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Birding programs explore loons, nests of feathered architects

BIRDING — Audubon Society chapters in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene have interesting programs on loons and bird nests open to the public this week:

Tuesday, May 12 — MasterBirder Idie Ulsh will explore the nests of birds ranging from hummingbirds to eagles in a free program, 7 p.m., at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd., sponsored by the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society.

Ulsh has completed an three-years study of bird nests, including their construction and placement and will use photos to discuss the nurseries of more than 30 species. Ulsh is a past president of Seattle Audubon, founder of the Washington Butterfly  Association a nature photographer and an independent college counselor.

Wednesday, May 13 — Daniel Poleschook and Ginger Gumm, experts in loons and bird photography, will present an update on loons in Washington, 7:30 p.m. at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave. in Spokane.

The couple has been involved in banding and lab sampling of nesting loons and chicks as well as record keeping for the United States Forest Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and BioDiversity Research Institute since 1996.

WaLeg Day 93: A hair-raising day at the Capitol

OLYMPIA — There are days at the Capitol that can make your hair stand on end. Usually that's due to something the Legislature is doing. But not always.

Tuesday it was courtesy of the Pacific Science Center, which brought some of its mobile exhibits to the Capitol Building and set them up in the hallways, entry ways and Rotunda. Among the most prominent was Volts and Jolts, an exhibit on electricity at which people pausing in the Rotunda were invited to put a hand on a metal globe to see the effects of electricity on their body.

Peter DeFranco, of Seattle, was among dozens of members of the Audubon Society who had come to Olympia to encourage members of the House of Representatives to support an oil transportation safety bill. Scheduled debate on the bill fell behind schedule, and DeFranco accepted an invitation for a science center staffer to get a charge out of the ball. 

Tonight! Raptor expert’s program a real hoot

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An award-winning raptor expert, artist and photographer will focus on birds of prey in a free fully feathered program TONIGHT, April 8, in Spokane.

Kate Davis of Raptors of the Rockies will use her stunning images along with her Teaching Team — a falcon, hawk and two owls — for an educational evening that will conclude with a primer on Communication In the Dark and "hooting up an owl."

Davis has been providing educational programs to schools and the public with live birds of prey for 27 years. She keeps 18 non-releasable and falconry birds at the facility at her house on the banks of the Bitterroot River in Western Montana.

These birds are the subjects and source of inspiration for her photography, drawings, paintings, etchings, welded steel sculptures, and writing, with five books published to date.  Raptors of the West Captured in Photographs won the National Outdoor Book Award in 2011. Her latest book, American Kestrel: Pint-Sized Predator just hit the stands with 100 photographs, six chapters and plans for building kestrel nest boxes.

The program, sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society, starts at 7:30 p.m. at Riverview Retirement Community, 2117 E. N. Crescent Ave. Social gathering starts at 7 p.m.

Travel: Birding in McAllen, Texas

    The stereotype of the avid birdwatcher is classic: a well-equipped enthusiast wearing the latest outdoor gear, carrying the biggest lens, peering into the trees through the most expensive binoculars, traveling to all the most exotic corners of the globe to be able to check another bird off the official life list.

    But there are just as many of us who simply want to be where the birds are. We carry our mid-priced super-zoom cameras and our mid-priced binoculars and we take great pleasure in seeing the beautiful creatures that fill the air with music and the skies with color.

    That’s what drew me to McAllen, Texas. As one of the premier birding locations in the country, the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is home to 9 World Bird Centers. Thanks to the region’s temperate sub-tropical climate there are more than 400 species of birds which live in or pass through the area and, for the most part, you don’t need anything more than a good pair of eyes to see them.

    Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, just 5 miles from McAllen, is a birder’s delight. The 760-acre park adjoins another 1,700 acres of federal wildlife refuge. Cars are not allowed in the park but a trolley makes regular pick-ups along the 7 mile paved loop allowing birders to hitch a ride from one feeding station to the next. It’s a quiet, beautiful, place and it is filled with birds.

