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july 4, 2018 - 2018-07-04
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Read my new book, The 10 Best Things You Can Do For Your Bird at Amazon or at many other fine distributors like Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and more.

By public demand, and after a delay of an embarrassing number of years, I've finally put my notorious essay, Ender and Hitler: Sympathy for the Superman, free on the fabulous internets.

A bibliography of my published books and stories.

Here's a simple card-counting FAQ to get you up to speed on the basics. Here's the true story of the notorious DD' blackjack team, told for the first time on the fabulous internets. No other team went from a starting investor's bankroll of zero to winning millions of dollars.

A Sadean take on Asimov's classic Three Laws of Robotics can be found in Roger Williams' NOW REVIEWED ON SLASHDOT!!! The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect. Adult readers only please -- explicit sex and violence. For updates on the "Dead Tree Project" and other topics, you may visit the official fan site, Passages in the Void..

My Bird Lists -- My Louisiana State Life List, My Yard List and, tah dah, My World Life List.

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snake river bird of prey workshop may 4-11, 2002

2004-04-04 - 12:49 p.m.

swainson's hawk in snake river, idaho
Swainson's Hawk in Flight by Roger Williams. copyright 2002, all rights reserved

May 4-11, 2002

The leader and creator of the tour is Bill Clark, also known as William S. Clark, co-author of A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors and other useful books. Our vacation photographs are not in his world class category but we hope they will give you a tiny taste of the wonders that await you on a visit to this unique area known for its very high concentration of nesting raptors, including hawks, falcons, eagles, and owls.

It's a shame we have to say this, but please note that our photographs are copyrighted. Of course you are always free to link to our photographs and to our trip report, but please do not use our photographs or words without our permission. Thanks!

The Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area is said to be home to the largest concentration of nesting raptors in North America. I don't know where you would see more Prairie Falcons. The raptors we observed included Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon. Owl species included Barn Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, and Long-eared Owl. Two other possible species are Goshawk and Short-eared Owl but we didn't luck into an encounter with either of these species on our trip. My total number of bird species was 126, and most of the folks saw a couple more species, because I'm a little slow sometimes. Since this was my first birding trip to the Northwest, I added many new "lifers" to my list. To check out my complete list of 126 species, click here.

black=billed magpie a beautiful and ubiquitous species that adds excitement 
even to the city streets of boise as well as the countryside
Black-billed Magpie by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

However, a bald list of species does not convey the excitement of observing the courtship, nest-building, and chick rearing of so many powerful birds. We had a fascinating glimpse into the private "at home" personal lives of these birds of prey. There was always a lot of action, as small birds defended their territories by chasing away larger birds that they viewed as threats to their young. For instance, a male Northern Harrier was being pestered by Red-winged Blackbirds. He captured some prey, presumably to bring to the female. As he was flying, he suddenly dropped the prey and attacked a Swainson's Hawk that had come into view. The Harrier won that round but on another day, we observed a Raven steal an egg from the Harrier nest. The day after that, the Harrier was busy building a new nest in a nearby tree. Whether it was a Long-billed Curlew chasing an American Raven or a Prairie Falcon chasing a Great Horned Owl and then a Red-tailed Hawk, it seemed that somebody was always getting territorial with somebody else!

snake river, idaho
Snake River Valley by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

May 5, 2002

The first day in a new area is always a big one. We checked the area around Swan Falls, where we saw the Great-Tailed Grackles who recently invaded the area, and then took a float trip down the Snake River to see the breeding cliffs. There were Prairie Falcons nesting in the area, a Western Screech Owl peeking out of a nest box at eye level, a Great Horned Owlet loitering in the cliffs, and much, much more. New life birds included Lewis' Woodpecker, Prairie Falcons, Western Grebe, Chukar, Lazuli Bunting, probably more but I haven't organized my old bird lists yet.

always a favorite, the adorable burrowing owl
Burrowing Owl by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

There were lots of holes in the ground in this area. Most were created by the number one food source in the area, the mammal formerly known as the Townsend's Ground Squirrel and now apparently known as the Paiute Ground Squirrel. But there were Burrowing Owls and Badgers as well.

potholes, you want potholes, you got 'em, courtesy of mr. badger
Badger by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

Among the close to 70 bird species we observed included a look at Golden Eagles and their two cute white babies nesting on this platform:

golden eagle nest platform with two fluffy white chicks in nest
Golden Eagle nesting platform by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

There were plenty of Swainson's Hawks pairing up and working on nests, so we had a great opportunity to study the different plumages displayed by these wonderful birds. For dinner we had our Cinco de Mayo celebration at Case Ole complete with some very strong margaritas!

May 6, 2002

We visited many Swainson's Hawk and Ferruginous Hawk nest sites.

swainson's hawk perched
Swainson's Hawk by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

Life birds included Ferruginous Hawk, Western Tanager, Gray Partridge. Among the many "mobbing" scenarios we witnessed was a Peregrine Falcon being mobbed by American Ravens. We had dinner at Table Rock (a microbrewery type restaurant) with retired raptor activist Morley Nelson.

