Idaho & Western Montana: Spring 2017

Spring 2017: 1 Mar–31 May

David Trochlell

Recommended citation:

Trochlell, D., 2021. Spring 2017: Idaho and Western Montana. <> North American Birds.

The spring 2017 season in the region averaged warmer than usual and very moist, but ended on a drying trend in May. Abundant rainfall in March and April melted near-record mountain snowpack earlier than usual, causing accelerated runoff, unusually high stream and reservoir levels, and areas of lowland flooding. Season-long mild weather with a lack of dramatic storm events made for few noted bird fallouts; nevertheless, the region’s birders found a plethora of vagrants that maintained a high level of birding excitement throughout the season.

Contributors (subregional editors in boldface):

Gary Baird (GBa), Phred Benham, Mary Chris Harrison Boeh, George Brown, Steve Butterworth, Kathleen Cameron, Darren Clark, Jon Curd (JCu), Kas Dumroese, Kathy Ecklund, Tom Forwood, Terry Gray, Bill and Sally Gundlach, Andrew Guttenberg, Denise Hughes, Cheryl Huizinga, Steve Joyce, Tom Keegan, Wendy McCrady, Marya Moosman, Roy Morris, Dave Myburgh, Jack Oar, John Parker, Tempe Regan, Forrest Rowland, RL Rowland, Mary Rumple, Bill Scheiss, Steve Scheiss (SSc), Shirley Sturts, Gary Swant, Charles Swift, Jason Talbot, Jeff Thompson (JTh), Chuck Trost, Doug Ward, Heidi Ware, Pat Weber, Cliff Weisse, Lisa Weisse, Poo Wright-Pulliam, Fred Zeillemaker, Harold Ziolkowski.

Waterfowl through Gulls

Locally rare Greater White-fronted Geese were noteworthy discoveries in Jefferson, ID 4 Mar & 4 Apr (ph, DC, BS), Belgrade, MT 13 Mar (AG), and Fremont, ID 7 Apr (MHB). Cackling Geese are scarce in spring, so two in Moscow, ID 4 Mar (ph, CS) and one in Latah, ID 2030 Apr (TG) were interesting. Uncommon male Eurasian Wigeons came through in good numbers, with three reported in southwestern Montana in mid-Mar (JP), and singles were seen in Lemhi, ID 9 Apr (ph, TK) and Missoula, MT 9 Apr (PB). A Tufted Duck, Idaho’s fifth, was an exciting discovery in Canyon 10 Mar (ph, DH, CH). A Harlequin Duck that stopped in Kootenai, ID 1-6 May (SJ) was notable; there are relatively few records of this species away from known breeding locations. A White-winged Scoter in Hagerman, ID 22 Mar9 Apr (HW) was especially noteworthy, because there are very few spring precedents of this species. Representing Montana’s second spring record was a rare Black Scoter near Manhattan 13 May (HZ). Single extralimital Band-tailed Pigeons that strayed to Latah 2021 Apr (KD) and Gem 23 May (FZ) added to 10 accepted Idaho records.

As in last year, Idaho hosted two rare White-winged Doves: one was in Boise 2231 May (JT) for the third consecutive year, and another was in Nampa 27 May (ph, DM). These Idaho sightings add to 11 confirmed records. American Golden Plover is not annual in spring, so one in Fremont, ID 14 May (ph, CW, LW) was an excellent find. Casual Snowy Plovers that showed up at Dry Lakes 47 May (ph, JCu) and in Fremont 14 May (ph, †CW, LW) made for an excellent season; there are nine verified records of the species in Idaho. Idaho’s seventh Red Knot stopped in Fremont 1012 May (ph, †CW, LW). The only reported Stilt Sandpiper was in Jefferson, ID 1319 May (ph, SB, SSc). Casual Short-billed Dowitchers are rarely reported before August, making three identified in Jefferson, ID 21 May (ph, KE) surprising. It was one of the best seasons ever for Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Idaho, with singles found in Jerome 1 Mar (PW), Ada 16 Mar (MR), Boise 1829 Mar (JC, HW), and Owyhee 19 Mar (RLR). Forester’s Tern is seldom reported in northern Idaho, so reports of one 15 May and a breeding pair in Kootenai 29 May (B&SG) were also interesting.

Raptors through Buntings

Especially rare in the region in spring was a Broad-winged Hawk at Camas NWR 19 May (SB). A wandering Great Gray Owl that wintered near Boise was last reported 10 April (CW). If accepted, a Red-headed Woodpecker that visited Custer 25 May (†WM) will be Idaho’s fourth. Of interest was a Red-breasted Sapsucker x Red-naped Sapsucker documented at Idaho’s Craters of the Moon NM 56 April (ph, RM); although seldom documented, this hybrid is now nearly annual in Idaho. The only Gyrfalcon of the season was in Ada 5 Apr (ph, JC, TR); if accepted, it will provide the Gem State’s eighth record. A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Power 27 May (ph, GB) will be Idaho’s fifth, if confirmed. The only unexpected Blue Jay of the season was in Kootenai 30 Mar (DW). A Bushtit that wandered away from known range to Gem, ID 26 May (FZ) was notable. The only reported Northern Mockingbird was in Minidoka 7 Apr (KC, PWP); most records of this rare and occasional nester are in southern Idaho. A Lesser Goldfinch that strayed to Deer Lodge, MT 1 May (GS) represented a local first record.

A Baltimore Oriole documented in Butte 1922 May (ph, †JO) is expected to add to four previous Idaho records. Also notable was an extralimital Common Grackle that showed up in Gem, ID 14 May (FZ). A bird thought to be a Yellow-rumped Warbler x Black-throated Gray Warbler discovered east of Cardwell, MT 11 May (TF, JP, FR) was interesting, because this hybrid has apparently not been documented before. A wayward Hermit Warbler, Idaho’s fourth, was documented at Camas NWR 2526 May (ph, MM). If accepted, a Summer Tanager in Mountain Home, ID 1920 May (ph, †MR) will be Idaho’s 10th. It was an exceptional season for vagrant Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in Idaho, with singles in Mountain Home 18 May (ph, MR), Salmon 20 May (JTh), Rexburg 22 May (ph, GBa), Madison 23 May (ph, BS), and Hailey 29 May (PWP). Casual Indigo Buntings, not annual in Idaho, visited Jefferson 20 May (HW) and Butte 22 May (ph, †JO). If accepted, these will add to six confirmed records.

Report processed by Randi Minetor, 20 Feb 2021.