    But the thing Bentsen offers that makes all the difference for the casual birder is a bird blind strategically placed near a feeding station. The hut made of horizontally-placed wood slats is reached by a ramp so it is accessible to those with disabilities. Inside the blind the wood slats can be folded down to form a platform for cameras so a tripod isn’t necessary to keep the camera steady. This makes it possible to get a pretty good photo with a point-and-shoot camera or even, if conditions are right, with a cellphone. All you have to do is sit and watch the show.

    January and February are prime months for birdwatching and we were there on an unseasonably cold (for Texas) November day, during a weather event that had most of the country in the deep freeze. Temperatures hovered in the high 40s and the sky was overcast. But the birds kept coming to feed. I sat on a bench in the blind, peered through the opening and pressed the shutter again and again without disturbing the birds. Great Kiskadees swooped down in front of me and drank from the small pool of water. Green jays postured and fluttered at the feeders. A golden-fronted woodpecker fed at the peanut butter log. It was great fun.

    When the trolly came around I surrendered my seat in the bird blind knowing I’d managed to get one or two good photos with what I had on hand. I don’t have a formal list, but I could have checked off a few that day:

    Green jay. Check
    Great Kiskadee. Check.
    Golden-fronted woodpecker. Check
    All for the price of the park’s $5 admission.

    Birding can be an expensive hobby. But, in the right place, it can simply be great fun at little expense. I can see now how the whole enthusiast thing gets started, though. The one bird I’d heard so much about but didn’t get to see was the beautiful Altimira Oriole. I saw a nest that had been blown down in a storm but no bird, so I feel like I didn’t quite finish what I started. I guess I’ll have to go back to McAllen. With an official list.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is the author of Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Birding, fly fishing programs presented this week

 OUTGROUPS – Inland Northwest outdoors groups have drummed up some good stuff for their monthly free programs. Among this week’s offerings are:

• Trans-America touring and local bicycling programs will be discussed by three speakers, 6:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 10, at Riverview Retirement Center, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., for Spokane Bicycle Club.

• Climate change impacts on Palouse Praire ecosystems, by Sanford Eigenbrode, professor in the University of Idaho's Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences program, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 11, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.

• Fly Auction, anglers donate hand-tied fly patterns for auction to benefit local fishing education and fisheries conservation programs, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12, at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.

• "Exploring South America — The Bird Continent", by Lucila Castro and Peter Morrison of the Pacific Biodiversity Institute, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon.

Outdoor groups revive monthly programs

OUTTEACH  – After a summer hiatus, Inland Northwest outdoors groups are reviving monthly free programs. Among this week’s offerings are:

  • Bicycling Trans-Washington, 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Riverview Retirement Center, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., for Spokane Bicycle Club.
  • Audubon Adventures, birding and nature activities for kids grades 3-5, by Eula Hickam, 7 p.m., Tuesday, (Sept. 9) at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.
  • Fishing Local Lakes, by Jeff Voigt, 7 p.m., Wednesday, at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.
  • Washington Loons, by Ginger Gumm, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon.

See map and directions to Riverview Retirement Center auditorium, which is  used by several groups for free monthly programs.

Warm up your bird ID before Christmas Bird Count

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Can you ID these two birds?  If not, you may want to attend one of the Audubon Society programs tonight and Wednesday on identifying wintering birds.

  • Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife experts say both birds are male finches and despite the difference in photo size here, they are about the same size in real life.
    The one on the left is a house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) and the one on the right is a Cassin’s finch (Carpodacus cassinii).
    Cassin’s bright red cap ends sharply at brown-streaked nape and its tail is strongly notched. House finch’s red is more on the front of its head under a brown cap, and the red color can vary to orange or even yellow; house finch also has a more square tail.

Audubon Society invites newbies to programs on winter birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Excellent programs on winter birding are planned next week, a spinoff in the birding social event of the year.

Local Audubon Society chapters have tapped professional biologists to present special pre-Christmas Bird Count programs on identifying and understanding “winter birds:”

Whether you're gearing up for joining a group outing during the Audubon Society's 114th annual Christmas Bird Count or simply brushing up on your bird identification skills, check out one of these free programs:

Coeur d’Alene Audubon will feature Carrie Hugo, BLM wildlife biologist, on Tuesday (Dec. 10), 7 p.m., at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d’Alene.

