I and my fellow birders enjoyed a rare bird sighting at Market Lake last week, and you can, too
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“What is this bird?” asked Michael Chatt, of Idaho Falls, as he showed me a picture as we birded the west shelterbelt at Market Lake. It was just one bird of hundreds feeding and fluttering through the trees and underbrush along the trail.
“I think that is a rare Black-and-white warbler. I saw one here about eight years ago,” I replied. “Where did you see it?”
“It is in that split tree over there,” replied Michael as the Black-and-White warbler came into view as it circled the tree trunk, picking small insects from the cracks in the bark and pausing just long enough for me to snap a picture.
As we followed it at a distance, I called expert birder, Darren Clark, to report it. He is the official recorder for rare birds in the Upper Snake River Valley. He was just about 15 minutes away and came quickly.
Darren called another expert birder, Steve Butterworth, and the four of us located the male warbler.
While I was watching one bird, the other three birders were excitedly photographing another bird. My “six frames a second” camera was no match to the other 20 frames per second “Tommy gun” cameras as thousands of pictures were shot. We may have observed two Black-and whites on Wednesday but we cannot be sure as we did not see the two together.
It wasn’t too long before two more expert birders showed up to look for the birds. News travels fast among birders when a rare bird is reported.
The Black-and-White Warbler was not the first rarity to be found this week. A Blackpoll warbler was reported in the same area last Sunday with a Redstart spending four days in the same shelterbelt. On Tuesday, I observed the Redstart but did not get a picture of it and returned on Wednesday to try to get one when we found the Black-and-White.
Other goals for Wednesday’s trip were to get some good pictures of the Common Yellow-throats as they built nests in the cattails. The second goals was to get some good pictures of the eight Green-tailed towhees I saw on Tuesday. I got the shot of the yellow-throats, but the towhees were long gone. The Black-and-White made up for them.
The Black-and-whites at Market Lake are hundreds of miles off their migrating course but will probably end up where they need to be, just maybe a little late.
“Years ago, we would have two or three found here each spring but it has been years since one showed up here,” said Clark. “Market Lake and Camas National Wildlife Refuge, for some reason, commonly gets a number of rare birds.”
The songbird migration will last another two to three weeks and with predicted bad weather for the next week, rarities should continue to show up.
But rare birds are only one draw to these marsh areas. This week, a few ducklings have hatched and can be seen on the water along the road running through the refuge and management areas. On Thursday, I saw my first baby Sandhill cranes at Market Lake being protected by the adults. I also watched a Bald eagle harvest a small gosling as a pair of adults tried to save it.
A slow drive through Market Lake, Camas National Wildlife Refuge or a slow stroll through the trails in either of those places will allow you to see some beautiful sights. You might even find a rare bird that turns old men into giddy children again. There are a lot of yellow birds brightening up most thickets in eastern Idaho. Enjoy them.