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Ecotourism in Southern Africa

In 2014, IBO formed a partnership with the Gorongosa Restoration Project, which in ~3 short years already includes IBO’s research on vultures and other raptors as well as mentoring young Mozambican scientists. Since the start of this partnership we’ve had a goal of helping boost American ecotourism to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.

endangered southern ground hornbill

Gorongosa is home to many endangered and threatened bird species, such as this Southern Ground Hornbill, seen on our 2017 Ecotour to the park.

Mozambique, and Gorongosa in particular, has great bird diversity and a number of species hard to see elsewhere in southern Africa but is off the beaten path due to decades of political conflict – some of which centered on the park itself – and being one of the poorest countries in the world. However, the last decade has witnessed the recovery of many of the wildlife species in Gorongosa while the park and restoration project seek to build sustainable human communities around the park.

three lion cubs in Gorongosa National Park

These three healthy lion cubs were one of many signs we saw that Gorongosa’s wildlife is recovering

Jay worked with Alastair Kilpin of Mammoth Safaris to build an itinerary rich with mammal and bird diversity to provide a potential “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to Africa. We settled upon a 15-day itinerary with 3 main destinations in Mozambique and South Africa – Gorongosa National Park, Kruger National Park (Private Reserves), and Cape Town – with single-day excursions to Johannesburg and Dullstroom in South Africa and Beira, Mozambique. Our group of enthusiastic travelers meshed very well and were fun to explore with. We also really enjoyed working with Alastair – a great birder and safari guide who was easy to work and travel with – and the many talented local guides that helped us at each destination.

ecotourism group photo

Our group out on a drive. Photo by Nancy Moore

We found a whopping 399 bird species, of which 383 were well seen by the group.  This included:

  • 100+ life birds for all participants (and over 360 lifers for those new to Africa!)
  • Representatives of 15 bird families endemic to Africa
    • Ostrich (1 species)
    • Guineafowl (1)
    • Hamerkop (1)
    • Turacos (2)
    • Mousebirds (3)
    • Wood-hoopoes (2)
    • Ground Hornbills (1)
    • African Barbets (4)
    • Wattle-eyes & Batises (4)
    • Helmetshrikes (2)
    • Bushshrikes (8)
    • Rockjumpers (1)
    • Crombecs and African Warblers (4)
    • Sugarbirds (1)
    • Oxpeckers (1)
    • Plus, we heard a tantalizingly distant Striped Flufftail
  • And well over 50 species endemic to southern Africa

endemic bird Cape Batis

The Cape Batis was one of many Southern Africa endemics spotted on our trip

We also had sightings of 51 mammal species (!!) in addition to tracks of several other species:

  • These included hyrax, elephant, baboons/monkeys, bushbabies, squirrels, hare, dogs, lion, civets & genets, hyena, mongoose, zebra, rhinoceros, warthog, hippos, giraffes, and loads of antelope & relatives – several of which were endemics

Highlights – there were so many that’s it hard to list just a few!  On the return flights, Heidi & Jay discussed trying to list their favorite (“top ten”) bird species as well as best moments of the trip.  At the risk of leaving out many species and experiences, here’s an attempt at a list:

Favorite birds:

  • Double-banded Sandgrouse – they made us wait before giving great views at a watering hole and then in the Mopane woodland.


    Sandgrouse are not, in fact grouse, but their own unique group of birds!

  • Common Buttonquail – great, close looks at a pair.
  • Collared Pratincole – so many great views, during the day and many hundreds at dusk.

    collared pratincole adult and juvenile

    We had excellent views of Collared Pratincoles throughout the trip. This unusual shorebird is much like North America’s Common Nighthawk in both behavior and morphology

  • Red-throated Wryneck – a great view for half the group in Johannesburg then a cooperative bird for all at Dullstroom.
  • Terek Sandpiper – long on Jay’s wishlist, we saw an early arrival at Langebaan lagoon.
  • Bronze-winged Courser – close looks at this unique “shorebird” in burnt woodland.
  • Verreaux’s Eagle – what a great looking eagle … and at a nest!
  • Cape Rockjumper – great color patterns on a cooperative pair.
  • Taita Falcon – sad to see a solo male of this rare species but a neat sighting (& we just got word through Alastair that a female has been sighted at this famous nesting spot for the first time since the prior female disappeared several years ago!)
  • Black Harrier – a stunningly unique (& endemic) harrier.