Spokane Audubon will feature Gary Blevins, Spokane Falls Community College biology professor on Wednesday (Dec. 11), 7 p.m., at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave. Driving directions: tinyurl.com/SASmeeting.

The Audubon Chapters also welcome newcomers on the Christmas Bird Count field trips they've organized.  Following are the dates and the leader contacts:


Coeur d’Alene: Dec. 14; Shirley Sturts, (208) 664-5318, shirley.sturts@gmail.com.

Moscow: Dec. 14; Kas Dumroese, kas.birder@gmail.com.

Lewiston: Dec. 15; contact Bryan Jamieson, jami9197@aol.com.

Sandpoint: Dec. 14; Rich Del Carlo, (208) 265-8989, rich@peregrinetree.com.

Bonners Ferry: Dec. 28; Jan Rose (208) 267-7791, aljanrose@hotmail.com.

Spirit Lake: Jan. 2; Shirley Sturts.

Indian Mountain: Jan. 5; Don Heikkila, (208) 659-3389, idfinn@sm-email.com.


Pullman: Dec. 14; Marie Dymkoski, marie-dymkoski@msn.com.

Colville: Dec. 14; Barbara Harding, (509) 684-8384, Barbara_Harding@fws.gov.

Pend Oreille River: Dec. 15; John Stuart, (509) 447-2644, ninebark@povn.com.

Clarkston: Dec. 15; Bryan Jamieson, jami9197@aol.com.

Chewelah: Dec. 21; Mike Munts (509) 684-8384, strix.nebulosa1987@gmail.com.

Spokane: Dec. 29; Alan McCoy, 448-3123, ahm2352@gmail.com. 

Ants, birds featured in Audubon programs

NATURE – Local Audubon chapters are sponsoring free 7 p.m. nature progams this week:

Tuesday (April 9): Bluebird trails, citizen science and NestWatch; sponsored by Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey in Coeur d’Alene.

Wednesday (April 10): "For the Love of Ants: a Superorganism," by Laurel Hansen, EWU natural science professor, at Riverview Retirement Center auditorium, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society.

Snowy owls to be detailed in owl researcher’s program

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The life history of the snowy owl will be described in a free program by Denver Holt, founder of the Owl Research Institute, Tuesday (March 12) at the Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, sponsored by Coeur d’Alene Audubon Society.

Read on for good background on this arctic visitors to this region supplied by the Institute and the Audubon Society:

Wildlife enthusiast to tell birders why he’s a hunter

HUNTING – “I hunt therefore I am (what)?”

Everyone might have a different word to fill in the blank in that phrase: condemnable, capable, cold-hearted, complete….

Fill in he blank as you see fit, but not before you give me a shot at explaining why an animal lover and wildlife conservationist would chose to be a hunter.

I’ll be giving a program on the topic Wednesday (Feb. 13) for the Spokane Audubon Society’s open meeting, 7:30 p.m., at Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

  • Click here for directions to the meeting location.

Sportsmen are among the most ardent year-round wildlife watchers and they contribute generously to wildlife conservation.

Moreover, animals are delicious.

But those are just a few of many reasons I hunt.

Watching birds eat piques curious minds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — There's a difference between seeing wildlife and observing them.  Here's a thought just posted by Moscow birder Terry Gray:

I have been spending some time over the past years watching birds that eat fruit or which some think eat fruit and do not!

Example:  American Robin and both Cedar and Bohemian Waxwings pick a berry or small crabapple from the tree and swallow it whole.  There is some documentation that states that a Pine Grosbeak is a Fruit Eater.  I disagree! 

Whenever we have had the Pine Grosbeak in town I have made a point to watch them carefully eat.  The DO take the berry or small crabapple from the tree BUT they do not swallow it.  They pulverize it with their bill and tongue and spit out the pulp and swallow the small seeds that was in the fruit.  To me that means that the bird is not eating the fruit but eating the product of the fruit, the seed. 

I personally do not think that people pay enough attention to detail when making statements and even writing up articles about what they have observed because they have not observed the total picture before making their statements or writing their articles.

