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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

The IBO team is growing!

IBO continues to expand its staff as a result of expanding support and capacity. Thanks to efforts of our Research Director Jay Carlisle and IBO staff biologists Robert Miller and Jessica Pollock, IBO’s research budget grew again in 2017. We currently have ~$1M in grant funding spread over ~25 different projects. Wow!  


This increased support required that IBO again expand its ranks in 2017, hiring Jeremy Halka (past IBO Curlew field team and Lucky Peak Trainee) and Tempe Regan (graduating Boise State MS student and past IBO International Intern who worked in Spain).

Tempe working on Fundacion Migres Black Kite monitoring project
These two worked jointly to manage IBO’s IMBCR (grid-based point counts) projects within the Intermountain West, but also lent their support to our studies of Long-billed Curlews, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Forest Service woodpecker surveys, as well as lending a hand at Lucky Peak this fall. Tempe also helped coordinate a collaborative effort to establish a new raptor count site in Djibouti, which hosts one of the largest concentrations of migrating raptors in the world.  

Photo by Eileen Capson

ver increasing demand for IBO education and outreach lead to the hire of Heather Hayes, who headed up the “Curlews in the Classroom” program during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years (read more about Curlews in the Classroom in this article). She also worked this past fall to schedule and host all the visitors to Lucky Peak, and has been a huge help with developing outreach efforts at the Boise River site.  


Teague Scott attaches a transmitter to a White-headed Vulture

Also new to the IBO team is Teague Scott, former Lucky Peak Trainee of 5 years. Teague was accepted into the MS in Raptor Biology program at Boise State and will be assisting IBO with its vulture research in Mozambique at Gorongosa National Park. Look for other graduate students to begin IBO projects in 2018 in Wyoming and at Duck Valley Indian Reservation!

We are pleased to welcome these new IBO team members and are honored to work with such a talented, intelligent, and driven group of people!  

Thank you all!

Scientific Contributions

Since our last e-Newsletter, we’ve published 10 new journal articles, given 21 oral presentations, and presented six posters at professional conferences about our ongoing research. Now THAT’S a lot of science! 

Jay presents at Grassland Conference. Photo by Amber Rose Carver

Jay presents about Long-billed Curlews at the 4th annual America’s Grasslands Conference. Photo by Amber Rose Carver


Bayly, N. J., K. V. Rosenberg, W. Easton, C. Gómez, J. Carlisle, D. Ewert, A. V. Drake, and L. Goodrich.  2017.  Major stopover regions and migratory bottlenecks for Nearctic-Neotropical landbirds within the Neotropics: A review.  Bird Conservation International, 1-26. doi:10.1017/S0959270917000296

Carlisle, J. D.  2016.  Southernmost breeding of the Northern Hawk Owl in the United States.  Western Birds 47:81-83.

McClure, C. J. W., H. E. Ware, J. Carlisle, and J. R. Barber.  2017.  Noise from a phantom road alters the age structure of a community of migrating birds.  Animal Conservation 20:164-172.

Miller, R. A., L. Bond, P. N. Migas, J. D. Carlisle, and G. S. Kaltenecker.  2017.  Contrasting habitat associations of sagebrush-steppe songbirds in the Intermountain West.  Western Birds 48:35-55.

Miller, R. A. 2017. Repeated Observations of Northern Goshawks Foraging as Terrestrial Predators. Journal of Raptor Research 51(4).

Miller, R. A., N. Paprocki, M. J. Stuber, C. E. Moulton, and J. D. Carlisle. 2016. “Short-Eared Owl (Asio Flammeus) Surveys in the North American Intermountain West: Utilizing Citizen Scientists to Conduct Monitoring across a Broad Geographic Scale.” Avian Conservation and Ecology 11(1): 3.

Miller, R. A., A. Onrubia, B. Martin, G. S. Kaltenecker, J. D. Carlisle, M. J. Bechard, and M. Ferrer.  2016.  Local and regional weather patterns influencing post-breeding migration counts of soaring birds at the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain.  Ibis 158:106-115.

