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Diversity of creatures lured to University of Idaho botanical garden

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Cold weather is magic for bird watching.

Naturalist Terry Gray of Moscow devoted three hours to walking through the University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden on a recent brisk morning and reported observing 22 bird species.

He also captured photographs of most of them, such as the handsome specimens above.


Gray has had good luck discovering more creatures than birds at the garden.

On Oct. 15, he observed and photographed one of the smallest butterflies in the world. The Western Pygmy-Blue, Brephidium exile,  was way north of its range

"The butterfly is the size of a dime or slightly smaller and is gorgeous," he said. "Not sure why it was as far north as it was but was a very interesting find."

Bald eagle count grows at Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Kokanee are spawning and dying in North Idaho's two largest lakes and bald eagles are loving it.

Dozens of eagles are congregating at Granite Creek and in the Bayview shoreline area to take advantage of revived kokanee fisheries in Lake Pend Oreille.

Lake Coeur d'Alene is better known for the eagles that congregate from November into January to feast on the kokanee — land-locked sockeye salmon — spawning in Wolf Lodge Bay. 

The number of eagles varies from year to year, with 44 adult (white-headed) eagles and 10 immatures counted today in a weekly survey by Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist. She tallied a total of 40 eagles last week.

This week's count is well above the 11 adult bald eagles counted in the Wolf Lodge Bay area at this time in 2013, but far below the 100 eagles counted during this week in 2012.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction with numbers of birds and viewers increasing into December.

Eagle numbers have been lower in recent years, probably owing to more eagles attracted to revived kokanee fisheries in Lake Pend Oreille, where the salmon population crashed in the 1990s.

Good eagle viewing points around Wolf Lodge Bay include Higgens Point and turnouts off Highway 97, including Mineral Ridge.

Idaho State Patrol officers warn eagle viewers that traffic rules must be followed and vehicles must be parked properly off the highway.

Kokanee-eating bald eagles liven up Bayview area

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Reviving the kokanee fishery at Lake Pend Oreille is attracting more than fishermen.

A good number of bald eagles are congregating in the Bayview area to hunt spawning kokanee, and those eagles are attracting bird watchers.

Norma Jean Knowles caught the photo above on a Monday visit. She said she was attracted to the area by the second annual Eagles of Bayview Photo Contest sponsored by Bayview Chamber of Commerce.

Lake Coeur d'Alene's spawning kokanee also are attracting bald eagles to Wolf Lodge Bay.  BLM counted at least 40 bald eagles there last week.  No official count is being conducted at Lake Pend Oreille.

Bald eagles returning to Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene has begun.  The eagles also are showing up to feed on spawning kokanee at Priest Lake and Lake Pend Oreille, but the birds that return to Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay are notably accessible for viewing.

Here's the first report of the season on the weekly bald eagle count at Coeur d'Alene filed Friday by BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo:

Boy if anyone has asked me last week what I thought I would find on the first eagle count this week I would have responded with a resounding "zero"!  And boy would I have been wrong!!!  Only one year since counting began has this number been as higher!  That was in 2012.

The count today was 40 adults and 12 immature with lots of activity and eagles spread fairly well throughout the viewing area.  The one exception to this was Blue Creek Bay, no eagles there yet.

This bodes well for the eagle viewing season and for our veterans cruise December 5th!  One other cool thing to note was an immature eagle in Beauty Bay that had a lot of white plumage.  All immature eagles will have some white on the body and flanks, especially as they get closer to maturity, but this one just stood out because it was so light in color.

Local outdoor calendars standouts for gift giving

OUTDOORS — Two locally-produced calendars stand out like stars in the field of gift-giving choices for nature lovers.

The Spokane Audubon Society once again has produced its Birds of Eastern Washington calendar which is sold for the bargain price of just $10.

The 2016 calendar features images of 14 birds photographed in the region by club members with a good eye for nature and a standout skills with their cameras.  The money is used by the local chapter for nature education, citizen science, advocacy and recreation related to birds and their habitat.