black harrier

Although Harriers are a common group of raptors around the world, the Black Harrier (Circus maurus) is a unique example of its genus

Favorite moments:

  • Wild dogs (!) in Kruger, including pups
  • Flight to Gorongosa from Beira to see the surrounding landscape
  • Roaring lions at dusk
  • Bathing adult and juvenile male elephants
  • Howling hyena (very close to us)
  • 24+ species “bird party” with Stierling’s Wren-warbler in Gorongosa that had Alastair & Test (lead guide in Gorongosa) giddy

    wild dog in Kruger National Park

    Denning Wild Dogs with pups were a highlight in Kruger National Park

  • Great Bittern – a lifer for Alastair on our first morning with him
  • Mousebirds racing alongside our van for ~500 yards @ over 35km/hour
  • Pelagic feeding frenzy with 3 species of albatross plus petrels and shearwaters
  • A distant meerkat south of Johannesburg (Suikerbosrand)


Hyenas are an important meso-carnivore in most African ecosystems. Hopefully sights like this (from our visit to Kruger National Park) will soon be common in Gorongosa

We highly recommend considering Mozambique and South Africa for a future birding trip – you’ll be wowed by all the mammals and the birds will blow your mind :-) . And, after how well this pilot trip went, this won’t be our last trip to Africa! Let Jay know if you’d be interested.

Read more about our trip from Alastair’s perspective in this Mammoth Safaris blog post: “Gorongosa Revisited“.

male lion in Gorongosa National Park

One of “The Senators” of Gorongosa. These battle-scarred male lions were given this name because they were discovered during the week when Idaho’s Senators were visiting the park!

Gorongosa Research Update

IBO continued its work in Mozambique at Gorongosa National Park in 2017. We are now tracking both African White-backed and White-headed Vultures using satellite telemetry (Check out this map on our web site). A team visited the park in June and successfully deployed 6 transmitters on White-headed vultures. This species is one of Africa’s most endangered vultures.  

Gorongosa likely contains the densest concentration of White-headed Vultures anywhere in the world!

Tracking the birds will help us understand vulture movements and identify threats to their populations. These studies by IBO are part of a continent-wide effort to better understand vulture movements and further their conservation.  

Teague Scott and Eric Hallingstad with White-headed Vulture

Teague Scott and Eric Hallingstad attach a wing tag to a White-headed Vulture

Western Ecosystems Technologies, Inc. (West) was a key part of our 2017 efforts. They provided the satellite tracking units and helped us attach the transmitters. West employee, Eric Hallingstad, has been instrumental in ensuring continuation of this project.

Greg Kaltenecker and Andre Botha with White-headed Vulture

Greg Kaltenecker and Andre Botha with a White-headed Vulture

New partner, André Botha, a South African biologist with The Endangered Wildlife Trust, was also a critical member of the 2017 team. He worked with us to capture raptors and deploy transmitters and wing tags. Andre has been a leader in development of the newly completed African-Eurasian Vulture Multi-species Action Plan. We’re excited to see new partnerships like these develop as the Gorongosa project grows!

Teague Scott attaches a transmitter to a White-headed Vulture

Teague Scott attaches a transmitter to a White-headed Vulture

Five-year Lucky Peak veteran, Teague Scott, started his MS in Raptor Biology at Boise State University this summer. His project is focused on the critically endangered vultures of Gorongosa. Teague will analyze satellite tracking data, compare movements of the different species, and describe nesting activity within the park.  

