Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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!”
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.
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
- Cinnamon Teal*
- Ring-necked Duck
- Common Goldeneye
- Hooded Merganser
- Ruddy Duck*
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Pied-billed Grebe*
- Turkey Vulture
- Bald Eagle
- Red-tailed Hawk
- American Kestrel
- American Coot
- 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
- 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
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.
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.
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?
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.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson has helped me re-define my notion of “smooth.”
CRITTER WATCH — Here's my favorite birding story of the day, courtesy of the Associated Press in Montana:
Everyone has heard of homing pigeons, but Montana fifth-grader Tara Atkins apparently has a “schooling pigeon.”
The pet bird named Foresta had disappeared Tuesday from Tara’s home in the Elkhorn Mountains near Montana City, but it was back in her arms Wednesday after it showed up at her school about 5 air miles away in Helena.
“This pigeon has never been to town before,” Atkins’ mother, Krys Holmes, said. “We got her as a baby, and she just hangs out at home.”
The bird caused a ruckus when it arrived at Central-Linc Elementary, first sitting on teacher Rob Freistadt’s head, the Independent Record reported.
Staff members and a police officer tried for an hour to corral the bird that Principal Vanessa Nasset said was just “sky-bombing everyone.”
Nasset asked Tara for help catching the bird after a parent remembered she had a pet pigeon.
Tara recognized Foresta by her distinct coloration and the blue band around her leg.
But as Tara tried to catch her pigeon, the school bell rang and students poured outside, delaying the capture again.
Fellow fifth-grader Owen Cleary finally caught the bird by throwing a blanket over it while it sat on his head.
Holmes said she doesn’t know how the bird ended up at her daughter’s school.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Perhaps only a bluebird could sing the blues on a spring morning like a Lazuli bunting.
Thanks for getting our day off on the right note, Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Eurasian collared-dove is an exotic species that's unprotected in Washington and Idaho and can be shot by licensed hunters year-round where hunting/shooting is allowed. They're delicious, too.
- See today's outdoors column on this imported and not necessarily welcome species.
- See an eBird chart that graphically shows the spread of ECD sightings across North America in two-year intervals.
But it's important to be able to distinguish the collared-dove from the similar mourning dove, which can be hunted only during designated September seasons.
Eurasian collared-doves are larger than mourning doves and slightly lighter in color. Aside from the diagnostic black collar on the backs of their necks, they also have a squared tail as opposed to the pointed tails on mourning doves.
See more diagnostic features and listen to recordings that distinguish their different calls at the following Websites:
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Though not as essential as binoculars and a scope for birding, computers and other devices are becoming handy to have at home and in the field to enhance birding efforts.
The Spokane Audubon Society will explore electronic birding from apps to the Web during it's monthly meeting, 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14, at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.
- See directions to the meeting location.
Bring your devices and questions. Alan McCoy, who's participated in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count for 30 years, will help participants explore the possibilities.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Great horned owlets are huge-bodied birds for their age, and they don't often make graceful first flights from their nests.
Tome Kearney of Spokane snapped a photo of this owlet in his backyard this week as it was fledging. For perspective, each of the landscaping blocks it's standing on are 4-inches high.
The birds often will spend a day or more hopping around the ground and up to fences, rooftops and low branches as they gain strength and confidence to fly.
They are most vulnerable to dogs, cats and other predators at this time.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Dancing and strutting isn't enough for sharp-tailed grouse during the spring mating season that's underway. The males duke it out pretty good to show dominance for breeding the females that are walking around nonchalantly watching the show.
Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson captured this action this week from a bind in Montana.
WILDLIFE — My Sunday Outdoors stories about the fascinating grouse species of the West were packed with information about these novel birds, but a ton of details litter the editing room floor, so to speak.
For example, before they placed GPS transmitters on valuable sage grouse released in Washington last month, Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists practiced and fine-tuned the fitting process on a chicken at the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area shop (photo above).