A new Northwest Nights 2016 Calendar by Spokane photographer Craig Goodwin compiles a spectacular collection of shots featuring star-studded skies, the Milky Way and northern lights over classic regional landscapes including Palouse Falls, fire lookouts, Priest Lake and Mount Spokane.

Several of the photos have been published in The Spokesman-Review's Outdoors sections this year.

Goodwin, who's also the pastor at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church, sells the calendar for $19.95.


Bald eagle viewing cruise for veterans set on Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Military veterans and active duty personnel are invited to sign up for free bald eagle viewing cruises on Lake Coeur d'Alene set for Dec. 5.

If the past is an indication, the cruises to view the annual gathering of eagles will fill within hours of the reservations sign-up this week.  Registration will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 13. Call the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at (208) 769-5004 or (208) 769-5011 to reserve seating. 

The event is limited to veterans, active duty personnel and their families who have not participated on previous cruises.  Registration is required and party size is limited to 6 persons.   

A morning cruise is offered from 10 a.m. to noon followed by an afternoon cruise from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.  Both cruises offer participants birds-eye views of our national symbol, the bald eagle, in flight above Lake Coeur d’Alene and perched on public lands near Mineral Ridge. 

The event is organized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises. 

Status of available seating will be updated Friday on the BLM’s Coeur d’Alene District website at http://www.blm.gov/id/st/en/Districts-Idaho/CDA.html as well as BLM's Idaho Facebook page. 

Photo: Gulls put up fight, but lose to bald eagle

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Two against one and the bald eagle still came out on top, according to photographer Davide Canales, who snapped this once-in-a-lifetime photo from his kayak on Prince William Sound in Alaska while on an 11-day expedition from Valdez to Whittier.

He said the gull on top finally gave up and the eagle sealed the deal on a meal.

Birder: Osprey takes heron down

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Somebody may have learned a lesson in this critter encounter described by Catherine Temple, an avid birder from Clarkston:

I watched an interesting interaction this morning between an osprey and great blue heron. The osprey was dive bombing and chasing the heron all over the sky until it finally knocked it down in deep water in a pond. I'm assuming the heron had taken or attempted to take a baby from the osprey nest or perhaps just got too close. I have seen heron take prairie dogs so a baby osprey would probably not be a problem except when the parents get mad. I don't think I'd want a ticked off osprey coming after me!

Feeder watch: Hummingbirds seem to benefit from higher dose of sugar

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Can sweetening the feeding solution reduce bickering among hummingbirds at a feeder? 

Spokane County birder Greg Falco thinks so. 

The south Spokane County birding enthusiast experimented with solutions and came up with some results that are being debated by birders this week.

"I read someplace not to long ago that anything more than 4-1 (water-sugar solution) can cause hummers to have heart attacks and is NOT recommended!" said Terry Gray, and avid birder from Moscow.

While the discussion goes on, here are Falco's observations (with the possibility that other factors could be influencing the results):

I've been feeding about 50 hummers lately.

I did some research and found if I doubled the sugar in the water, they would feed half as often.

I tried it and found it to be so, after the first day. 

There is less fighting for food and it seems to be a more efficient way of feeding them.


I was feeding 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and going through 8 cups of feed a day.  Five feeders.

Hummers were probably feeding every 3 minutes.

I estimate I have 20 black-chinned (local nesters), 20 migrant rufous, and 10 migrant calliope.


I changed to feed 1 part sugar to 2 parts water and I'm now going thru 4 cups of feed a day.

(The first day on the extra sugar they went crazy with all trying to feed at once all day.  Then they adjusted) 

They are probably now feeding 10 to 12 times an hour.

Calvor Palmateer, who resides part of the year in Victoria, British Columbia, responded:

Regarding hummingbird sugar ratios — on Vancouver Island people began feeding between anywhere from 1/3 cup sugar to 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water twenty years ago. Since most Anna's on the coast do have to winter -10 Celsius at least for some portion of a normal year, it made sense to increase the concentrations during those cold periods. The practice spread to year around. It is a major myth that higher concentrations cause problems. Instead the Anna's population has grown with females raising three and four sets of young.

