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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Photos: snow is lacking, but not snow geese

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A blizzard of wings — snow geese with their white bodies and black wingtips — darkens the sky above Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson recently as the spring migrations storm through the region.

These excellent images were captured at Freezeout Lake near Great Falls.

Tundra Swan Festival March 21 based from Usk

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The 2015 Tundra Swan Festival is set for March 21 in the Pend Oreille River Valley and the main attraction is already flocking in.

Bus tours hosted by the Kalispel Tribe's Natural Resources staff are planned to Calispell Lake to view some of the thousands of swans resting in the area’s open waters as their spring migration kicks into high gear.

Participants will re-gather at the Camas Wellness Center in Usk for lunch and a presentation on the Birds of Pend Oreille County by local Audubon Society organizer John Stuart, the local "Bird Man."

Another program, "Adventures on the Pacific Northwest Trail," will be presented by Harley Drum.

Cost: $10 or $5 for kids under 13.  (Pre-register by PayPay; space is limited.)

Sign up by Saturday, March 14. Info: (509) 447-5286

Bird migrations kicking into gear

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The spring bird migration often subtly comes to our attention. Other times, it's obvious even to the casual observer.

Here's a head's up from the weekend by birder Terry Gray in the Palouse:

Today in east Moscow there were many American Robins (300+) and many RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS (100+) moving through.  Some of the male blackbirds were already perched on top of cattails singing for the girls!

Osprey lands prize catch

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Ospreys will be leaving this fall on their lengthy migrations to other parts of the world for winter.

But their athleticism shouldn't escape us while they're here in their nesting territory. Look at the size of the lunker — apparently a sucker — that this osprey snagged in the water and lifted to a utility pole.

Here's what North Idaho photographer Mark Powers saw:

I was walking to my barn along Cocallala Creek where it flows into the Pend Oreille River across from Laclede when I noticed a larger than normal fish atop what I refer to as the Dinner Pole.  The osprey was not too afraid of me because I presume he was not anxious to get airborne again with this fish.

Swan deaths: annual spring disgrace continues along CdA River

ENVIRONMENT – I received the following email from a reader this morning:

Last Sunday my wife and I were riding our bikes on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene's between Rose Lake and Harrison. Along the way, we saw what appeared to be a significant number of dead swans. I probably know the answer, but is it the heavy metals in the area that are the cause of their demise?

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is a paved rail trail over a corridor used for a century to transport the produce of mining prosperity and its toxic aftermath. One of the benefits of the conversion to a recreational trail is that it  exposes more eyes to the issue of heavy metals pollution still lingering in the Silver Valley.

The saddest indicators are the carcasess of 150 or so tundra swans that die slow, agonizing deaths in our backyard during their migration stopover on the Lower Coeur d’Alene River.

It’s not a pretty sight, but your head's in the sand if you don’t see the carnage and the reasons for it.

Read on.

Ospreys don’t stop fishing after leaving for winter

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While bald eagles have move into the Lake Coeur d'Alene area for a winter feast of kokanee, the ospreys that put on a fishing show all summer long in the area left the area by early November and are migrating to warmer climates.

Last winter during a visit to Mexico, I observed dozens of osprey perched near a village on the Pacific Ocean side of Baja.  Indeed, they find as much bounty in saltwater as they do in Inland Northwest waters.

The video above shows detailed and instructive footage of ospreys fishing, including the underwater sequence of an osprey taking a flounder.

Ospreys normally begin returning to the Inland Northwest in late March.

See eBird data for Idaho for Osprey.

See eBird data for Washington for Osprey.

(“WA data are probably biased toward the west side of the state,” says INW birder Charles Swift.) 

WHERE DO OSPREYS GO?

Here's a blurb from Out & About on the S-R Outdoors page, Feb. 13, 2005:
 
COEUR D'ALENE OSPREY IN CUBA
 
An osprey hatched along the lower Coeur d'Alene River is basking in the tropical warmth of Cuba this winter.
 
The osprey is one of 20 hatchlings that were captured last summer in North Idaho so they could be introduced to South Dakota. Wayne Melquist, a North Idaho wildlife biologist and osprey expert, attached GPS devices to four of the 20 birds before they were put taken out of state as part of a migration research project.
 
The birds were put in man-made nests, called hack boxes, and fed until they fledged on their own.
 
“These birds didn't have any parents to tell them where to go for the winter, but that's true no matter what, since the parents naturally leave for the winter before their young do,” Melquist said.
 
Of the four chicks with transmitters, one is in the New Oreleans area and one got to the coast and then made a beeline for Cuba. Melquist is not sure at this point whether the other two are alive.