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Rare visitor looks like owl, eats like hawk

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.

Soaring eagle numbers a mystery at Lake Coeur d’Alene

UPDATED  10:35 a.m. 1-2-14

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Just when it seemed the annual winter bald eagle count was going to stall at Lake Coeur d'Alene, the number soared to 217 eagles on Monday. 

Carrie Hugo, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, can't officially peg the exact reason the eagles came so much later than usual for their feast of spawning kokanee in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of the lake.  From mid-November through mid-December, about half the number of eagles had shown up compared with counts in recent years.

At the end of December, the eagle gathering usually starts to thin out as the spawn subsides and ice covers more water. This season, the numbers increased and the biggest gathering of eagles of the year is at the lake this week. 

The numbers are up from Hugo's last count on Dec. 18, when she found 129 bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area. That was up from 86 eagles the week before that, according to Hugo's weekly count.

Of the 217 eagles counted Monday, 196 were adults and 21, juveniles, Hugo said, theorizing that many of the eagles were short-stopped from reaching Lake CdA by the revived kokanee spawning in Granite Creek at Lake Pend Oreille. Bayview residents, who view the Granite Creek area by boat, say the number of bald eagles there may be 10 times higher than last year. 

However, by New Year's Day, the larger number of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene wasn't apparent to Spokane photographer Craig Goodwin:

  • The increased count was a real mystery to the photographers who were out there yesterday. Based on our observations the numbers were the same or lower than they were two weeks ago. I was out there last year with 200+ birds and there were no where near that many yesterday. In my opinion the numbers aren't soaring nearly as much as the count indicates.

For decades, 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.
Despite the recent increase, eagle numbers are down from the past few years. The Dec. 18 count of 129 compared with 260 during the same time period last 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.

Eagle’s comeback testament to Endangered Species Act

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  As wildlife lovers and their families flock to Lake Coeur d'Alene Eagle Watch activities to view congregating bald eagles in Wolf Lodge Bay this week, let's not forget that very few if any bald eagles would be gracing our Inland Northwest skies if it weren't for the foresight of the lawmakers who passed Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Bald eagles, grizzlies living reminders of federal law's success
President Richard Nixon signed the federal Endangered Species Act into law on Dec. 28, 1973, and in Montana, bald eagles and grizzly bears have rebounded because of the law's protections.

—Missoulian

Migrations Part 3: Birds can’t fly away from habitat issues

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Yesterday, in the Idaho Fish and Game Department's 75th anniversary series of “reminders” on wildlife topics, I featured the second of a three-part post on migrations — Part 2: Fish.  The first installment was on Tuesday, Part 1: Roadkill and how the carnage along highways pegs critter movements.

Today, we look at Part 3: Birds.

Intro

Mammals do it. Birds and fish do it. Even insects do it.

They migrate as part of their inborn strategy for survival, and the arrival of winter triggers a massive migration of all kinds of wildlife.

They may travel a thousand miles or a few feet. The distance is not what defines migration; it’s that animals move between habitats during the year to survive. They may move for many reasons – to find food, breed or raise their young. Migration is a tool they use when a habitat no longer meets their needs.

Migration patterns and routes are ancient and have been influenced by the natural features of the land, water and air. The same natural features that foster wildlife movement are also attractive to human activities. Roads bisect open spaces. Wind turbines pop up on ridgelines. Dams block rivers. Communication towers light up the night sky. Houses are built in key habitat. And human structures frequently become problems for migrating wildlife.

Birds

All types of birds migrate. Some travel huge distances and while others simply move up and down a mountainside.

In Idaho, we often associate migration with waterfowl. They migrate by the thousands and noisily announce their coming and goings. Idaho is part of the migratory route called the Pacific Flyway.

Structures, such as power lines, wind farms and offshore oil-rigs, have been known to affect migratory birds. Habitat destruction by land use changes is the biggest threat, and shallow wetlands that are stopover and wintering sites for migratory birds are particularly threatened by draining and reclamation for human use.