One researcher in Victoria showed the hummers prefer higher concentrations and move to those feeders. With banders working at some of these higher concentration feeders it shows normal life lengths. Not increased mortality. 

Banding also shows hummingbirds are consistent in their migration dates. Leaving hummingbird feeders up dies not change that but can save a wandering Anna's.

Yet another birder, who pointed out that she was watching hummingbirds at her feeder in a campsite as she responded by mobile phone, offered this:

I read somewhere a couple summers ago that we should take down our feeders in mid-July, July 15th being recommended, so as to not contribute to the hummers lingering around & getting a possibly too-late start with migration. Since we are on the eve of July 15th this seemed like a good time to toss this out there for (educated) opinion.

Mike Denny of Walla Walla says:

I agree the sugar concentration doesn't hurt the hummers. The trouble I have found in our hot valley is that the higher the concentration of sugar the quicker the mixture sours.  I have to change the feeders every three days.

Here's a report based on some science:

More info: hummingbirds.net

Dishman Hills birding walk set for Saturday

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Four spaces are still open for the Saturday birding walk organized by the Dishman Hills Conservancy.

The Bird Walk will be led by Jon Isacoff of the Spokane Audubon Society and professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies at Gonzaga University.

The walk, limited to 10 participants, will be up to the base of Big Rock and the trail is somewhat steep in the last 200 meters. Participants will meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Stevens Creek Trailhead.

Most birds in this area are heard rather than seen, though some birds can be seen as well.  Nearly 100 species have been documented along the Stevens Creek trail but a typical good day in May would be 40-50 species, mostly heard.  We have chances to see several warbler and flycatcher species. Common conspicuous birds with a good chance to see visually include: Turkey Vulture, Northern Flicker, Common Raven, Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, American Robin, Chipping Sparrow, and Cassin' Finch.

The walk will start at 7:45 am so be there by at least 7:30 am to sign in and get organized. We will meet at the Stevens Creek Trailhead parking lot - about 10 miles south of Freya and Palouse Highway.

Migratory Bird Day events great for individuals, families

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Local birding enthusiasts are stepping up to help the public celebrate Migratory Bird Day with activities geared to fledgling birders of all ages.

Bird Identification Workshop, a three-session class, is being offered May 4, 6 and 8 by Gary Blevins, biology professor at Spokane Falls Community College, and Kim Thorburn of Spokane Audubon. Site to be determined. Slides and computer programs will help introduce participants to bird species commonly observed in the Spokane area and how to identify them by sight or sound.

Bird Identification Field Trip, May 9, starting at 7 a.m. at Pine Lake parking lot in Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. Although the trip is linked to the Bird ID workshop, other birders are welcome to join the field trip.

Idaho Migratory Bird Day Family Celebration, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. May 9 at Blackwell Island, with bird walks, hummingbird and pine cone feeder projects, scavenger hunts, feather paint printing and other activities for families sponsored by Coeur d’Alene Audubon. New this year: a Birds of Prey and Falconry Station with live raptors and owl pellets to dissect, plus a "Fill the Bill" station where kids can learn how different kinds of  beaks are better for different kinds of food finding.

  • Directions: From Coeur d’Alene, drive south on Highway 95. Cross the Spokane River and turn right to Blackwell Island.
  • Info: Carrie Hugo (208) 769-5048.

Bird watcher thinks out of the (nest) box

WILDLIFE WATCHING — My Sunday Outdoors story on nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds struck a chord with Dick Thiel of Spokane:

Wrens and flickers are my favorite; flickers are so entertaining and wrens so busy and such beautiful singers.  Here's my latest wren palace, made from the slab ends from a portable mill a friend near Lake Eloika used to harvest last year's downed trees.  Heavy, but comfy.

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.

