Of the estimated 10,000 species of birds, it's estimated that few people see more than a fraction. Ornithologists brandish binoculars in an attempt to identify all of the species.
Dr. Leon Powers of Northwest Nazarene University spends his time cataloguing and categorizing the world's raptors. While the term "raptor" might conjure up images from Jurassic Park, Powers focuses on their Holocene Era cousins—all manner of herons, falcons, bluebirds and more. These relatives of the dinosaurs are a source of constant joy for Southwest Idaho bird watchers.
Powers is professor emeritus at NNU, and on Tuesday, Jan. 10, he'll teach aspiring birders how to identify the species found in Southern Idaho. The public lecture at the Deer Flat Visitor Center will cover the markings, colors and names of the many birds in the area.
This time of year, thousands of birds flock to the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. By mid-December, more than 150,000 ducks call Lake Lowell their home. The large number of birds keeps much of the water unfrozen through the winter, and in the early morning, flocks of mallards and smaller numbers of northern pintail and American wigeon take to the skies to feed nearby. Bald eagles stand as sentries around the lake, looking to prey on weaker fowl. These movements provide birders with a visual feast.