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ISP boots eagle watchers off SR97 along Lake CdA

UPDATED 9:35 a.m. with further response from ISP

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagle numbers continue to increase at Lake Coeur d’Alene in time for the annual Eagle Watch event Dec. 27-31.

However, an Idaho State Police trooper gave the boot to some eagle viewers and photographers parked in turnouts along State Route 97 on Monday.

Parking along the highway has occasionally presented a hazard, said Lt. Chris Schenck, ISP spokesman in Coeur d’Alene.

“We're still going to allow people to park there, but they must be off the highway and cannot cause a traffic hazard,” he said. “Safety is our concern. We've had some near misses there in the past.”

The eagles congregate in the Wolf Lodge Bay area from November into January to prey on spawning kokanee. Families and photographers from around the country flock to the area to see eagles perched in trees and swooping down to snatch the land-locked sockeye salmon from the water.

During the peak of the eagle gathering between Christmas and New Year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Fish and Game sponsor an the Eagle Watch event based out of designated parking areas at the Mineral Ridge boat launch and the Mineral Ridge trailhead.

The areas will be staffed by eagle “ambassadors” to answer questions about bald eagles, explain their lifestyles and habits and assist visitors with high-powered spotting scopes for five days, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., starting Saturday, Dec. 27.

Eagle watching occurs at several areas, from boats and at Higgens Point accessible from Coeur d'Alene.

Most eagle viewers traditionally have driven 8 miles on Interstate 90 east of Coeur d’Alene to take the Wolf Lodge Exit toward Harrison. Several SR 97 turnouts along the lake are frequently used by photographers en route to the Mineral Ridge area.

 But on Monday, some of them were evicted from roadside turnouts.

“An Idaho State Police officer showed up at Wolf Lodge Bay this morning and demanded that all the photographers move their cars from the turnouts along the water’s edge on the south side of the lake,” Matt Shelley said Monday. “People regularly use these turnouts to park, avoiding the mile-long walk from a parking area about one mile farther south.  

“Apparently a number of the locals, some of whom are out virtually every day, were parked well beyond the white fog line (marking the edge of the highway). They objected to the officer’s order and were told they could move their cars or they would be cited or go to jail.  

“Everyone left, including the ISP officer, but, of course, a new batch of eagle watchers who had not received the edict came along and once again filled the turnouts.”

“We had complaints of people in the roadway,” Lt. Schenck said. A few cars were illegally parked, so the officers chose to clear out everyone, he said.

People cannot be posing a hazard to traffic as they park or walk along the road, he said.

BLM officials regularly warn eagle watchers to stay off SR 97. Apparently the thrill of watching the eagles makes them forget they’re on a state highway, they say.

“Each year hundreds of viewers travel to the Mineral Ridge area to take in the eagles, so the BLM would like to remind travelers to be extra cautious when driving, parking or walking along State Highway 97,” said Suzanne Endsley, BLM spokeswoman in Coeur d’Alene. “The travel way is not restricted, and pedestrians should be respectful of drivers by not walking in the center of the road or using the shoulder to scout for eagles,” she said in the media release for Eagle Watch week.

 “People were not sure why this has suddenly become an issue,” Shelley said. “That long walk from the parking area is a fairly tall order given the heavy tripods, 600mm lenses and other equipment needed to get good shots of the eagles.”

 “But in this case the officer said no parking at all was allowed in the turnouts.”

Spokane Valley photographer Craig Goodwin said he talked to some of the photographers that had been evicted.

“No cars were over the white line,” he said. “Things apparently got pretty heated with threats of arrest because of the pushback from the photographers. The closure forced many more people to walk the shoulderless road. Probably not the best day in policing history.”

 Said Shelley, “People watching the eagles must park in the turnouts, not in the road, which I don't believe anyone would argue with. But the officer touched a nerve with the local eagle watchers, understandably, by effectively closing the turnouts to parking.”

Utah condor chick lost; AZ chicks soaring

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Endangered California condors appear to be two-for three this year in efforts to recover the endangered species to historic range in Arizona and Utah.

While no carcass has been spotted or found, biologists following the first documented California condor chick hatched in Utah have reluctantly conceded that the rare raptor has died, reports Brett Prettyman of the Salt Lake Tribune.

“The loss of Utah’s first chick is a hard reminder that critters have a tough go of it in the wild. It’s just a shame that we weren’t able to recover a carcass to examine what might have provided clues as to the cause of death,” said Chris Parish, condor program director for The Peregrine Fund.

National Park Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Peregrine Fund biologists also confirmed the existence of the chick without actually seeing it this past spring, based on the behavior of the adult pair.

Here are details from Prettyman's report:

Condors 337 (male) and 409 (female) displayed enough courtship and chick feeding behavior in the spring to give the biologists enough confidence to say a chick had hatched in a remote nest cave high on a cliff in Zion National Park.

Behaviors the adults are displaying now are a major reason the biologists elected to declare the chick as deceased. The adults remain in Zion National Park, but are not returning to the nest or delivering food.