Birders witness eagle v. swan encounter at Reardan

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The skies of the Inland Northwest are full of life and death drama, even for prey species that range from 10-22 pounds.   Here's a field report posted today by Spokane Audubon Society birder Lindell Haggin:

On Friday, I was with a couple people from Inland Northwest Land Trust.  We were surveying the new addition to Audubon Lake at Reardan (access is by invitation only).  We had noticed Tundra Swans on the pond off Bisson Rd. as we entered and thought we would finish up by getting another view of them from the property.  When we took a longer look, we counted about 22 Tundra Swans on the pond.  

We were just about to move on when we heard a thud to our right. By the time we looked we saw two Tundra Swans about the land on the lake and one that slammed into the ground and tumbled over two or three times.  We couldn’t understand how it had misjudged the landing so badly.  Then we looked up and saw a Golden Eagle flying just above the swan.  The fallen bird was about 150 meters away across a marsh.  It struggled to its feet and righted itself with difficulty.  When I looked with binoculars I saw blood streaking its back.  It finally sat down, unable to move towards the water.  

When we looked up a second time we saw there was a pair of Golden Eagles circling.  We left the area hoping that the loss of life was not wasted. A very powerful event.

Tundra swans flocking to region’s open water

Updated with field report.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Recent unseasonably warm weather has invited birds into the region, including tundra swans that are finding open water from eastern Washington into the Silver Valley of North Idaho.

Their migration farther north isn't likely to kick into high gear for awhile, but today there are a couple hundred tundra swans back at Killarney Lake along the Lower Coeur d'Alene River. 

Update Feb. 22:

Jay Groepper got the news above and made a beeline with his bike to check out the migration.  Here's his report:

Just got back from the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. Saw about 200 swans from Blackrock to Harrison on the trail and 600 to 700 on Killarney lake. Thanks for the tip!

Birds a lot of hot air when temperatures dip

WILDLIFE WATCHING — For being light a fragile, birds are incredible at surviving cold that drives humans indoors.

Birds are warm blooded, which means their bodies maintain a constant temperature, often around 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Since they can't just throw a log on the fire, birds have several ways of coping with bitter-cold temperatures.

Puff up: The Hungarian partridges featured above in an image by Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson have fluffed out their under-feathers to trap warm insulating air that acts like a thick down coat that can be quickly streamlined for flight if needed.

Take cover: Many birds also seek shelter from the elements, whether it's in thick brush or possibly — as in the case of a nuthatch or chickadee, perhaps — in the cavity of a tree or a bird box.

Huddle up: Some flocking birds will huddle, bunching together to share warmth, and try to minimize their total surface area by tucking in their head and feet and sticking up their feathers.

Fatten up:  "Big birds, like geese and grouse, do what we do," says physiologist David Swanson at the University of South Dakota. "They put on insulation." Their insulation often involves growing an extra set of insulating downy feathers. Birds can also put on fat as both an insulator and energy source: More than 10 percent of winter body weight may be fat in certain species, including chickadees and finches. As a result, some birds spend the vast majority of their daylight hours seeking fatty food sources, making feeder food even more precious for surviving a frosty night.

Shake it: Small birds that can't clope with putting on extra weight simply shiver. Chickadees are masters at shivering — but not the tremble that mammals use to generate heat.  According to a story in Audubon Magazine, birds shiver by activating opposing muscle groups, creating muscle contractions without all of the jiggling typical when humans shiver. This form of shaking is better at retaining the bird's heat.

Down time: Some winter bird species undergo a more moderate version of the torpor hummingbirds use to survive through the night. Black-capped chickadees reduce their body temperature as much as 22 degrees Fahrenheit from their daytime level in a process called regulated hypothermia.

34 bald eagles counted at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 34 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene.  That's up from 18 eagles counted last week during her weekly survey. Two weeks ago she counted only four.

Bald eagles traditionally show up from early November into January for a winter feast of spawning kokanee.

However, last year by the second week of December Hugo had counted 57 eagles and in 2012 the count was well over 130 eagles.

The 2013 bald eagle count at Lake Coeur d’Alene peaked at 217 on Dec. 30.