Nolte, E. G., J. Bart, B. P. Pauli, G. S. Kaltenecker and J. A. Heath. 2016. Detectability of migrating raptors and its effect on bias and precision of trend estimates. Avian Conservation and Ecology 11 (2):9. [online] URL:

Scholer, M. N., B. Martin, M. Ferrer, A. Onrubia, M. J. Bechard, G. S. Kaltenecker, and J. D. Carlisle.  2016.  Variable shifts in the autumn migration phenology of soaring birds in southern Spain.  Ardea 104:83-93.

Soluk, E. L., M. E. Jarchow, and J. D. Carlisle.  2016.  Declines in prairie bird populations in a restored tallgrass prairie.  South Dakota Bird Notes 68:85-93.

To request a PDF copy of any of these manuscripts, please email

Oral Presentations:

Bresson, B., and J. Carlisle. April 2016. Partners in Flight “Road Shows” (Bird Conservation Workshops for Federal/State/Tribal Agency Employees) – an Opportunity to Highlight our Conservation Tools to Those Implementing Projects on the Ground. Partners in Flight Western Working Group spring meeting. Homer, AK.

Bresson, B., and J. Carlisle. October 2016. Partners in Flight “Road Shows” – Conservation Tool for Implementing Projects. Partners in Flight Western Working Group fall meeting. Long Beach, WA.

Carlisle, J. D. May 2016. Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) Program. U.S. Forest Service Region 1 Biologist’s Meeting, Missoula, MT.

Carlisle, J. D., A.-L. Harrison, D, Newstead, S. Coates, A. Scarpignato, T, Keyes, and P. Marra. August 2016.  Migratory connectivity of Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus) across their range.  North American Ornithological Congress, Washington D.C.

Carlisle, J. D., S. Coates, A.-L. Harrison, H. Hayes, and B. Wright. December 2016. Migratory connectivity of Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus): the importance of the Sonoran Joint Venture region. Sonoran Joint Venture board meeting, Ensenada, Mexico.

Carlisle, J. D., and the Partners in Flight Science Committee. February 2017. Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan: 2016 Revision for U.S. and Canada. Idaho Bird Conservation Partnership spring meeting, Boise, ID.

Carlisle, J. D., S. Coates, H. Hayes, A.-L. Harrison, and D. Newstead.  July 2017.  Nesting success and migratory connectivity of Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus) across their range.  City of Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center.

Coates, S., J. Carlisle, A.-L. Harrison, B. Wright, and H. Hayes.  November 2016.  Long-billed Curlews Across Their Range: A More Complete Annual Life-cycle Picture.  Morley Nelson Snake River NCA Symposium. Boise, ID.

Coates, S., J. Carlisle, A.-L. Harrison, B. Wright, and H. Hayes.  November 2016.  Nesting Success and Migratory Connectivity of Long-billed Curlews.  Idaho Bird Conservation Partnership (IBCP) fall meeting. Boise, ID.

Coates, S., J. D. Carlisle, and A.-L. Harrison.  March 2017.  Spatial Distribution and Habitat Use Patterns of Long-billed Curlews in California and Mexico.  The Wildlife Society Joint Conference (AFSTWS). Boise, ID.

Coates, S., J. D. Carlisle, A.-L. Harrison, B. Wright, and H. Hayes.  March 2017.  Findings and Tales from the Annual Life-cycle of Long-billed Curlews.  Golden Eagle Audubon Society monthly meeting.  Boise, ID.

Coates, S., J. D. Carlisle, A.-L. Harrison, B. Wright, and H. Hayes.  September 2017.  Following Long-billed Curlews of the Intermountain West.  Southwest Idaho Birder’s Association (SIBA).  Nampa, ID.

Gahbauer, M. A., R. A. Miller, N. Paprocki, A. Morici, A. C. Smith, and D. A. Wiggins. 2017. Status and Monitoring of Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) in North and South America. World Owl Conference, Portugal.