Just an observation about the way bird watchers do or do not watch birds very accurately!

Good Birding!

CdA Audubon logs record Christmas Bird Count

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Shirley Sturts has just posting this detailed wrap-up of the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count.  It's one of thousands of Christmas Bird Counts underway this  month in the region and throughout North America.

Here are the details from CdA, where participants logged the highest number of individual birds in 22-year history of the club's participation in the century-old count:

The CDA CBC was held Dec. 15 with 30 field counters 12 feeder counters.

  • We had 73 species and 10,223 individuals.
  • In 22 years of this count, this is our highest number of individuals. Previous record was 10,119 in 2007.
  • We tied with ‘03 and ‘07 for the most species.

The highlight of our CBC are the high number of hawks we counted:

  • Northern Harrier 8
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
  • Cooper’s Hawk 3
  • Red-tailed Hawk 43 (previous record 26 in 2001)
  • Rough-legged Hawk 19 (previous record 20 in 1993)
  • Buteo sp 7 (previous record 3 in 2011)
  • American Kestrel 18 (previous record 15 in 1999)
  • Merlin 1
  • Possible Peregrine or Prairie Falcon

 Of interest:

  • Gray Partridge 4
  • Snowy Owl 1
  • Spotted Towhee 1 ( observed three other CBC but only cw)

New to the count:

  • Greater White-fronted Goose
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

See CdA Audubon's Christmas Bird Count web page.

See a chart for the CdA count from 1991 – 2012.

Kootenai County birders set Big Year record: 208 species

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A bird that migrated all the way south from the arctic helped Kootenai County birders break a record on Monday.

Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society members working on the annjual Big Year challenge for Kootenai County spotted a snowy owl — the 208th bird species verified in the county since Jan. 1.

The previous record was 207 species set in 2004, said Shirley Sturts, count coordinator.

Prompted by an unverified report of a snowy owl at Tubbs Hill earlier in November, Sturts joined Ed and Kris Buchler to scope out Rathdrum Prairie on Monday.

"We found an adult sitting on top of irrigation sprinklers on Huetter Ave north of Wyoming Ave.," Sturts said.

"To get there go west from Highway 95 on Hayden Ave. to Huetter Ave. or east from Highway 41 on Hayden Ave. to Huetter Ave. Then turn north on Huetter, crossing over Wyoming. The irrigation sprinklers are in a field on the east side of Huetter, a short distance north of Wyoming Ave. Wyoming Ave. (running east/west) is on both sides of the airport. The Snowy Owl was west of the airport. Huetter runs north/south.

Grant County update"Matt Yawney of Ephrata, doing a county Big Year, has found 235 species in Grant County so far this year!" says Inland NW birder Charles Swift.

Woodpeckers topic at Audubon program

BIRDING – Wildlife biologist Jeff Kozma, who specializes in cavity-nesting birds with the Yakama Nation, will present a program on the reproductive ecology of the white-headed woodpecker in Washington’s ponderosa pine forests on Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

The program is sponsored by Spokane Audubon.

Click here for directions to the meeting location.

Migratory bird day events set in Inland Northwest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — National Migratory Bird Day has inspired several upcoming events in the Inland Northwest:

Saturday (May 19): Birding activities at Blue Creek Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene, 9:30 am-12:30 pm, an event for all ages. Info: BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo, 208-769-5048; or Suzanne Endsley, BLM public affairs, 208-769-5004.

Saturday (May 19): "Floods, Flowers and Feathers," a new festival at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge that will feature elements of the Ice Age Floods that shaped the land along with the flora and fauna that flourish in this special channeled scablands habitat, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Info: (509) 235-4723. Some events can be reserved online.

May 26:  Bird Walk at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge to see birds in breeding plumage. Info: Marian Frobe, 328-0621.

June 2: a birding field trip to Hawk Creek area of Lake Roosevelt. Novices will be teamed with experts in groups. Contact Nancy Williams by May 22nd at (509) 536-1281, or e-mail nwilliam@blm.gov.