Amemarlita and Diolinda with Bateleur

Research Fellow, Amemarlita de Matos, and Gorongosa Intern, Diolinda Mundoza Semente, band and measure an immature Bateleur

For a third year, IBO mentored and hosted a Mozambican intern to our Lucky Peak research site. Amemarlita de Matos has a strong interest in birds and science and was a fantastic Lucky Peak intern this fall. She is assisting IBO in Gorongosa with the vulture research as well as road-based raptor surveys designed by our own Robert Miller. Ame’ has also conducted a study of nesting Pink-backed Pelicans at Gorongosa.

We are looking forward to continuing our research at Gorongosa over the next three years, with support from the Greg Carr Foundation, McDanel Land Foundation, Western Ecosystems Technologies, Inc., Boise State, and others. The annual meeting of the Raptor Research Foundation will occur next November in Kruger National Park, South Africa. We plan to have a strong showing at this conference, presenting data on vulture movements and nesting behavior, results from raptor surveys, and more!  

Thanks to all IBO staff, funders, Gorongosa park staff, and dozens of others who have made this important work possible!

Hummingbirds and Climate Change: What can pollen tell us?

For years IBO has dreamed of adding pollen sampling to our summer hummingbird monitoring project to help us learn more about hummingbird diet. Thanks to some funding provided by the Murdock Partners in Science Program we have finally been able to make that a reality!

Sexy Calliope Hummingbird

The diet of Calliope Hummingbirds isn’t well understood. Photo by Heather Hayes

The Partners in Science Program

In 2017 we started an exciting new project as part of the Partners in Science Program. This program pairs high school teachers with researchers at universities to provide two summers of research experience for science teachers. We’ve had three successful Murdock teachers work on songbird banding projects in the past–Larry Barnes, Lindsey Lockwood, and Steve DeMers — but 2017 marks our very first hummingbird Murdock project.

We lucked out and found a great teacher to take this project on. Kate Dircksen from Capital High School is a science teacher with a background in Botany. This made her the perfect candidate for this project since she knows a lot more about Idaho’s wildflowers than we ornithologists do!

Hummers and Climate Change: Why does this matter?

Hummingbirds evolved to use day-length cues to decide when to migrate. In the past, day-length was matched with plant flowering and hummingbirds nested during peak blooms. Climate change is causing a breakdown in this connection; flowers are appearing earlier because of earlier springs. But hummingbirds follow the same day-length every year and may arrive too late to catch peak flowering.

Pollen samples from hummingbird foreheads will help us learn what plants hummingbirds use and when. We want to document their favorite plants and understand how climate change affects these. This will be important for planning the best way to conserve hummingbirds in the future.

sampling hummingbird pollen

We collect pollen from hummingbirds using a syringe filled with a gelatin mixture

Discoveries this summer

For our first summer we focused on building a pollen library from plants at our hummingbird research site in Idaho City. Kate collected and made microscope slides of more than 90 pollen specimens. We catalogued pollen grains from more than 70 different species of wildflowers in the Boise National Forest.

pollen grains from fireweed flowers

Fuchsine stain helps us identify the key features of different species. Fireweed pollen from Idaho City

At the end of this summer we collected 6 test samples of pollen from hummingbird foreheads in Idaho City, and compared these samples to our pollen library. By using a microscope to view the samples we were able to discover species richness and diversity for each sample.

Summer 2018

Next summer we’ll focus on collecting more samples from hummingbird foreheads. Kate will use the pollen library to identify the pollen and determine what plants make up the diet of Idaho City hummingbirds.

Follow this link to find out how YOU could be a driving force in hummingbird conservation! 

pollen grain microscope slide

Mixed Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) and other pollen grains from a Black-chinned Hummingbird

Curlews in the Classroom: Bringing Conservation and Kids Together

450 Wilson Elementary students settle in for a "Curlews in the Classroom" presentation

450 Wilson Elementary students settle in for a “Curlews in the Classroom” presentation

The IBO’s popular “Curlews in The Classroom” had an amazing 2017 season! IBO Outreach Coordinator, Heather Hayes, reached more than 5,400 students throughout the Treasure Valley. Through this program, 28 schools and more than 180 classes learned about the biology, life history, and threats facing North America’s largest shorebird, the Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus).

curlew thank you note drawing

Our unique Curlews in the Classroom presentation gives students the opportunity to meet “real life” IBO biologists, and brings first-hand knowledge and engaging stories from the field into the classroom. Students also learn about satellite tracking technology used to track curlew migration back to Idaho during March and April. Students can follow the birds on this interactive map throughout the school year.