Kaltenecker, G. S. 2017. The Intermountain Bird Observatory: A University-based Model. International Bird Observatory Conference, New Jersey.

Meny, C.M., M. McClaren, R. Sparks, and J.D. Carlisle. March 2017. Montana’s Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions program (IMBCR): utility of seven years of statewide landbird monitoring data.  Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society Annual Conference. Helena, MT.

Miller, R.A. 2016. Inevitable Encore: My Journey from Volunteer Citizen Scientist to Encore Career. Wyoming Citizen Science Conference, Lander, WY..

Miller, R. A., N. Paprocki, M. Stuber. C. Moulton, and J. D. Carlisle. February 2016. Short-eared Owl surveys in the Intermountain West:  utilizing citizen scientists to conduct long-term monitoring. Idaho Chapter of the Wildlife Society Annual Conference. Coeur d’Alene, ID.

Miller, R. A., N. Paprocki, R. A. Sparks, D. C. Pavlacky, C. White, and J. D. Carlisle. October 2016. Annual Variation in Breeding Densities of Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) in the Northern Great Plains and the Intermountain West of North America. Raptor Research Foundation Annual Conference. Cape May, NJ.

Miller, R. A., J. D. Carlisle, and R. Sadak. March 2017. Avian Species Monitoring on the Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forest. Idaho Chapter of the Wildlife Society Annual Conference. Boise, ID.

Miller, R. A., M. I. Jeffries, and J. D. Carlisle. March 2017. Exploring Northern Goshawk Population Dynamics using Individual-Based Models. Idaho Chapter of the Wildlife Society Annual Conference. Boise, ID.

Miller, R. A., N. Paprocki, B. Bedrosian, C. Tomlinson, and J. D. Carlisle. November 2017. Project WAFLS: Evaluating Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) Distribution, Habitat Use, Population Trend, and Future Viability within the Great Basin and Intermountain West of North America. Raptor Research Foundation Annual Conference. Salt Lake City, UT, USA.

Miller, R. A., N. Paprocki, B. Bedrosian, C. Tomlinson, and J. D. Carlisle. November 2017. Project WAFLS: Engaging Citizen Scientists Across Western North America in a Statistically Rigorous Survey of an Under-Studied Raptor. Raptor Research Foundation Annual Conference. Salt Lake City, UT.

Muench, C. F., R. A. Miller, E. Greene, and M. K. Schwartz. 2017. Evaluating Long-Term Turnover of Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) within the Minidoka Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest. Raptor Research Foundation Annual Conference. Salt Lake City, UT.

Paprocki, N., R. A. Miller, J. D. Carlisle, R. Norvell, C. Moulton, C. Farr, and T. Brown. October 2016. 2016 Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) Citizen Science Breeding Survey Results from the Intermountain West. Raptor Research Foundation Annual Conference. Cape May, NJ.


Coates, S., J. D. Carlisle, H. Ware, and J. Pollock.  February 2016.  Digging into the Annual Life-history of Long-billed Curlews: Are Sink Habitats to Blame for Local Population Declines? Idaho Chapter of The Wildlife Society, Washington Chapter of The Wildlife Society, Society for Northwestern Vertebrate Biology, and NW Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Joint Conference.  Coeur d’Alene, ID.

McFarland, V. W., E. Reyes, B. Krouse, R. A. Miller, and D. Perkins. 2016. Monarch Butterfly Demography and Habitat Suitability in Western Idaho. Conference on Undergraduate Research, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho.

Meisman, E. D., T. Styhl, A. Dorrell, B. Krouse, M. Bechard, R. A. Miller, and D. Perkins. 2016. If You Build It, They Will Come: Evaluating the Role of Man-Made Nest Platforms and Anthropogenic Landscape Change on Shaping the Habitat Suitability and Breeding Success of Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) in West-Central Idaho. Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho.