May 7, 2002

Today was the coldest May 7 in Boise, Idaho since records have been kept. There were even snow flurries with large fluffy white snowflakes falling on our intrepid crew. But we couldn't be stopped -- we forged right ahead with our viewing of multiple raptor species. We observed Osprey nesting platforms, American Raven stealing an egg from a Northern Harrier, a Prairie Falcon catching and eating prey, and Golden Eagles hunting and being "mobbed" by smaller birds as they put on a real show for the tourists! We had dinner once again at Table Rock, where a radio station was offering a great beer promotion.

osprey in flight
Osprey by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

May 8, 2002

We visited the World Prey of Bird Center, which started out by breeding Peregrine Falcons. Now that these birds are recovered, they've gotten into breeding California Condors and educating the public about other birds of prey.

condor in captive breeding program
California Condor by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

We also visited two Boise parks, where we saw lots of beautiful Western Tanagers and American Kestrels.

pair of american kestrels, one of many pairs in the park
American Kestrel Pair by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

A big highlight of the day was the baby Great Horned Owl with his mother hovering (well, perched actually but metaphorically hovering) in the background.

horned owl baby in idaho park
Great Horned Owlet by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

Another fantastic experience came when we observed American Kestrels mobbing a Golden Eagle which was carrying prey. We followed the bird and discovered a Golden Eagle nest with roosting female in the nearby clifts. Impressive! More margaritas at Cafe Ole. Some bird tours run on coffee but we believe in an alcohol-based fuel system. :-)

May 9, 2002

Thursday started with a "bang" when we observed the Peregrine Falcon pair who live in the skyscraper across the street from the capitol building. The first day we observed them, we pulled our van up to the capitol building, despite the barriers. Don't do that. A lot of western capitols received truck bomb threats after September 11, and they had to put up barricades and get security guards to chase people off. This morning, we found a better place to park, and it was well worth it. Both male and female were present. We observed the birds copulating and then the male directed the female's attention to a food cache he had put over the nest box. She finally got the idea, and we could see the feathers flying as she feasted on well-aged Mourning Dove.

Female Peregrine Falcon on nest box at top of skyscraper, Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

Today we headed up to Lake Cascade for a breath-taking, if sometimes windy experience.

beautiful lake cascade
Lake Cascade by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

This is a great area for Bald Eagles and Osprey. We saw both young and fully mature Bald Eagles and could easily compare their plumage with the Golden Eagles we have seen. Life birds included Sandhill Crane, Dipper (with a big mossy nest on a boulder in the middle of the river), Varied Thrush, Townsend's Solitaire, Cassin's Finch.

Red-naped Sapsuckers were working very hard very close to the road:

red-naped sapsucker
Red-naped Sapsucker by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

We saw a large flock of maybe 30 Sandhill Cranes but also had a very special sighting of two Sandhill Cranes who had slipped away to perform a private courtship dance:

dancing sandhill cranes
Sandhill Cranes by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

Almost all the Sandhill Cranes we saw were rusty red like this, instead of gray. Something they ate, maybe?

We also saw four adorable baby foxes by the roadside, as well as a couple of adult ones here and there along the way:

two of a group of four cute baby foxes by the side of the road
Baby Foxes by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

For dinner, we tried The Grape Escape, a wine-tasting bar near the capitol with live music and a great selection of wine.

May 10, 2002

Back into the Snake River Canyon we go in search of owls and other raptors. Did you ever see a Barn Owl nesting in an actual cliff instead of in a barn or an old broken-down radar installation or something of that sort? Hey, we saw two!

barn owl in the snake river canyon
Barn Owl by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

We also viewed a Long-Eared Owl nest with one bird on the nest sitting really tight, with just the ear tufts sticking up, and the other parent sitting nearby. Some BLM guys loaned Bill a ladder and a map, and we checked out some artificial Western Screech Owl nests.

ladder for checking 
screech owl nests
Checking nestbox by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

Um, don't try this at home, OK? Who knows what might come flying out with their claws up, right? But Mama Owl was away for the moment, and we got a look at five cute chicks with their not-so-cute food stash:
baby screech owls
5 Baby Screech Owls by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

baby screech owl
Baby Screech Owl by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

A nearby nestbox had obviously attracted a Wood Duck:

wood duck eggs in a screech owl nestbox
Wood Duck Eggs by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

As we entered the Western Screech Owl nesting area, an unexpected Great Horned Owl came swooping in very close, with a Prairie Falcon hot on its heels. Having chased off the owl menace, the Prairie Falcon then amused itself by harassing a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks which were trying to enjoy their courtship flight. It is always inspiring to watch a much smaller bird fearlessly dealing with any perceived threats to its breeding territory. Dinner at Table Rock again.

May 11, 2002

The tour was officially over but we didn't have to get to the airport until noon, so we took some time in the morning to say goodbye to the Mallards that live in the University Inn swimming pool:

a swimming pool mallard
"Mr. Decoy," the Mallard by Roger Williams, copyright 2002, all rights reserved

We also took a two hour bird walk around the Boise River near the campus, where we added a last minute species to our list, the Evening Grosbeak. We observed American Crows at the nest exchanging incubation duties. And we had the usual suspects -- Great Blue Heron, Yellow-rumped "Audubon's" Warblers, Canada Geese with goslings, male and female Common Mergansers, and plenty more. Of course I had to say good-bye to one last Black-billed Magpie before we stepped on the plane for home!

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