Eagle count soars to 129 at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual bald eagle gathering at Lake Coeur d'Alene continues to grow, with plenty of birds for viewing as “eagle ambassadors” gear up for the annual Eagle Watch Week activities during the holiday school break.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 129 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area.  That's up from 86 eagles counted last week and up from 57 eagles counted two weeks ago during her weekly survey.

For decades, 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.

Eagle numbers are down from the past few years. Today's count of 129 eagles compares with 260 during the same week last year, Hugo said.

“At any rate, they are increasing and I saw floating kokanee and a good amount of fishing so there is still plenty of high quality viewing out there,” she said “At one point there were 17 eagles soaring between Wolf Point and Higgens Point.”

EAGLE WATCH WEEK

The annual Eagle Watch Week, Dec. 26-30, is a good time to bring the family out for eagle viewing to take advantage of display and spotting scopes set up by people who know a lot about eagles.

The activity is based at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Mineral Ridge boat launch and trailhead on SR 97 south of I-90 from the Wolf Lodge Exit. 

Beginning Dec. 26, the BLM will partner with Idaho Department of Fish and Game and other “eagle ambassadors” to answer questions about bald eagles, their lifestyles and habits and assist visitors with high-powered spotting scopes.

In case of severe weather, check the “Eagle Watch Hotline” —(208) 769-5048 after 9 a.m., Dec. 26-30 — to be sure activities have not been curtailed.

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.

It’s a steal! Just $10 for 2014 calendar featuring local birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Talk about local. This annual calendar features images of local birds captured by local birder-photographers. 

More eagles at Lake CdA, plus other places to find them

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles is increasing at their traditional winter feast of spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 86 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area.  That's up from 57 eagles counted during her weekly survey last Tuesday.

“This time last year I counted 203 eagles,” Hugo said. “Today there were 23 in Beauty Bay and a handful that were nice and visible between Boothe Park and Higgens Point.” 

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 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.

Read on for a story about eagle-watching areas in Western Washington.   And to expand your horizons even more, realize that the author didn't mention the good chances of seeing bald eagles along the Clearwater River near Orofino or the Methow River between Carlton and Winthrop or the Clark Fork River near St. Regis or all along Lake Roosevelt and even the lower Spokane River — all likely winter spots to see bald eagles, one of the classic success stories of the Endangered Species Act.

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.

10 things learned from Christmas Bird Count data

WILDLIFE WATCHING — 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 Christmas Bird Count has provided an abundance of data to scientists and researchers. According to the Spokane Auduabon Society, some of the conclusions drawn or supported from the study of CBC data include:
  1. Birds are not climate skeptics, having spoken with their wings. (Many North American species’ winter ranges have moved northward and inland.)
  2. The Bald Eagle is back; the Endangered Species Act works.
  3. Many of America's most familiar and beloved birds are in serious decline, including Evening Grosbeak, Field and Grasshopper Sparrows, Snow Buntings and Ruffed Grouse.
  4. Eurasian Collared-Doves have invaded the US.
  5. Peregrine Falcons are reclaiming territory they had disappeared from in the 1950s-60s.
  6. Sage-grouse are in deep trouble.
  7. More and more hummingbirds are staying in the USA and Canada for winter.
  8. “Eastern” House Finches having been moving west for 60 years.
  9. How fast and how far West Nile virus has spread.
  10. Birds are early indicators of environmental problems that can affect people (see #1).

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:

NORTH IDAHO

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.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

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. 

Northern hawk owl lures local birders to Moscow area

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The online alerts have been buzzing this week with news of a northern hawk owl hanging out out around Moscow — a rare sighting that's attracting life-listing birdwatchers from around the region.

The hawk owl was still there this morning, according to this post from Kirsten Dahl.

The Northern Hawk-Owl is still present as of 7:30 am this morning.  It is perched on top of a bush just east of the Hwy 8/Blaine intersection, along the bike trail.

The photo above is by Moscow birder Terry Gray. Here's a story about the occasion by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

MOSCOW - When Lori Nelson heard about the northern hawk owl, she quickly devised a plan.