“The group learned how to place the GPS transmitter/harness assembly onto a bird, and adjust for proper transmitter location and harness tension,” said Juli Anderson, Northeastern Washington Wildlife Area Complex manager.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — In paying tribute to Washington's seven grouse species in my Sunday Outdoors feature stories, I mention that the mating display of the sharp-tailed grouse inspired some traditional dances of Native Americans.
See for yourself above.
- See slow-motion video of a sharptail male dominance battle.
Observe other grouse that inhabit Washington in the following videos:
WILDLIFE WATCHING — “I love the little wings and the open mouth,” says Spokane Valley pastor and photographer Craig Goodwin, back from a North Idaho birding adventure. “The eaglets are two days old.”
Goodwin says he's found great bird photo situations including great blue herons and waterfowl in the past few days.
“There is some pretty amazing birding out there right now.”
A Web cam trained on a bald eagles' nest has become an Internet sensation in recent years, giving millions of viewers an intimate glimpse of doting parents raising their young. T
he Decorah Eagle Project in Iowa is one of the best eagle Web cams out there. See them bring in squirrels, fish — whatever — to feed their young. On Sunday, the world saw one of the parents shield the fragile young during a lightning storm. Fascinating.
Currently the eagles are raising three chicks, with the third-hatched noticeably smaller than the other two, but gaining strength daily. Check them out.
WILDLIFE – The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council will be distributing pheasant chicks to people who have facilities to raise 25 or more birds for around six weeks before releasing them into the wild.
The council provides the day-old birds in lots of 25 and charges a fee to cover costs:
- 40 cents a hen
- $2.25 for roosters
- $1.50 for half roosters, half hens.
Starter feed is available, 50 pounds for $20.
The first shipment of chicks from Little Canyon Shooting Preserve in Peck, Idaho, will be April 29 and continue every Tuesday until late June, said program coordinator Larry Carey.
They will be available for pickup at the council office, 6116 N. Market.
Chicks must be reserved in advance: 328-6429.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — This natural bird art is the best reason I've seen for putting off window washing.
Former S-R editor Phil Gruis posted the extraordinary photo, noting that the bird wasn't around so it apparently survived the impact.
An artist at work.
WILDLIFE – Raptor expert Kate Davis of Montana-based Raptors of the Rockies, will present a free program on hawks and owls at the Coeur d’Alene Audubon meeting, 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 8, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d’Alene.
Davis says she’ll be bringing a few of the 15 species of orphaned or injured raptors that serve as the educational team at her raptor ranch in the Bitterroot Valley.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — You say you've never seen a Western screech owl in the wild?
No wonder, says Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The 2014 Tundra Swan Festival is set for March 22 in the Pend Oreille River Valley and the main attraction is already flocking in.
Bus tours hosted by the Kalispell Tribe 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 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by Forest Service District Ranger Gayne Sears.
Cost: $10 or $5 for kids under 13.
Sign up by Friday, March 14. Info: 509 447 5286
WILDLIFE WATCHING — This chart, courtesy of the Spokane Audubon Society's monthly newsletter, helps you put your birding knowledge into perspective.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A hospital medical staff had a hoot overlooking this UPS driver's recent ordeal with a menacing wild turkey tom in Minnesota.
Note to self: When sending important packages to turkey country, go with Fed-Ex.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The northern hawk owl that thrilled hundreds of birders as it ranged south to hang out around Moscow this winter was killed in a vehicle collision Thursday but will live on as an exhibit at Washington State University.
Judging from the emails, the first bird of its species known to have visited the Palouse made a personal impact on people who enjoyed its willingness to be observed and photographed for six weeks around town.
Here's the report from Terry Gray, the Moscow birder who monitored the hawk owl and made daily reports on its whereabouts to visiting birders. Gray ultimately took the mortally injured bird to university veterinarians who tried to save it.