Hugo said she plans to survey areas on Lake Pend Oreille to see if the lake's revival of kokanee at has siphoned off some of the eagle interest in Lake CdA.

Bald eagle gathering grows at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are finally showing some interest in their traditional winter feast of spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 18 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area.  That's up from four eagles counted last week during her weekly survey. 

Today's tally of 13 adults and five immature eagles is down considerably from last year at this time when Hugo counted 57.

In 2012 during this week, she counted 121 bald eagles — 84 adults and 37 immature.

The 2013 bald eagle count at Lake Coeur d’Alene peaked at 217 on Dec. 30.

For years, the eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

The next cold snap could send more eagles this way.

Hummingbirds giving up secrets to researchers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As researchers perfect the methods of placing tiny numbered bands on the legs of hummingbirds, the diminutive birds have been revealing new information about their lives.

For instance:

  • Hummingbirds can live longer than 10 years as opposed to the two or three once thought likely.
  • Astonishing migrations have been found, with one bird caught in Florida showing up a few months later and more than 3,500 miles away in Alaska.

About 225 hummingbird banders work in the United States. The skill is unique, requiring years of apprenticeship.

Their steady stream of capture and recapture data is offering new insights into what for many is a delightful backyard visitor with an overabundance of personality.

Video: Eastern blue jays have taste for West

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Eastern blue jays have been trickling across the Rockies to the West for years.  Birders are resigned to the invasion, saving them driving miles for an addition to their life list.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson captured the feeding ways of this pair of blue jays on video near at his home feeder near Lincoln, Mont.

Global warming likely to dramatically affect birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles and loons will take a big hit while blue jays are among the species that could prosper as the earth's climate heats up.  But overall, the outlook is grim.

Half of all bird species in North America — including the bald eagle — are at risk of severe population decline by 2080 if the swift pace of global warming continues, the National Audubon Society concluded in a study released Monday.

The scale of the disruption we’re projecting is a real punch in the gut,” said Gary Langham, chief Audubon scientist.

Photo: Nighthawk takes a break

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As many times as I've seen common nighthawks swooping and scooping bugs out of the sky with their distinctive staccato chirps, I've never seen one resting on the ground.

Check this instructive photo from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

"We often times see these birds in flight, but don’t get the chance to see them landed very often!

"They have huge mouths, their small beak makes it look small – but it goes back to their eye!"

Photos: birder focused on pileated woodpeckers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birder/photographer Ron Dexter has made sure improvements to his property in the foothills of Mount Spokane haven't spoiled the neighborhood for some of his most colorful neighbors.  In posting these photos, Dexter said:

A pair of pileated woodpeckers has nested in a snag in the woods behind us at least 3 times now. The loggers were careful to not knock the snag down, so the woodpeckers may add more holes in the future.

These are the largest woodpeckers in the United States, possibly the world. Their length is up to 18" and wingspan up to 30".  An ornithologist dissected one and counted approximately 2,500 carpenter ants in the stomach. So you can see, they help save the forests and maybe your house.
They chop out large rectangular holes in trees to get to the ants and grubs, but their nest holes are shaped like a raindrop as you can see in the photo. They actually spend the majority of their feeding time on the ground or on fallen trees, snags or stumps that contain grubs, ants. etc. 

I see and hear them every year in our woods. They are in the area year round.


Birders count 82 species at Little Pend Oreille Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating its 75th anniversary with various activities to help introduce the public to an area that's been wildly upgraded in recent  years.

This is a great time to visit the refuge.  See upcoming events, including the first ever bicycling event at the refuge.  I have a details story coming up in Sunday Outdoors.

Earlier this month, refuge biologists Mike Munts led a birding tour.

We did the bird tour for the refuge 75th anniversary today (June 7). Ten people came out for a great day of birding. We saw/heard 82 great birds during the day.

  • A total of 206 bird species have been documented at the refuge over time, Munts said.
  • Another birding tour is planned for Saturday, June 28. 