After the initial program, teachers in the program build upon what the students have learned with some of IBO’s activities, games and STEM lesson plans (math, geography, writing, ecology, physics) that incorporate curlews.

Did you know that each Long-billed curlew that receives a satellite transmitter needs a name? Every season we like to have some fun with the students and partners that are a part of the programming and hold a Curlew naming contest! All submissions are posted on the IBO’s Facebook page and put to a public vote. Some pretty creative names were submitted this year but a few stood out above the rest.

student art curlew poster

Students from Village Charter School created signs to spread the word about curlew conservation

We would like to congratulate Middleton Middle School for naming two of our curlews “Athena” and “Zeus” from the Orchard Combat Training Center. The Boise Watershed Environmental Education Center also joined in on the fun and chose the name “Curly Fry” for one of the curlews who nests on the City of Boise’s 20 Mile South Farm. Thank you to all that participated and don’t forget to start thinking of creative names for 2018!

Curlews need YOUR help! Follow this link to aid in curlew conservation research!

Transmittered Curlew in flight

IBO Receives Grant for Short-eared Owl Survey Expansion

The Short-eared Owl has experienced a long-term, range-wide, substantial decline in North America. It is believed that the population has declined by up to 60% in the past 50 years. The species is considered “climate endangered” by the National Audubon Society Climate Project and is considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in Idaho and many other western states. However, specific information as to the cause and magnitude of the decline is unknown. Traditional survey methods such as the Breeding Bird Surveys and Christmas Bird Counts are not sufficient to address the conservation needs of this species.

Be sure to listen to Boise State Public Radio’s story on this project here.Short-eared Owl photo by KS Lopez

For the past three years IBO staff has provided in-kind support to develop and lead a west-wide survey of Short-eared Owls known as WAFLS – Western Asio flammeus Landscape Study. The program began in 2015 as a partnership between IBO and the Idaho Bird Conservation Partnership. Our goal was to specifically support the Idaho State Wildlife Action Plan.

The program engages citizen-science volunteers from across
the state in a statistically-rigorous survey for Short-eared Owls during the owl’s spring courtship period.

Pronghorn by Jim DeWitt

WAFLS volunteers get to see more than just owls! Spring is a great time to see other wildlife like these Pronghorn. Photo Credit Jim DeWitt, Frozen Feather Images

Our early success was due in large part to our generous volunteers! These results influenced the Idaho State Wildlife Action Plan and we published an article in Avian Conservation and Ecology (Miller et al. 2016). In 2016, the program expanded into Utah through a partnership with Hawkwatch International. And this year, the program expanded further into Nevada and Wyoming through partnerships with Nevada Department of Wildlife and the Teton Raptor Center.

330 participants contributed over 3,400 hours to complete surveys
across the four states in 2017. Over 80% of the contribution came from citizen-science volunteers.

Brett Bunkall survey view in Utah

Our WAFLS surveys take volunteers to some pretty fantastic views! Photo by Utah citizen-scientist Brett Bunkall

In partnership with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Pacific Flyway Council, and additional state partners, IBO applied for a Competitive-State Wildlife Grant (C-SWG) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

We recently received word that we were awarded the grant!
This will fund the WAFLS program expansion to all eight western states for the next three years (adding California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington).

The grant will fund work to expand and operate the program for the years 2018 – 2020. IBO will continue to provide leadership for the overall program. This will include survey design, implementation, data collection and management, analysis and reporting. In addition, IBO will continue to coordinate the volunteer effort within Idaho.

Short-eared Owl by Jim DeWitt

Volunteers spotted this Short-eared Owl during an Idaho survey. Photo Credit Jim DeWitt, Frozen Feather Images

The result of our work will continue to inform State Wildlife Action Plans by providing habitat-specific trend information, addressing key research questions (e.g., owl friendly grazing practices), prioritizing specific conservation measures, and continuing our general advocacy for the species. We expect to continue to publish scientific advancements in peer-reviewed scientific journals. We will also continue our engagement with the world-wide owl research and conservation community.