Miller, R. A., J. D. Carlisle, N. Paprocki, B. Bedrosian, and C. R. Tomlinson. May 2017. WAFLS – Asio flammeus: Western Short-eared Owl Landscape Study. Great Basin Bird Conference 2017. Reno, NV.

Monroe, K., J. Pollock, P. Jantz, D. Powers, and S. Wethington. August 2016. Climate Change Impacts and Productivity in Hummingbirds. North American Ornithological Conference. Washington, D.C.

Whitenack, L., R. A. Miller, G. S. Kaltenecker, and J. D. Carlisle. July 2016. Microhabitat Characteristics of Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) Nest Sites in the Naturally Fragmented Forests of the Northern Great Basin, USA. Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research, Boise State University. Boise, ID.

Waffles and Warblers!

We’re excited to announce this “Benefit for the Birds” coming up on October 7th. Follow this link to read more and to purchase your tickets for this fun morning activity: Waffles and Warblers Eventbrite Page


Tribute to Gary Robinson – IBO Super-volunteer

By Jay Carlisle

To read the tribute to Gary written by his family, follow this link.

On March 30th, the IBO family lost one of our greats – Gary Robinson, who has been one of the most valuable and dedicated volunteers in our history.  Gary passed after a battle with pancreatic cancer and we, along with his family and many friends, will miss him greatly.  It’s important to point out that he didn’t “lose” the battle to cancer – he was active, happy, and at his creative/mischievous best until his last few days!

Gary at Lucky Peak. Photo by Marissa Buschow

Gary showed up on Lucky Peak unannounced one day in August 2004 and told us he had banding experience and wanted to get involved if we’d have him.  At first glance, I wasn’t sure if this “old-timer” would be up for it but he quickly proved himself!  We went on a few net runs together and he demonstrated his ability to quickly extract birds from mist-nets and, though he huffed and puffed at times, he was always able to hike the trails to the nets.  It wasn’t long before he joined Carol and Dave Wike to form the “Three Amigos” – our team of ever-reliable volunteers that have been invaluable to IBO’s long-term banding studies for most of our 20+ year history.  They’ve been around for almost every MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship – a continent-wide breeding season protocol) banding day, lots of early-season days during our Lucky Peak fall migration project, and – more recently – became stalwarts of our hummingbird monitoring project.  Through all this effort, they’ve all been instrumental in helping us train scores of seasonal field assistants and the next generation of IBO volunteers while being invaluable members of the team themselves.

The Three Amigos! Dave and Carol Wike with Gary

Gary, in particular, was well-known for his “magic fingers” at the mist-nets.  Field assistants would often exclaim, “How did he just do that?!” after he’d removed a tangled-looking bird from the net in 10 seconds or less, sometimes with one hand!  Many field assistants fondly remember net runs with Gary as he effortlessly removed 75% or more of the birds in a given net in the same amount of time as they got the rest and, if they were lucky, he shared some of his secrets too!

Gary with a “small” load of birds he extracted at the Boise River site

Just as much, we’ve all enjoyed the many stories from Gary’s younger days – a sip of Lord Calvert in the evening often unlocked a story or 3 for the Lucky Peak crew :)  He was a veritable Swiss Army Knife of a man who tried and excelled at many professions during his career, starting as a Marine out of high school and, among other roles, enjoying spells as a biologist, police officer, zoo keeper, game warden, school teacher, and animal caretaker at a retirement home.  Similarly, he also carried everything you could think of, and more, in his jeep– so much so that if we ran out of something at Lucky Peak, we asked Gary as the first option.  He had a mischievous side as well, pulling pranks such as placing small sticks, pine cones, or even a lizard into bird bags and delivering them as if they were birds, usually with a straight face – and maybe a wink later.  We also heard several humorous stories about how he and the love of his life, Sandy, re-found each other after several decades – I’m so glad they did and, Sandy, thanks for sharing him with us!