Following is the list of species the group identified:

  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Gadwall
  • Mallard
  • Cinnamon Teal*
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck*
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pied-billed Grebe*
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Sora
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer*
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Western-wood Pewee
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Cassin’s Vireo
  • Warbleing Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Black-billed Magpie*
  • Common Raven
  • Tree Swallow
  • Violet-green Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Bank Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Pygmy Nuthatch
  • House Wren
  • Pacific Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Western Bluebird
  • Veery
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Varied Thrush
  • Gray Catbird
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • McGilllivray’s Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Townsend’s Warbler
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Lark Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Sparrow
  • Western Tanager
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark*
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Red Crossbill

*Birds Munts saw at Horsethief Lake after the field trip


CdA osprey-watching boat cruise July 12

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual osprey viewing and banding  boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene is set for July 12, the Idaho Fish and Game Department just announced.  If you want to go on this popular wildlife educational activity, sign up quick.  Last year it sold out in a day.

  • Reservations can be made by calling the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, (208) 664-3194 or online at cdachamber.com.

The osprey is a fish-eating hawk common to northern Idaho. At least 100 pairs nest annually in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers, says Phil Cooper, IFG educator.  Here's more from Phil:

Adult osprey along with the young of the year birds begin their annual migration in mid-September, traveling all the way to Baja California, Central America, and many all the way to South America. The adults return in late winter/early spring to the area where they originally hatched.

The University of Idaho and the Idaho Fish and Game Department have been studying and banding ospreys at Coeur d’Alene Lake for over 25 years. The work is done to determine survival and mortality rates and to further define the migration patterns and wintering areas of the population. 

To conduct this research, young of the year pre-flight osprey are briefly taken from nests just before fledging. A band with a unique number is gently applied to one leg, and the 6-7 week old birds are safely placed back in the nests.

You may be wondering what the adult osprey think of the process. The adults take flight when the research boat approaches. They make their displeasure known with loud, screeching calls intended to scare the biologists away and to tell the young osprey to lie down flat in an effort to hide. Yet, these brave biologists have over 30 years of experience banding osprey and they can understand ‘osprey’ language. Knowing the osprey are only using scare tactics, they go about their work and get away from the nests in no time flat.

The banding process goes very quickly. After the leg bands are applied and the biologists move away, the adults immediately return to the nests to find their young safe and secure…but sporting new leg bands. 

None of us know if having a leg band is a status symbol or an embarrassment in the osprey world, but the bands allow for the gathering of some remarkable information to help biologists learn about the species and to protect osprey populations.

Would you like to learn more about this bird, common to our area in the summer?  How about coming along and watching osprey research? 

An Osprey Boat Cruise has been scheduled for Saturday, July 12. The trip will run from 9am –11am, boarding begins at 830. 

The cruise will be leaving from the west end of the CdA Resort boardwalk. Parking is available at the new covered parking under Front Street, on nearby streets, and in the pay lot at the North Idaho Museum. The cost of the trip is $15 for adults, $35 maximum per family. Children under 12 are free when with a paying adult.

Space is very limited and reservations are required.  Reservations can be made by calling the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce at 664-3194 or online at cdachamber.com.

Wildlife Biologists will be in a small boat that will travel alongside a Lake Coeur d’Alene Charter Cruise boat. Well known Wildlife Biologist and renowned osprey researcher Dr. Wayne Melquist will take young of the year birds from osprey nests and band them, while the passengers on the cruise boat watch and take photos. 

Speakers on the cruise boat will include wildlife biologists and avian experts, including Beth Paragamian representing Idaho Fish and Game.  They will be on board the cruise boat to provide fascinating biological information on ospreys and other wildlife species.  A limited number of binoculars will be available for loan, however, bringing your own along with a camera, sun hat and sun screen is advised.

Invited guest speakers also include the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s CdA Lake Management Team, and a Cougar Bay Osprey Preservation group.

The annual event is sponsored by the Natural Resources Committee of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Cooperators include The Nature Conservancy, the Idaho Fish and Game Department, the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of Idaho, the Audubon Society and the Coeur d’Alene Resort. 