If you live in one of the eight survey states and would like to become involved, let us know!

You can email for more information. Surveys require just two evenings of your time in the March – May time frame (timing dependent upon survey elevation). We will provide you with training, materials, and instructions. No experience is necessary!

Check out the Boise State Press Release about this project here.

Bioacoustics: Recording Nocturnal Flight Calls at MPG Ranch, Montana

Did you know that birds use high frequency calls to find each other at night?! This is one theory explaining why many bird species emit short (40 -150 ms), mid- to high frequency (3-10 kHz) vocalizations called Nocturnal Flight Calls (NFCs) during migration. Recording NFCs, especially in the eastern US, has become a viable method to monitor migrating birds.  

Nighttime-flying songbirds are hard to count during migration.
This project will help us monitor their movements!

More data, especially isolated NFCs from western species, will improve automated classifications of recordings in the field of bioacoustics. This Fall, the Intermountain Bird Observatory, in collaboration with and funded by the MPG Ranch in Florence Montana, piloted a research project recording NFCs in a Portable Recording Station (PRS). Think of a dark, sound-proof recording studio for birds!

Portable Recording Station with Grosbeak

Portable Recording Station with Black-headed Grosbeak just before release- Photo by Debbie Leick

IBO Research Biologist, Christian Meny, worked with University of Montana Bird Ecology Lab’s (UMBEL) bird banders on a floodplain site at MPG Ranch to run the PRS. After banding, birds were placed in the PRS- an acoustically isolated recording booth operated in a dark hunting blind in order to simulate night.  

Our recordings will help calibrate computers so they
can count and identify flight calls of birds passing overhead

Birds in the PRS experience a minute of complete silence, followed by two minutes of stimulus playback (recordings of NFCs given by conspecifics or closely-related species), and then another minute of silence. Birds sampled include warblers, sparrows and thrushes because of their families’ known proclivity for emitting NFCs during migration.

Spectrogram of an Orange-crowned Warbler call note

Orange-crowned warbler nocturnal flight call recorded in portable recording station at MPG Ranch- Photo from Raven Pro 1.5

Overall, we recorded a total of 84 NFCs! Highlights include true NFCs “elicited” from Orange-crowned Warblers, Gambel’s White- crowned Sparrows and from one individual Fox Sparrow. Various vocalizations were recorded from Chipping Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, Dark eyed Juncos, MacGillivray’s warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Song Sparrows and Wilson’s Warblers. These data will help classify and catalogue bioacoustics data in the Intermountain west, and contribute to other bioacoustics projects including MPG Ranch’s Project Night Flight: an effort consisting of 20 passive microphones recording the night sky (and migrating birds) across much of the Bitterroot River Valley in Montana.



Yellow-billed Cuckoo Survey Update

If you asked a room full of birders, biologists, and researchers alike this question “How many of you have seen a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in Idaho?”, probably only one or two hands would raise, and the rest of the room would roll their eyes and sigh in an expression of their desire to see one of these elusive birds. So what is the deal with cuckoos?

Tempe conducts a Yellow-billed Cuckoo survey

Tempe conducts a Yellow-billed Cuckoo survey along a targeted strip of riparian habitat

The western population of Yellow-billed Cuckoos is recognized as genetically distinct from the eastern population and has declined dramatically in size and range extent since the 1950’s. This decline is mostly due to loss of large cottonwood galleries and riparian habitat. This population was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in November of 2014. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are more commonly encountered in southwestern states like California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Idaho represents the more northern extent of their range and the status of cuckoos in Idaho is not clear.

In 2017, IBO received a contract to conduct surveys for Yellow-billed Cuckoos within the Bureau of Land Management’s Shoshone Field Office. This area contains a large swath of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposed Critical Habitat, as well as other potentially suitable habitat for Yellow-billed Cuckoos. To conduct these surveys, we applied for and obtained a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service federal permit allowing us to use playback (broadcast of cuckoo vocalizations) to survey for these rare birds. It is important to note that only people specifically permitted can use playback to detect cuckoos.