Gary with just a few of the many Lucky Peak songbird banders he mentored over the years

Most of all, Gary was a loving friend to all of us and we will miss his big heart as much as his deft skills with the tiny birds we study.  As Sandy said to us as we gathered with her and Gary on his last day, “he’ll be with you when you go up to Lucky Peak” (certainly for hummingbirds and the river site too!) and I’m sure I’ll ask him for help the next time I’m struggling with a tangled bird.  We love you Gary and thanks for EVERYTHING!


At the request of his family, memorials, in lieu of flowers, may be directed to the Intermountain Bird Observatory. We’ve started a Gary Robinson memorial fund. Our mailing address is 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725-1515. Please include a note letting us know if you are donating in Gary’s name.

Curlew Naming 2017

We held a contest to name our pair of birds that live on the Orchard Combat Training Center south of Boise. Read more about HH and KA on the “OCTC pair” tab on our curlew profiles page.

This year we asked schools that participated in our “Curlews in the Classroom” program to come up with name ideas. Check out their creative ideas below.

After a Facebook vote, our winning names were Zeus and Athena! Way to go Middleton Middle School :)

Names for HH

HH the curlew

Ginger–from Gilligan’s Island! (Marsing Elementary Kindergarteners)

Hoppin’ Heather–because her leg flag is HH and Heather Hayes is the Curlews in the Classroom project leader and a member of the Curlew Crew field team. (Liberty Elementary)

Katherine–named after famous Idahoan Katherine Albertson (Liberty Elementary)

Athena–The Goddess of Wisdom, War, and Craftsmanship. (Middleton Middle School 7th graders)

Rose–Signifies beauty, elegance, favor, grace, and kindness. (Middleton Middle School 7th graders)

Denise–named after their teacher. (Trail Wind Elementary School)

Bella–after the Twilight movies (Shadow Butte Elementary 3rd grade)

Valentina–because it is a Mexican name and curlews spend most of their time in Mexico (Andrea, Andrea, JJ and Alex from the Parma Learning Center after school program)

Frost–Frost is a good female name because the females leave Idaho first before the frost.  When females are on the nest, they freeze when predators come close. (Homedale Middle School)

Star— The star garnet is the state gem of Idaho. (Homedale Middle School)

Fluffy–because 4th graders like cute names, and curlews have fluffy feathers! (Trail Wind Elementary 4th grade)

Elica–We’re not sure why? (Sage International Kindergarten)

Chopstick–because curlews have long beaks! (Sage International 6th grade)

Cherry–Because Emmett is known for their Cherry Festival (Kenneth J. Carberry Elementary School 4th graders)

Girlie-girl–because, Kindergarten :)  (Kenneth J. Carberry Elementary School Kindergarteners)

Names for KA

KA the curlew — photo by Kevin Warner

Professor–from Gilligan’s Island! (Marsing Elementary Kindergarteners)

Shorty–because he has the shortest beak ever measured of all the IBO curlews (Liberty Elementary)

Albert–after famous Idahoan Joe Albertson (plus KA are his wife’s initials). (Liberty Elementary)

Austin Powers–Both names together mean “very handsome”. Separately, Austin stands for “majestic dignity”, while Powers implies is a “force measured by how much work has been done”. (Middleton Middle School 7th graders)

Zeus–Highest of all the Gods Zeus was the “Ruler of the Heavens”. In the sky, Zeus wielded thunder and rain to protect humankind from the other Gods. (Middleton Middle School 7th graders)

Butterball–we’re not exactly sure why? (Trail Wind Elementary School)

Edward— after the Twilight movies (Shadow Butte Elementary 3rd grade)

Tapatio–because it is a tasty Mexican hotsauce and curlews spend most of their time in Mexico (Andrea, Andrea, JJ and Alex from the Parma Learning Center after school program)

Yoda–Yoda in the movies is like a male Curlew because when help is needed, he comes to assist.  The force is with him. (Homedale Middle School)

Disco–because male curlews do a fancy dance to attract a female. (Homedale Middle School)

Zoomer–because male curlews race back to their breeding grounds to get there first. (Trail Wind Elementary 4th grade)

