Winter weather draws big numbers of bald eagles, waterfowl to Wendell, Hagerman area – Go see them!

On a sunny Saturday in January right before sunrise, I drove along 1500 East near Wendell, heading toward the Westpoint Store & Café and the entrance to Box Canyon Reserve, a unit of Thousand Springs State Park.

Park Ranger Dave Landrum told me he’d seen about 80 bald eagles in this area the week before when it was about 5 below-zero. “The colder temperatures seem to be the best time to see the eagles,” Landrum says.

It’s always such a thrill for me to see a single bald eagle flying overhead, so the thought of seeing lots of eagles gets me all excited. “Look for gorillas in the trees,” is what one wildlife biologist used to tell me when looking for bald eagles in cottonwood trees along an Idaho river. And it’s true … they look dark and huge in the trees when perched in deep cover.


In the first few minutes, I saw more than 20 eagles in cottonwood trees on private lands behind the restaurant. I turned right at the corner on 3300 South to try to get closer, and I got a photo of 12 eagles perched in single tree. It was a mix of mature bald eagles and immature birds that had yet to acquire the classic mature white-head-and-dark-coat coloration.

I went back on 1500 East and went south toward the Snake River canyon rim to 3500 South, turned right, and drove along a farm with pivot sprinklers on both sides of the road. I saw 12 more birds in three cottonwood trees on one side, and two immature eagles perched on a pivot. Gordan Hardcastle, a professional photographer who travels to the Wendell/Hagerman area frequently to photograph eagles and waterfowl, said he saw 50-60 eagles on that pivot last February.

So if you like to look at bald eagles, photograph them or watch them fly, we heartily recommend that you take a driving trip to Wendell (take exit 155 on I-84 and head for Hagerman) and the Westpoint Store/Café to get started. Hardcastle recommends several hiking routes to get close to eagles in a recent article in the Times-News, including hiking into Box Canyon Preserve. It is a beautiful place to explore at any time of year, with the 11th largest freshwater spring in the United States.

When you’re out there watching for eagles, be sure to pull completely off the road when parking or park at the Westpoint restaurant and walk over. Please respect private property, and be courteous of the dairy farm located nearby. Bring a long camera lens or a pair of binoculars for best viewing. It’s hard to get close to the eagles because of private property, and it’s best to give the eagles plenty of space so they don’t spook.

While you’re in the vicinity, drive over to the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area to see a huge number of ducks, geese and other waterfowl. Hardcastle photographed snow geese and wood ducks in the area last week. He likes to catch them in flight, which is very difficult to do with a big lens, but his photographs, regularly posted on Facebook, are spectacular!

The Wendell/Hagerman area is a wonderful place to go bird-watching right now, and the birds are so easy to see close to roads that you don’t need to hide a cold blind to see them. In fact, the area registered the highest bird count anywhere in Idaho during the Christmas bird count.

Sarah Harris, president of the Prairie Falcon chapter of the Audubon Society in the Twin Falls area, shared their bird list with me from the Christmas count. They counted large numbers of birds, shown below, and 101 species. If you’d like to get started on your personal bird list, what a great place to go! “It’s a great place to see birds with great habitat diversity,” Harris says.

The list includes over 14,000 Canada geese, 25,000 mallards, 800 gold-eyes, 3,000 American coots and many more! Be sure to bring your binoculars, your camera and dress warm!

Westpoint Store/Café makes excellent breakfast burritos! They also serve lunch and dinner. It’s a local favorite hot spot, off the beaten track. Happy birding!

Christmas Bird Count

Here’s the list:
Snow Goose 22
Ross’ Goose 1
Cackling Goose 9
Canada Goose 14812
Tundra Swan 30
Wood Duck 77
Gadwall 119
American Wigeon 692
Mallard 25797
Northern Shoveler 222
Northern Pintail 14
Green-winged Teal 29
Canvasback 55
Redhead 74
Ring-necked Duck 6320
Greater Scaup 43
Lesser Scaup 871
Bufflehead 844
Common Goldeneye 804
Barrow’s Goldeneye 1
Hooded Merganser 8
Common Merganser 2
Ruddy Duck 113
California Quail 332
Ring-necked Pheasant 26
Gray Partridge 9
Wild Turkey 13
Pied-billed Grebe 28
Eared Grebe 2
Western Grebe 6
Double-crested Cormorant 37
American White Pelican 4
Great Blue Heron 104
Great Egret 30
Black-crowned Night Heron 11
Golden Eagle 2
Northern Harrier 51
Sharp-shinned Hawk 7
Cooper’s Hawk 6
Bald Eagle 80
Red-tailed Hawk 105
 (Harlan’s Hawk) 1
Rough-legged Hawk 5
Virginia Rail 12
Sora 3
American Coot 3639
Killdeer 14
Dunlin 2
Wilson’s Snipe 8
Ring-billed Gull 72
California Gull 10
Herring Gull 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Rock Pigeon 983
Eurasian Collared Dove 737
Mourning Dove 53
Barn Owl 3
Great Horned Owl 9
Belted Kingfisher 29
Red-naped Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 5
Northern (red-shafted) Flicker 177
American Kestrel 76
Merlin 2
Peregrine Falcon 1
Prairie Falcon 11
Black-billed Magpie 384
American Crow 4
Common Raven 46
Horned Lark 2568
Mountain Chickadee 1
Brown Creeper 3
Rock Wren 1
Canyon Wren 16
Pacific Wren 1
Marsh Wren 19
American Dipper 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 29
Western Bluebird 8
Townsend’s Solitaire 5
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1049
European Starling 17599
American Pipit 41
Bohemian Waxwing 17
Cedar Waxwing 34
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 50
Dark-eyed Junco (all forms) 447
White-crowned Sparrow 508
Song Sparrow 168
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4
Swamp Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 919
Western Meadowlark 70
Yellow-headed Blackbird 1
Brewer’s Blackbird 955
House Finch 77
Common Redpoll 10
Lesser Goldfinch 104
House Sparrow 3511