Biologist talks about birds, culture of East Asia

NATURE – Howard Ferguson, a Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist, will present a free program on his experiences with birds and culture in East Asia at 7 p.m. Wednesday may 9 at the Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

On sabbatical, Ferguson traveled for several months working and exploring Saipan, Japan, Bali, Borneo, Thailand and Vietnam.

The program is sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society.

See a map for directions.

‘Learn to Bird’ workshops, field trip offered by Spokane Audubon

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane Audubon Society will hold its Learn-to-Bird Workshops next week on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Spokane Falls Community College Science Bldg 28, Room 119.

The workshops will be followed by a field trip to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge on May 12. 

The workshops are taught by Gary Blevins and Kim Thorburn, Audubon members with years of birding and teaching experience.

Each workshop is different. Participants are welcome to sit in on any or all of them, Thorburn said.

Subjects covered are:

May 8 – Bird watching basics, with emphasis on equpment, field guides, bird biology and morphologic and song tips.

May 10-11 – Identifying local birds by habitat.

Preregister: Blevins, 533-3661 or Thorburn, 465-3025

A $20 donation to Spokane Audubon Society is requested.

Reardan Audubon wildlife viewing enhancements to be dedicated

WILDLIFE WATCHING – The Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area just north of US 2 at Reardan, is being enhanced with information kiosks that will be dedicated April 29 in a public ceremony starting at 2 p.m.

The 277-acre wildlife area was acquired in 2006 with state grant funds and support from Spokane Audubon Society and the Inland Northwest Land Trust.  The wetlands, seasonal ponds, grasslands, channeled scablands and 80-acre lake support about 200 bird and other wildlife species, 12 of special concern in Washington, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Lincoln County area was popular with birdwatchers long before public acquisition. A hotspot for spring migrants, birders put it on their annual field trips list, calling the wetlands Audubon Lake.

The ceremony will be held at the wildlife area’s southside parking lot. From the intersection of US 2 and State Route 231 in the town of Reardan, go north to Railroad Avenue, then drive east to Audubon Way. 

At 3 p.m. refreshments will be available at Reardan Community Building, 110 N. Lake St., courtesy of Friends of Reardan Audubon Lake.

Local butterflies detailed in free program tonight

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane butterfly expert John Baumann will present a free program about butterflies of the Inland Northwest on Wednesday sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society.

The rogram is set for 7 p.m. at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., off Upriver Drive.

Continue reading for detailed directions.

Audubon presents documentary on ivory-billed woodpecker

BIRDING — Ghost Bird, a documentary about the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker — thought to be extinct until researchers scored some earth-shaking video — will be presented Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Spokane Audubon Society general meeting program.

See Ghost Bird trailer here.

These monthly meetings and free programs open to the public are at the Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

See detailed directions.

If you're interested in local birding, you should check out the SAS website. Members have just posted a delicious assortment of winter-spring field trips in the surrounding area.

Oregon officer named Byrd rescues hawk

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It's the kind of story that creates its own headline — Byrd Rescues Hawk.

Oregon's KGW-TV reports that Portland Police Bureau officer Cage Byrd — his real name — spotted a young red-tailed hawk standing outside a downtown hair salon on Tuesday.

The raptor chick appeared to be injured, so Byrd grabbed some towels and a box from a nearby hotel and took the hawk to a veterinary hospital.

The bird was later taken to the Audubon Society, which says the hawk probably fell from a nest near the KGW Audubon Raptor Cam. The remote camera records the activity of a raptor family and is shown on a website that has become popular.

One of the three chicks sustained a leg injury last week.

Wilderness and fly-fishing programs set for Wednesday

OUTDOOR PROGRAMS — Outdoors enthusiasts have a choice of two interesting programs to consider attending in Spokane on Wednesday evening.

Fly fishing – Pat Dorsey, who’s been named an Orvis Guide of the Year, will
present a free program on fishing tailwaters, at the Spokane Fly Fishers
meeting, 7 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy.
Wilderness — Derrick Knowles of Conservation Northwest will present a slide program on the Columbia Highlands Initiative his group is proposing to protect forest lands in northeastern Washington while opening some lands to timber management, 7:30 p.m.,  at the Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.