She dropped her son off at school Wednesday morning in Richland and headed east to the Palouse. By noon, she was standing under a tree near the Eastside Marketplace and admiring the rare bird that normally stays well north of the U.S.-Canada border.

“He has feathered feet, that is so cool,” she said. “It’s (a) once-in-a-lifetime bird for me. I may not get a chance to see one again.”

Many avid bird-watchers keep lists of all the species they have spotted. When a rare bird is found, they spread the word so others can not only enjoy it but also add to their lists.

The rare visitor was first spotted Tuesday morning and positively identified as a hawk owl that afternoon by Terry Gray of Moscow. He filled out a rare bird report and news of it quickly made the rounds via email listserves and websites like ebird.org. Local birders from Moscow, Pullman, Lewiston soon showed up to take a look and perhaps add a bird to their life lists.

“It’s kind of cool. It’s amazing how fast word gets out there through the different listserves and ebird on rare bird sightings,” said Gray. “It’s kind of fun.”

Later in the day, people from farther away started to show up. Gray said he met a carload of women from Boise who headed north as soon as they got word.

Keith Carlson of Lewiston was one of the early arrivals and said the bird didn’t disappoint.

“He’s a real piece of work,” he said. “He just sits there and he’s an experienced hunter. I saw him try to, and to catch, two mice this morning. He just sits in one or two trees and watches. All of a sudden he launches off and boom, he catches one and flies back up and eats it.”

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, northern hawk owls prefer coniferous or mixed forests near open areas. They live year-round in Canada and Alaska. When food is scare during tough winters, the birds sometimes move south in large numbers, known as an irruption. Gray said there is no evidence this bird is associated with an irruption.

CdA bald eagle count booms from 11 to 57 in a week

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 only 57 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area.  That's up from two eagles counted during her weekly survey two weeks ago and up from 11 counted last week.

However, the 57 eagles counted today — 46 adults (white heads), 10 immatures (under 4 years old) and one unknown — amount to less than half of the eagles counted in Wolf Lodge Bay last year at this time, Hugo said.

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.

“Last year I counted 121 bald eagles — 84 adults and 37 immature,” Hugo said, noting that today's survey conditions were cold and windy and many eagles were soaring in the breeze. “Let's see if the cold snap this week freezes some lakes up north and sends a big pulse (of eagles) our way!”

Audubon selling 2014 Birds of Eastern Washington calendar

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Steller’s jay photographed in the foothills of Mount Spokane by Ron Dexter is one of 12 birds featured in the Spokane Audubon Society’s 2014 Birds of Eastern Washington Calendar.   

The calendars are a bargain at $10.

Order them at the club's online store.

Bald eagle numbers far short of last year’s Lake CdA gathering, so far

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are way short of their historical mark for showing up to feed on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only 11 adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area today.  That's up from two eagles counted during her weekly survey last week, but down from 100 eagles counted during this week last year.

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.

Birders and biologists have been scratching their heads, wondering if the revival of kokanee at Lake Pend Oreille is detouring eagles that normally would be flocking to Lake CdA by now?

Reader Eric Brady has a different observation that spawns another theory:

I have observed a much higher number of eagles on the Clearwater River near Lewiston compared to prior years and it appears that the eagles are feeding on dying fall Chinook, which returned in post-dam-era record numbers to the Snake River and its tributaries this  year.    On one gravel bar last weekend, I saw 5 eagles within 20 feet of each other.    On quite a few occasions this fall, I have seen 2-3 eagles feeding in close proximity near the waterline.   In prior years, it has not been uncommon to see eagles flying overhead when fishing on the Clearwater, but rarely have I seen an eagle on a gravel bar – let alone in numbers.    

Perhaps there are fewer eagles at Lake CDA as they are feasting on the record run of fall Chinook?

Could CdA eagles be detoured by super-sized meal?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birders and biologists were scratching their heads last week at reports of the dearth of bald eagles gathering to feed on on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay.