The Northern Hawk Owl turned out to be a male. The bird is now at the
Washington State University Charles R. Conner Museum and will join two more
Northern Hawk Owls in their collection.
I want to thank everyone for you kind thoughts and words. I really
appreciate them and feel honored to have kept all in the loop on what was
happening with our feathered friend. I had a tough experience today when a
couple knocked on my door from New Mexico asking for directions to see the
owl and I had to tell them that they were a day late!
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles is thinning out at Lake Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay area where the national symbols gather each year to feast on spawning kokanee.
After peaking at 217 two weeks ago, the number of eagles counted today by U.S. Bureau of Land Management biologist Carrie Hugo dropped to 53 — that's 51 adults and 2 juveniles.
The eagles came later than normal this year and stayed in large numbers longer than in the past, perhaps because many of them had been taking advantage of the revived kokanee fishery in Lake Pend Oreille.
- See more on the Pend Oreille and Coeur d'Alene eagle gatherings.
“Chances are the number of eagles (at Lake Coeur d'Alene) is slightly higher than my count reflects today,” Hugo said, noting that she spotted at least 20 soaring eagles but does not include flying birds in her surveys.
“Having said that, the numbers should continue to decline rapidly from here,” she said, adding that no more surveys would be conducted until the birds should begin returning again in November.
“It was another good year with a few surprises in the numbers! We might have to find someone to monitor Lake Pend Oreille next year!”
SHARE YOUR EAGLE PHOTOS
The Spokesman-Review has set up a web page where readers can upload some of the great images they're snapping of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene. Check it out, especially Tim Colquhoun's map of the best eagle viewing areas at the northeast end of the lake.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weekly survey of bald eagles gathering at Lake Coeur d'Alene was postponed today because of poor visibility caused by the incoming storm.
Carrie Hugo, BLM wildlife biologists, said she saw enough eagles to believe that the eagle numbers are still high. In last week's survey she counted 217.
She said she'll try again on Wednesday to do the survey.
But Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson hit it right on Monday, coming before the storm and finding plenty of action for good, sharp photos, as you can see above.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — 2013 wasn't just a big year, it was the biggest year in the community of hard-corder birders.
The video (above) features Neil Hayward on Dec. 28, 2013, as he entered the birding record books by identifying his 750th bird of the year. The video captures the contagious excitement as Hayward puts his camera to the trophy species, a great skua, off Cape Hatteras, N.C.
Although birding at this level is hard-core, life-consuming and VERY expensive, USA Today reports that about 85 million Americans enjoy observing, photographing or feeding wild birds.
Birding ranks 15th on a list of the most popular outdoor activities, just below bicycling and beach bumming, according to the most recent National Survey on Recreation and the Environment by the USDA's Forest Service.
About 18 million are serious enough to take trips exclusively to commune with other birders or count birds by sight or sound, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
Some designate Big Days — Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Team Sapsucker set a continental record of identifying 294 on April 25 — or Biggest Weeks, and a few die-hard birders embark on what they call Big Years, competitions to spot as many species as they can within a certain territory.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The hawk owl that's been luring birders to the Moscow, Idaho, area for more than a month continues to deliver for photographers eager to document a rare visitor to the region.
Spokane-area birder Ron Dexter offered this recent photo with interesting details from his observation of the northern Canada bird's hunting behavior:
It was hunting from a powerline on the north side of White Ave. A small creek runs along that side of the road. The banks are covered with weeds and grass and provide raptors a hunting ground for mice and voles.
The first two attacks from the owl came up empty except for claws full of weeds. Finally, it sprang from the power line and dove into the grass along the road only 20 feet from me and grabbed a vole. Then it flew into a nearby tree. It would pin the rodent to a tree limb and chomp at it with its beak, then pick it up and fly to another tree where it ate it. It did not swallow the meal whole like most owls do, but ripped off pieces. Hawk Owls hunt in the daytime and eat like hawks, thus the name.