Saber–perhaps because of their long bills? (Sage International Kindergarten)

Gandalf–because curlews are magical (like the wizard from Lord of the Rings). (Sage International 6th grade)

Zippy— curlews fly fast! (Kenneth J. Carberry Elementary School Kindergarteners)

Rocky–after the Rocky Mountains (Adams Elementary)

Phenomenal birding and other wildlife in Nicaragua, February 2017

By Jay Carlisle

Golden-hooded Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager at El Jaguar

I’m lucky in that I am able to fulfill my passions for birding and international travel most years and it’s always fun to visit new places.  This started with a birding trip with friends to western Mexico almost 20 years ago, then Panama and Peru the next 2 winters, and I’ve been addicted since.  In recent years I’ve started co-leading 1 or 2 group trips each year, starting with trips to Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago in which I served as an “apprentice guide” assisting my friend Alvaro Jaramillo of Alvaro’s Adventures.  Alvaro taught me many key aspects of guiding and we’ve continued to collaborate since, which has included me running most of “my” trips through his company, sometimes piloting new itineraries and other times benefitting from trips he’s already planned.

In April 2016, I met Liliana Chavaria-Duriaux (Lili) and Georges Duriaux, owners of the El Jaguar coffee farm and private forest preserve in Nicaragua, at a bird conservation meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico.  We quickly hit it off, especially while on a birding field trip, and we soon decided to collaborate on a birding trip for some of my Idaho birding friends to visit Nicaragua – a country I’ve long wanted to visit, especially after flying over the extensive forests on the Atlantic/Caribbean slope on return trips from Panama and Costa Rica.

El Jaguar Reserve

Georges and Lili worked with Alvaro and I to create a diverse and exciting itinerary to explore four key regions of Nicaragua: (1) the north-central highlands, (2) the shores of Lake Cocibolca (aka Lake Nicaragua), (3) the Caribbean lowland forests, and (4) the Pacific slope.

The lush tropical forest at Refugio Bartola was destroyed in some areas by Hurricane Otto

One twist worth noting is that Hurricane Otto made landfall in November 2016 and affected many forest areas in southeastern Nicaragua, including blowdown of canopy trees and this affected areas of Refugio Bartola and the nearby Reserva Biologica Indio Maiz.  Lili and Georges initially worried that we’d struggle with forest species there but patches of intact forest remain within relatively short walking distance of the lodge and we still found amazing diversity there.

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Pale-billed Woodpecker at Bartola

Though we didn’t see every bird we hoped for (does this ever happen? :-), the trip far exceeded my expectations in terms of bird diversity and was a great experience overall.  Lili and Georges were great to travel and bird with, we employed knowledgeable local guides, we stayed in comfortable lodges/hotels, we ate great food, and the group made for a fun and cohesive birding team!

Enjoying the view of Rio San Juan during breakfast at the remote Bartola lodge


  • We recorded 366 bird species during 10 birding days – of these, 14 species were “heard only” (i.e., owls, Great Tinamou, and a torturously distant Three-wattled Bellbird) and 15 were only seen by 1 or 2 observers but 337 were species that were seen by all or most of the group!

    The forests of El Jaguar support a rich bird community, including wintering Golden-winged Warblers!

  • Some of the most exciting/interesting species included:
      • The near-endemic Nicaraguan Grackle (San Miguelito)


    Female Nicaraguan Grackle. Click here to watch a video of their courtship display

      • Nicaraguan Seed-finch (distant views from moving boat; Rio San Juan)
      • Scarlet Macaw (Rio Bartola)
      • Green Ibis (Bartola)
      • Pacific Parakeets coming to roost near a waterfall in El Chocoyero

    Pacific Parakeets

    Paired-up Pacific Parakeets coming in to roost

      • a Golden-crowned Spadebill that visited our lunch table at Bartola!
      • Great and Northern Potoos (daytime views of both)