Could the revival of kokanee at Lake Pend Oreille be detouring eagles that normally would be flocking to Lake CdA by now?

Are the eagles simply late in coming?

Reader Eric Brady has a different observation that spawns another theory:

I have observed a much higher number of eagles on the Clearwater River near Lewiston compared to prior years and it appears that the eagles are feeding on dying fall Chinook, which returned in post-dam-era record numbers to the Snake River and its tributaries this  year.    On one gravel bar last weekend, I saw 5 eagles within 20 feet of each other.    On quite a few occasions this fall, I have seen 2-3 eagles feeding in close proximity near the waterline.   In prior years, it has not been uncommon to see eagles flying overhead when fishing on the Clearwater, but rarely have I seen an eagle on a gravel bar – let alone in numbers.    

Perhaps there are fewer eagles at Lake CDA as they are feasting on the record run of fall Chinook?

 

How fast can peregrine falcons dive? See for yourself

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Peregrine falcons have long been considered the fastest bird on the planet. But now we're getting firm numbers.

Using high-tech sensors, scientists are ending the conjecture on how fast these sleek falcons can stoop on their hapless prey.

What's your guess?

Watch this remarkable video to the very end. You'll be surprised!

Bald eagles still not showing up at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual gathering of bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene is lagging.

The eagles provide 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.

However, Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only two adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area on Tuesday, down from three eagles she counted last Tuesday during the first of the weekly bald eagle surveys she'll do this season.

“Last year on Nov. 20 there were 64 eagles in all,” she said this afternoon.  The number built to 260 bald eagles counted on Dec.19, 2012.  

“I spoke with Jim Fredericks from Idaho Fish and Game about the kokanee spawn outlook,” Hugo said.  “Fredericks said that estimates for numbers of adults are lower than last year but still within the realm of the norm for what they hope and expect to see in Lake CdA.  Also he mentioned that spawning is going to be pretty goon on Lake Pend Oreille and that he noticed quite a few eagles up there.”

She said there's some speculation that bald eagles may be camping out in the Lake Pend Oreille area.  On the other hand, there were quite a few eagles at Pend Oreille's Granite Creek spawning area last year at this time and plenty of eagles still showed up at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Experts list 10 top gift ideas for birders

WILDLIFE WATCHING — From new birdsong collections to smartphone apps, online learning, and a kit for beginning birders, here are 10 holiday gift suggestions for the bird and nature lover in your life. All these items are available from the nonprofit Cornell Lab of Ornithology at www.birds.cornell.edu/BirdGifts.  (Purchases from this site support the Cornell Lab's bird conservation efforts.)

1. Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America

The most comprehensive guide available, featuring nearly 5,000 soundtracks for 735 North American bird species. Download includes MP3 sound files and photographs ($49.99), or receive all files on a pre-loaded USB flash drive. ($64.99)

2. Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Essential Set for North America
Great for beginners. This set includes the most common sounds for 737 species available as downloadable MP3 files ($12.99) or on a pre-loaded USB flash drive. ($24.99)

3. The Bird Watching Answer Book
A great stocking stuffer! Drawing from the tens of thousands of inquiries that pour into the Cornell Lab each year, author and bird expert Laura Erickson has compiled answers to more than 200 common and not-so-common bird questions. ($14.95)

4. Cornell Lab Beginner Bird-Watching Kit
This kit, available from Optics Planet, includes introductory binoculars recommended by Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff, six months free access to a Cornell online bird ID course, and other great accessories. ($199)

5. Bird Apps
Find more birds with BirdsEye, upload sightings from the field with BirdLog, or discover 24 North American birds in four games for kids with My Bird World ($3.99-$19.99).

