Music in the Air
Birds of Hull’s Gulch
During summer, a flash of yellow in these thickets is likely a yellow warbler. Though yellow-breasted chats nest here, too, chats are more secretive. Still, it might be a bright American goldfinch. A dazzle of blue could be lazuli bunting, and a bit of red is probably one of the finches, house or Cassin’s, but you might hope for a Western tanager. Little grey birds, without distinguishing color, the ones author Ed Abbey called lgb’s, are likely song sparrows. Look, too, for oriole nests, which appear as small hanging bags of woven twigs; these are Bullock’s orioles. The very musical song often heard in the Foothills—it sounds like flowing clear water—is the ever-present meadowlark.
This section of Hull’s Gulch, before the 1996 Eighth Street Fire, was a premier birdwatching site in the Foothills. Many nesting species have returned, but not all. Vireos—an lgb smaller than a sparrow—nested here before the fires, but are now less common because the trees, which are their nesting habitat, have not yet recovered. Birds with sage in their name, the sage sparrow and sage thrasher, and also the gray flycatcher, are also less common than before. Their relative rarity tells us that vital sagebrush habitat is not fully restored.
Great horned owls, which hunted from the cottonwood trees, are also gone until there are trees again to hunt from. A small change, but it means mice populations, the owl’s prey, have increased, which now draws more foxes and coyotes—possibly even wolves—to Hull’s Gulch.
Learn more about migrating birds from the Idaho Bird Observatory