A small crew, lead by Tempe Regan, with assistance from Jay Carlisle (IBO Research Director), Jeremy Halka (IBO Research Biologist), and Idaho Fish and Game biologist Ross Winton and his technician Austin Young, were able to survey 19 sites completely, visiting them four times, each visit two weeks apart, from June 15 to August 15. Most of the surveys were in the Little and Big Wood River drainages. Overall, they surveyed a total of 197 points, four times, for a total of 788 individual survey points for cuckoos. Although they spent hours, days and months looking for cuckoos, they only detected a Yellow-billed Cuckoo on just three of 788 individual survey points and at one of 19 sites. All of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo detections occurred on the same day at the same site!

The first cuckoo!

On the first day of cuckoo surveys, Jay looked at Tempe and said “So, do you think you are going to get a cuckoo this summer?”. She laughed and replied “Yeah, one!”.

Just minutes later, on June 16, 2017, they detected a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at point five of that morning’s survey!  

They heard the bird giving the typical “kowlp” contact call after the second sequence of broadcasts had just ended. Tempe and Jay looked at each other in disbelief and mouthed “no way, did you just hear that!?” almost simultaneously. Eventually, they were able to see the bird before it flew away and estimated it was just 20 meters from them!  

After they calmed down and had collected the necessary data, they moved to the next survey point (point six), and again detected a Yellow-billed Cuckoo – first as it silently flew in from the southeast, and then when it gave the “kowlp” call from across the river. Finally, at the last point (point eight) of the site, they detected a Yellow-billed Cuckoo again giving the “kowlp” contact call, and then observed it feeding ~ 34 m away. It made for an exciting morning and believe them when they say a Yellow-billed Cuckoo hunting for caterpillars is a cute sight indeed!

However, they had no idea how right Tempe was when she predicted it would be downhill from there. Sadly, this proved to be true and they did not detect another cuckoo at this site or at any other site for the rest of the season!

The first (and only) Yellow-billed Cuckoo spotted during 2017 surveys. Photo by Austin Young

We cannot determine with certainty the actual number of cuckoos detected during the morning of June 16, as it may have been just one cuckoo following them along. Most likely, they detected a migrating cuckoo because that detection was during their first and earliest visit to the site (when cuckoos are still migrating, especially into the northernmost extents of their range – i.e., Idaho).  

Next year, we hope to continue standardized surveys for cuckoos in the BLM Shoshone Field Office and potentially expand the areas to be surveyed. We also may begin work to find funding to research other aspects of the biology of these seldom-seen, but often-sought-after birds.

IMBCR Program Update

technicians training

IMBCR technicians training at Craters of the Moon National Monument. Photo by Tempe Regan

Every year from early-May through mid-July, IBO sends numerous technicians out to the wilds of Idaho, Montana, and Utah to conduct point-count style bird surveys for a large-scale monitoring program called the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR).

Coordinated by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, since its pilot season in Colorado in 2008, IMBCR has grown to become one of the largest avian monitoring programs in the country.  

Ferruginous Hawk in Idaho. Photo by Erik Schoenborn

Ferruginous Hawk in Idaho. Photo by IMBCR Technician Erik Schoenborn

In 2017, it was implemented in 14 western states across a wide variety of public and private lands. This year marked the largest IMBCR effort put forth by IBO as well with a total of 26 technicians and staff members who completed a total of  598 surveys in the deserts, prairies, wetlands, and mountains across Idaho, Montana, and Utah.  

View from a panhandle survey

These surveys are full of breathtaking landscapes, as well as great birds! Photo from the Idaho Panhandle by IMBCR technician Joshua Parrot

In 2017, we detected a whopping 244 species with many notable sightings! The five most frequently detected species on all IBO completed surveys were Western Meadowlark, Horned Lark, Brewer’s Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Some of the most noteworthy species include: Costa’s Hummingbird and Hooded Oriole in Utah, Lark Buntings and Great Gray Owl in Idaho, Chimney Swifts and Tennessee Warbler in Montana, and many Greater Sage-Grouse detections throughout all three states.  