6. Birds & Beans Coffee
A tasteful gift that supports organic shade-grown coffee farms that give shelter and sustenance to more than 60 species of migratory birds. A portion of the proceeds supports Cornell Lab conservation efforts. ($11.70 & up)

7. The Birds of North America Online
This continually updated, definitive life-history reference is authored by experts on more than 700 bird species, accompanied by images, sounds, and some video. An online publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with the American Ornithologists' Union. ($5 stocking stuffer for a 30-day subscription or $42 for an entire year)

8. The Warbler Guide with Song and Call Companion
This set of sound contains all the vocalizations described in The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. More than 1,000 files are presented in the same order as they occur in the text. ($5.99)

9. Cornell Lab Membership
Lab membership supports efforts to improve the understanding and protection of birds around the world. The quarterly Living Bird magazine is included with every gift membership. ($39)

10. Singing Plush Birds
The plush birds in this popular Wild Republic series make great collectibles for children and adults. Each bird contains authentic sounds from the Cornell Lab's Macaulay Library and is created with colorful anatomical details. ($8.99)

Three bald eagles lead annual feeding fest at Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual fall-winter congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene appears to have started, barely.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted three adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area on Tuesday during the first of the weekly bald eagle surveys she'll do this season.

The eagles provide 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.

“There was no count this early last year because I was not here to count so I have no comparison,” Hugo said, but she added that the eagle numbers can build rapidly. “The count on Nov. 20, 2012, was 64.”

Most viewers drive to viewpoints at Higgens Point or from the Wolf Lodge Exit from Interstate 90.
However, eagle-watching cruise boat tours are scheduled in November and December leaving from the Coeur d'Alene Resort

Local veterans, active military and families from the North Idaho area will be honored on two admission-free cruises will be offered on Nov. 30 to local veterans, active military and their immediate families from the North Idaho area. The first two-hour cruise to the east end of Lake Coeur d'Alene will depart at 10 a.m. and the second two-hour cruise will leave at 1 p.m.

Reservations are required. Please call Suzanne Endsley at (208) 769-5004 during the business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to make a reservation.

Because the cruises fill quickly, the current status of available seating will be posted on the BLM's Coeur d'Alene District website.

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.

Campers find creative ways to feed hummingbirds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — People camping and fishing in North Idaho are taking note and enjoying what appears to be a good population of colorful hummingbirds in the region.

The photos above where shot and compiled by Hal Blegen of Spokane, who was in the field for fishing last week, but equally fascinated by the creative ways campers were tending to the hummers.  Here's his report:

The hummingbird population up and down the North Fork of the Clearwater and Kelly Creek was thriving (during my recent fishing trip).  I found that a number of campsites had make-shift feeders. They were made from whiskey bottles,  plastic drink containers, empty fruit trays, and bottle caps,  patched together with tie wraps, duct tape and coat hangers. 

The curious thing was that they all seemed to work just fine.  There was no shortage of ideas or hummers, but finding enough sugar to keep them filled was a challenge. 

Burrowing owl quick as cricket to feed baby

BIRDING — A burrowing owl chick knows when it's feeding time; knows when the meal's only half finished; and knows when the cricket is consumed and it's time to quickly retreat into the vacated prairie dog burrow that's become its nursery.

Check out this short video by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson for a ground-dwelling bird's eye view of the action.

Birder witnesses eaglette’s first flight

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane birder Kim Thorburn treats us to her July 10 observation of Spokane River bald eagles of the year taking their first flight from their nest in Riverside State Park.

This morning I watched the maiden flight of the second Riverside State Park-Deep Creek eaglet to fledge.  The first and largest sibling left several days ago.  The final pipsqueak remained branched by the nest, squealing as its second sibling tried its wings.  The soaring went well but landing looked pretty hairy.
 
First, there was the matter of selecting a perch that was solid enough to receive pretty significant mass arriving with considerable velocity.  Then there was figuring out and coordinating the wing rotation and tail rutter to reduce the velocity enough to light on the perch.  The success of it all seemed quite remarkable.
 
A little while later, I watched a juvenile bald eagle soaring with a kettle of turkey vultures on top of Pine Bluff.  I assumed it was the first sibling and wondered if it had already figured out that this might be a good crowd to hang with to improve the chances of the ever-constant foraging that it now faced.  It seemed unphased as the only bird of the group that an adult sharp-shinned hawk persistently dive bombed.
  