Hiker documents growth of red-tailed hawk chick

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While hiking on a U.S. Bureau of Land Management area south of Sprague in May, Pat Killien discovered  a red-tailed hawk nest perched in a 30 foot basalt wall.

"I could look down from above or below and be within 15 feet or so of the nest," he said. "There was a single chick that I estimated to be 7-10 days old."

Seizing the opportunity to watch and learn, Killien returned each week for a good hike — and to observe the chick's growth. His last trip was Monday, 40-some days after the chick had hatched. As he expected, the nest was empty.  

"They normally fledge between 44 and 46 days," he said. "When I was there at (37-41 days old,) it was quite antsy and looked like it might just jump out of the nest at any moment.

"I never saw an adult near the nest except for the first time. I was hiking near the wall where the nest is located and an adult flew out from the wall in front of me and hung around in the area. That's what tipped me off to the possibility of a nest and I quickly found it.

"From below you couldn't see anything in the nest so I walked around and came out on top of the wall directly above the nest and saw the chick. In all my trips out there, the adults never came near. They circled high overhead and screeched but that was all.

On the last visit (Monday), I saw a hawk fly a bit and land, something the adults never did. That could have been the chick. The adults were hanging around today circling overhead but I didn't see three hawks at one time so can't be certain the hawk that landed was the chick. He had to be in the vicinity, though, as the adults were constantly overhead."

Killien plans to return next year in April for a repeat performance.

Get kids ready for Great American Backyard Campout

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Gather the kids, make a plan for exploring the "jungles" around the house and pitching a tent in the backyard and join the group across the country on June 28 for the Great American Backyard Campout.

The annual promoted by the National Wildlife Federation encourages people of all ages to camp in their backyards, neighborhoods, parks and campgrounds, as a simple way to reconnect with nature!

“From wildlife watching tips and games to campfire songs and recipes, NWF gives people everywhere the resources they need to experience the wonders of wildlife right in their own backyards or neighborhoods with a simple yet memorable summer Campout,” said Maureen Smith, chief marketing officer for National Wildlife Federation.

Once the sun sets, a new array of wildlife emerges to explore America’s backyards. To help with your campout, here are some fun wildlife watching tips for observing nocturnal wildlife such as owls and moths.

  • Pick areas where night-flying insects are abundant, such as over water, or near flood lights. Light and water attract the insects that certain animals feed on at night. Here are five common nocturnal wildlife species to watch for.
  • Get your binoculars, bird book, and some flashlights and go out in the woods at night to search for owls. Owls are nocturnal, so the best time to look for them is at night.
  • Watch for bats at sunset. At sunset, bats come out to look for mosquitoes and other bugs to eat. They like to fly over open areas, often over water. To help increase your chances of seeing bats, build or buy a bat house.
  • Go mothing. Put out fruit at a simple tray feeder or smear it on a tree in the late afternoon or early in the night. At nighttime, check the feeders for moth activity.
  • Observe bugs at night by hanging a bed sheet in the backyard and shine a white light directly on it. Insects are a big part of the nighttime backyard show. Depending on the season, the sounds of crickets may be loud! Moths of all sizes are attracted to patio or spotlights in the warm weather.
  • Hunt for nightcrawlers with a flashlight.
  • Use your ears; if you hear birds, frogs, or mammals calling, slowly walk towards those sounds for a better chance of seeing them. Always remember to keep a respectable distance from the birds and mammals you are viewing.

Are you in?

 Take the pledge to camp on June 28th or anytime of the year.

Western tanager lights up a gloomy day

WILDLIFE WATCHING — "It was 37 degrees and raining at our home this morning," reports Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, without a hint of complaint. " The best part of rainy June days is that the Western tanagers show up in force! I lost count at 30+ tanagers on our feeders this morning!"

Western tanager plumage resembles the colors of a flame. The species certainly stokes my enthusiasm to head out with a spotting scope.

Birding festival at Lake Pend Oreille Saturday

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Check out this nature experience near Sandpoint on May 31.