Black-throated Sparrow in Utah. Photo by Jeremy Halka

Black-throated Sparrow in Utah. Photo by Jeremy Halka

Waffles and Warblers: A Benefit for the Birds!

On October 7th, IBO held our first ever benefit and it was a “sweet” success! We partnered with “Waffle Me Up” restaurant of Boise for a beautiful fall morning at our Boise River Banding Station. Over 100 people came down to the river to enjoy the crisp fall air and amazing waffles while learning about the exciting migratory songbird research IBO scientists are conducting in this riparian habitat. We love educating the public about songbird biology, migration and the local habitat these birds rely on for their survival.

Waffles and Warblers photo by Heather Hayes

Waffle Me Up served up amazing gourmet waffles for our benefit for the birds

Many people are surprised to discover that our banding stations are kept running solely through donations and grants. Since 1993, IBO ornithologists have been dedicating their lives to bird conservation efforts every single day.

Hector releases a bird. Photo by Zach Jones

Owner of Waffle Me Up Hector Garcia releasing a songbird. Photo by Zach Jones

We conduct important migratory research and provide unique hands-on science opportunities through outreach programs, locally and all year long. We rely on donations from people who share our passion for birds and want to be a vital part of the driving force behind preserving their future.

Proceeds from the “Waffles and Warblers” benefit will help the Boise River Research Station remain open so that we can continue our research, outreach and education in 2018.

Thank you to EVERYONE who participated- we appreciate your support!

Students release a Junco

Liberty Elementary Students release a junco at the Boise River Station. Photo by Rumana Zahn

Boise River Update

This year marked some really exciting advances for our Boise River Project, with big strides forward for the site development, outreach, and research aspects of the project, including plans for a capital campaign!

View of Boise River Property. photo by Ken Miracle

photo by Ken Miracle


IBO has worked over the past 5 years to secure more than 20 acres of property along the Boise River along Warm Springs Avenue in southeast Boise.  First, in 2012, Boise State worked closely with Idaho Transportation Department to secure management of a parcel of river bottom at the Highway 21 bridge site.  A few years later, the university purchased an adjoining parcel of riverfront using annual interest accrued on IBO’s Diane and Winston Moore Family Endowment.  The power of this lasting gift continues to benefit IBO in the most significant ways!

A Master Plan

We have used the property over the past few years to develop an outreach and education program headed by our Education Director, Heidi Ware.  Recently we have created a conceptual master plan for this area to enhance its natural features and to develop infrastructure that will aid in our outreach activities in the future.  

Boise River Site Master PlanThe plan includes restoring a natural side channel of the river to improve fish and wildlife habitat, developing an interpretive trail system, spanning wetlands with raised boardwalks to protect critical habitat, constructing wildlife viewing blinds, restoring upland habitats, and creating pollinator gardens on the properties.

We have identified multiple funding opportunities and have submitted applications to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for restoration of the side channel and other habitat improvements.  We have also submitted an application to Boise City under their Open Space and Clean Water Partnership Program for development of interpretive trails and boardwalks.  

Planning for the Future

We plan to initiate a fundraising campaign working closely with the Boise State development team to create a programing endowment of $1.5 M that would support our educational efforts at the site in perpetuity.  

We will need your help to do all of this!

draft plan for sue howell park

A City Park

A new and exciting twist which has surfaced recently are plans to develop a Boise City park on the adjoining property located along Warm Springs Avenue.  Aaron Howell, a private individual, has purchased this property and plans to develop the park and donate it to the city, naming it after his wife Sue.   The park will have facilities to accommodate exercise as well as provide Greenbelt access, but will also have a science-based theme.  We are very excited to work with Mr. Howell and the city to create a park theme and park amenities that will promote access to and use of IBO’s properties.  