Osprey-viewing boat cruise set for Saturday

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A boat-load of people will get a close-up view of wildlife biologists capturing and banding young osprey during a wildlife-watching boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Saturday (July 13).

Space is limited, so sign up now for this event, which includes onboard presentations by osprey experts.

Make reservations through the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, (208) 415-0110.

Online reservations are planned, but the option is not yet posted on the Chamber's website.

Cost: $15 for adults, $30 maximum per family.

The trip will run from 9 a.m. –11 a.m.

Read on for more details about the cruise, the speaker and the birds.

Snowy owl still clinging to Eastern Washington

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spring reports of snowy owls postponing migration back to their arctic breeding areas to hang out in Eastern Washington have continued into summer.  Here's a notice from the Palouse just posted by Inland Northwest birder Bill Siems:

A Snowy Owl with a fair amount of dark mottling was spotted while driving by the Plaza exit on US195 at 9:30 AM today.  The bird was perched on the tall light pole over the N-bound entrance.  In surprise, I turned around and parked just under the pole to recheck and get a photo.

Sizing up a hummingbird nest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — How big is a hummingbird nest that held two chicks until fledging?
 
The chicken egg in the photo above tells the story.
 
South Hill resident Bill Bender followed the growth of the hummingbird family that nested on a bicycle-parts wind chime off his porch.  Here's his final report:
22 days from hatch to leaving the nest. Just for some perspective, here are pictures of the empty nest. Yes, that is a standard, store bought chicken egg, so that is how big the nest is. And the picture of the empty nest lets you know that the final nest was actually spread out larger, as the chicks got bigger. The original nest into which the eggs were laid was more like a cup, than the final soup bowl shape.
The other photo shows the two hummers at 17 days, filling the nest to overflowing just two weeks after they were so small they could hide at the bottom of the nest. One chick fledged at 21 days; the other a day later.

Video: Dusky grouse strut their stuff this season

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Dusky grouse males seemed to be especially testy during mating season.  One of the feathered bruisers even took on a Washington Fish and Wildlife policeman.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson was glad he was safely inside his vehicle when a different dusky made sure he knew whose territory he was in.  

Check out his short video and live in FEAR of grouse.

We decided to head back to where we had the encounter with the crazed Dusky Grouse a week ago. Realizing that lightning doesn’t often strike twice in the same spot – it seemed worth a try.
This time, we were prepared. The GoPro video was ready.
 
As we rounded the corner where we had last seen the grouse, there to our surprise was our little friend standing in the middle of the road. I stopped the truck and shut it off. The grouse came running.
 
It was almost a complete replay from last week. He flew to the roof of the car and tried to get in the Sun roof and drivers window (see image of grouse on roof looking into drivers window from the roof).  The window was only rolled down about 2 inches.
 
He eventually flew back to the ground and continued to circle the truck. I got out and hand-held the tiny GoPro video camera. He attacked the camera with a vengeance. He did manage to draw blood twice during the encounter! He targeted the fingers holding the camera.
 
I returned to the truck and we drove away in defeat. This little guy is cranky…
 
He was still standing in the road as we left.

Hummers nesting in the yard; something to sing about

WILDLIFE — You're living well when hummingbirds chose your yard for their nursery.

This is the second consecutive year Bill Bender has had a nest off the back porch of his South Hill home.

The chicks are seven days old in this photo from the weekend.

Floods, Flowers, Feathers Festival May 18 at Turnbull Refuge

OUTDOORS – Experts in wildlife, wildflowers and geology will combine their talents for a festival of nature walks, youth activities and educational information on Saturday (May 18) at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The second annual “Floods, Flowers, and Feathers Festival” – completely free, including no entry fee into the refuge – will include nature hikes dealing with topics such as Ice Age Floods and Channeled Scablands, spring birds, wildflower and insects.

The refuge is 4.2 miles south of Cheney, off Cheney-Plaza Road.  Drive to the refuge headquarters.

Info: Turnbull Refuge, (509) 235-4723.