I’d been to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area 14 years ago, but it was in the autumn and the area was silent of birds, but on this day there held the promise of raptor sightings. My friend Art and I drove out 76 miles to this place from his home in Payette Idaho on May 29th and I went on my own on June 1st. Neither trip yielded the raptor encounters that I’d hoped for, but the outings were very enjoyable just the same.
South of Nampa Idaho and much of southern Idaho is mostly agricultural flat-lands. Punctuated by the Snake River, the region has its origins in the volcano that created Yellowstone Park. True to its name, this river cuts a circuitous path before it reaches its end in the Columbia River near Lewiston Idaho. Scientists believe that earth’s crust has slipped westward over the super-volcano that now sleeps under Yellowstone, leaving in its path the flat valley that is now southern Idaho. Looking at a satellite view of the region between Yellowstone and eastern Oregon, one can see how this could be true. The river has cut an abrupt gorge down into the black basaltic rock creating a long deep canyon at the heart of this great valley. At the top of this canyon on its flat mesas live small squirrels that the locals call ‘whistle pigs’ which are also known as Piute ground squirrels (Urocitellus mollis). The entire range for these rodents is most of Nevada and the surrounding areas. They hibernate through the hottest and the coldest seasons, so they are only available to predators for a short season. The explosion of rodent activity during this short season is so high that it attracts a great many raptors to this region to nest and raise babies. While I did see the squirrels, the numbers of raptors that I found were quite small .
Subjects included in this image set are American Robin, Bullock’s Oriole, Canada Geese, Canada Goose Chicks, Common Goldeneye, European Starling, Horned Lark, Killdeer, Prairie Falcon, Prairie Falcon, Ring-Billed Gull, Rock Wren, Yellow Warbler and Yellow-Breasted Chat.