We believe that linking management of a city park and an adjoining natural area will create a valuable and long-lasting legacy for residents of the City of Boise.  We plan to cooperate with Mr. Howell and the city to ensure that the park has features that can be shared with Boise State such as bus accessible parking facilities, covered meeting space that can be used for outreach, and trails joining the two properties.  This new twist has breathed new life into this age-old dream of IBO’s of having a local, accessible, natural property for year-round education and outreach!

Building Partnerships

We are happy about new (and old) partners that have surfaced to lend support for this project, such as the U.S. Army corps of Engineers, Boise City, The Boise River Enhancement Network, Idaho Rivers United, College of Western Idaho, and of course, our long-time partner Golden Eagle Audubon Society.  The Land Group, headed by Dave Koga, generously created the concept plan, and a new friendship with the Boise State Construction Management group will ensure quality and economical construction of new amenities on the property.

education shelter

Thanks to generous sponsors, we were able to purchase a shipping container to serve as an education shelter on the site. Thank you to Golden Eagle Audubon Society, Wild Birds Unlimited of Boise, Madeline George Garden Design and Nursery, Barbara Howard, Anthony Hill, and Matthew, Jennifer, & Derek Miller. We have plans to add a community mural to the walls of our shelter in 2018.


child holds a Bewick's Wren

A Bewick’s Wren delights a young future scientist. Photo courtesy of the Martin family

In 2017 we reached more visitors than ever! We hosted seven springtime field trips to watch birds, test Boise River water quality, and study mammals on our array of trail cameras.

Over the summer, we saw more than 300 of you at our MAPS banding sessions.

And this fall we reached more than 600 visitors at our daily autumn migration banding! We held field trips for more than 15 different Treasure Valley schools, hosted limited-mobility visitors (thanks to the easy access the site provides), and Heather organized our first Veterans field trip.

To top off a great fall season, we held our first “benefit for the birds” at the river! Be sure to check out Heather’s update to hear how our Waffles and Warblers event went!

Veteran releases bird. Photo by Mark Owen

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet needs some encouragement to fly off during a Boise Veterans Home field trip. Photo by Mark Owen



Nik bands a Chat

Technician Nik Kronick bands a Yellow-breasted Chat

2017 marked our 3rd year of breeding season banding on the Boise River. The “Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship” protocol is an important continent-wide monitoring effort that the Institute for Bird Populations coordinates. With both Lucky Peak and the Boise River serving as sites for this project, we acquired some great data about what is happening in our region with breeding birds.

If you’re a birder and want to see a Yellow Warbler in July or August, we can safely promise you that you’ll see them if you visit our Boise River site. We banded hundreds of Yellow Warblers on the river this summer, including some of the fattest Yellow Warblers we’ve ever seen. Normally a Yellow Warbler weighs about 9 grams, but the birds in August were so fat that they weighed in at 13 grams!

Although probably one of the most widespread species in North America, Yellow Warbler populations have been slowly declining across the continent. Monitoring projects like ours are collecting valuable information about their population trends and what habitats they rely on most. The habitat at our Boise River site seems to be ideal to support a very healthy Yellow Warbler population during post-breeding dispersal and migration.


white-throated sparrows

Two rare White-throated Sparrows banded this fall

2017 was our FIRST EVER fall migration season along the river. Although we didn’t have much money in the bank, we took the chance and hired technicians for a fall migration project. We banded daily (except in bad weather) from September 1st to October 20th. In the end, we collected data on more than 1,000 birds of nearly 30 species that migrated through the Boise River site. This gave us the best picture yet of what happens at the Boise River during migration and what kind of stopover habitat it provides for birds.

It cost us $4,000 to run our station for 2 months in 2017. We have about $1,000 in our budget for 2018 so far, thanks to our Waffles and Warblers event.

Follow this link and support our efforts in 2018 by selecting our Outreach Program in the designation.

Thanks to a grant from the Idaho STEM Action Center we were also able to deploy trail cameras on site. These cameras provided great fodder for student inquiry about mammals, humans, and how they co-exist in the wildland-urban interface on the Boise River. Here are a few of our favorite photos from the site:

raccoon trail camera