chased the Black-backed away. Not far from there on
the Old Emigrant Road down to Pendleton, there had been a small forest fire.
Smoke was still coming off the ground and a sizeable crew of firefighters
was getting ready to go in and mop up any hot spots. What was interesting
here was the large number of crows that were already working over the burnt
area. The forest floor might have still been warm. I suppose there were
checking out the ground for any roasted tidbits.

If you've read this far and are interested in some pictures
of the birds we saw on this trip, particularly the Cassia Crossbill, they
are on Flickr at the following address:



https://www.flickr.com/photos/29258421@N07/albums/72157701662021795



Happy birding,

Charlotte Byers, Edmonds

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