    Great Potoo

    Great Potoo at Bartola

    • 20 hummingbird species – all gorgeous but I was most excited about the Black-crested Coquette (El Jaguar), a too-brief view of a male Snowcap (Bartola), and the range-restricted Green-breasted Mountain-gem (El Jaguar)
    • Several antbird species including brief but exciting views of a small group of Ocellated Antbirds (Bartola)
  • Other highlights:
      • Unexpected (inland) sightings of a Magnificent Frigatebird over San Carlos, a Red Phalarope floating (well, spinning) downstream past Refugio Bartola, and 3 Brown Pelicans heading southeast over the forest in Bartola
      • 7 species of kite, including sightings of Swallow-tailed on the first 8 days of the trip!
      • Great views of 3 motmot and 5 kingfisher species

    Rufous Motmot

    Rufous Motmot at Bartola

    Turquoise-browed Motmot

    Turquoise-browed Motmot, the national bird of Nicaragua–Photo by Heidi Ware

      • 27 warbler species including Golden-winged and Golden-cheeked as well as a pair of Buff-rumped and singing Olive-crowned Yellowthroats
      • 5 Euphonia species plus the Blue-crowned Chlorophonia

    Olive-backed Euphonia

    Olive-backed Euphonia at El Jaguar

    • A close Long-billed Gnatwren (Montibelli) and good views of Green Shrike-vireo in a small flock (Bartola)
    • A mixed-species flock comprised entirely of medium-sized landbirds, including nunbirds, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, and mourners (Bartola)

    Cinnamon Woodpecker

    Cinnamon Woodpecker at Bartola

  • Non-avian highlights:
      • Jaguarundi (Montibelli)
      • 3 monkey species in 1 afternoon hike (Bartola)
      • False coral snake (El Jaguar)

    False Coral Snake

    False Coral Snake at El Jaguar

      • Sloths (El Jaguar & Rio San Juan)
      • Numerous bats, squirrels, and frogs/toads


    roosting bats (saccopteryx sp.)

    • 1 small army ant swarm (Bartola)

Places we stayed/birded:

    • Managua airport area (1st night after evening arrivals)

Blue-winged Teal

We encountered a lagoon with over 10,000 Blue-winged teal!

  • El Jaguar Natural Reserve (4 nights)
  • Hotel San Francisco in San Miguelito (1 night)
    • Afternoon boat trip along the lake shore and morning birding on the malecón
  • Refugio Bartola (3 nights, 2 full days)
    • Trails at Bartola plus 2 boat trips up smaller rivers flowing into the Rio San Juan (in the Reserva Biologica Indio Maiz)

      It’s not often you get to bird from the middle of a river! Birding in Rio Bartola

  • Montibelli Private Reserve (2 nights, 1 full day)

The itinerary required relatively extensive travel, including a couple of long travel days moving between regions, but we timed it to be able to bird at least the morning and/or late afternoon of the travel days – and the boat trips on the Rio San Juan (to/from Bartola) provided many good sightings.  And, we tried to balance the travel with multiple night stays at several places.  Importantly, we continued to find multiple new species on each day of the trip and the group stayed excited/engaged throughout.

All in all, I highly recommend Nicaragua for birding exploration!  It hosts an impressive diversity of habitats and birds, including a great mix of Neotropical migrants and species characteristic of both further north and south in Central America, and some great birding destinations.  Ask Alvaro if you’d be interested in going to Nicaragua :)

Boise State Engineering and Science Festival

IBO will have a table at the upcoming Boise State Engineering and Science Festival!

This is an excellent free event for the whole family. Be sure to stop by and visit us to learn all about the research we do. Kids will meet IBO ornithologists and learn all about what it’s like to be a scientist. IBO’s “touch table” will have all kinds of interesting bird artifacts from skulls & feathers to bird banding equipment & satellite tracking maps.

Visit us on Saturday, February 4th 2017 from 9am to 4pm

More information at:

If you visited us at the event and need a digital brochure, click here.

For information about our banding dates, check back on this page in March.

prfa bryce