The chick was expected to leave the nest for its first flight sometime in November. Condors have the longest fledging period of all North American birds, roughly six months.

The cause of the suspected death remains a question and will likely remain a question.

“How it happened is speculation at this point. It could have been a number of things,” Parish said.

The chick could have attempted to fledge and perished, but no body has been discovered in the area below the cave nest. The body could have been consumed by another animal.

This was the first chick for condors 337 and 409 and it is possible they failed to provide the care required to get the young bird to fledging stage.

Lead poisoning, according to Parish, has led to 50 percent of deaths of the experimental population of California condors released in the Vermillion Cliffs area of Arizona in 1996. Officials have confirmed 29 condor deaths related to lead poisoning since 2000.

Lead is ingested by the condors scavenging on the remains of wildlife or domestic livestock killed with firearms. Efforts in Utah and Arizona to get ranchers and hunters to use lead-free ammunition and to remove gut piles from the field has helped reduce condor mortality in recent years.

It is possible the chick could have perished from lead poisoning, but it is highly likely that the parents ate the same carrion and they appear to be healthy.

Even condors that learn to fly face a 60 percent chance of dying within the first year, according to Parish.

While biologists are disappointed to declare the Utah chick a loss, they are excited that two other chicks born in the wild in Arizona are flying and appear healthy.

The condor breeding season is just getting underway and biologists will be watching the Utah parents closely. “They can start laying eggs as early as February,” Parish said. “It is possible this pair may try again.”

It is also possible they may choose the same nest cave.

Biologists had considered trying to reach the nest to see if they could confirm the chick’s death, but storms have made it dangerous.

As time has gone by, the likelihood of determining the cause of death has dropped, even assuming the carcass is still in the cave.

“Ravens may have already cleaned out the cave,” Parish said.

CdA bald eagle count nearly doubles in a week

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles has nearly doubled since last week for their annual gathering to feast on kokanee spawning in the northeastern corner of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 66 bald eagles Tuesday — 58 adults and 8 immature — in the Wolf Lodge Bay area.  That's up from 34 eagles counted last Wednesday during her weekly survey. Two weeks ago she counted 18.

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

This year, the gathering has been slower to grow.  On Dec. 16, 2013, Hugo counted 129 bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area. The 2013 bald eagle count at Lake Coeur d’Alene peaked at 217 on Dec. 30.

Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager, said efforts to improve kokanee numbers and spawning in Lake Pend Oreille has attracted dozens of bald eagles, which avoided the lake 15 years ago when the kokanee population was nearly a bust. Granite Creek attracted swarms of spawners to the Bayview area.

“Spawning gravel was layered onto the lake bottom this year in Idlewilde Bay near the Farragut boat ramp and the kokanee found it in a big way,” said Andy Dux, Pend Oreille Lake fisheries project leader. “The shoreline is littered with thousands of kokanee carcasses.”

But more and more eagles are finding their way, per tradition, to Lake CdA, where the kokanee population continues to be healthy, Fredericks said.

Plenty of birds are showing up for good photo ops.

Craig Goodwin, pastor of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church and outdoor photographer, proves that with the photo above.

Stay tuned for what's likely to be a lot more eagles at Wolf Lodge Bay during the peak period that's coming up.

 

Travel: Birding in McAllen, Texas

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

 

Lake CdA bald eagle gathering is annual photo op

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Now that the bald eagles are starting to show for their annual kokanee feast at Lake Coeur d'Alene, photographers are making plans to capture big-bird images through their cameras.

S-R Outdoors is making it easy for you to share your photographic gems with our 2014-2015 Readers' Eagle Photo Gallery.

Last season's Eagle Photo Gallery inspired a lot of people and showed just how talented our readers are at capturing the eagles in rest and in action. Check it out.

The map above by reader and wildlife watcher Tim Colquhoun is an excellent guide to getting started in your eagle-watching pursuits, whether they're with a camera or simply with binoculars.

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.

Four bald eagles show up at lake CdA, so far

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Four bald eagles were counted today at Lake Coeur d'Alene in the weekly fall survey conducted during the annual fall-winter congregation at the northeast corner of the lake.

That's up from zero birds counted last Wednesday by U.S. Bureau of Land Management biologist Carrie Hugo in her first survey of the season.

Eagles were at Higgens Point and in the Beauty Bay area this week, she said.

For decades, the eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in Wolf Lodge Bay.

“It is not too unusual for the count to be very low (in mid-November),” she said.

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

A record 273 bald eagles was counted at Wolf Lodge Bay on Dec. 29, 2011.

Bald eagles slow to show at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual winter congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene has not yet started, according to biologists who surveyed the north end of the lake on Wednesday.

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 Wolf Lodge Bay.

“No eagles at all,” said Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, reporting on her first weekly eagle survey of the season.

“I'd bet they are up on (Lake) Pend Oreille as I have had one report of eight eagles out on the ice.” 

  • A reader has pointed out that numerous bald eagles are on other rivers, such as the Clearwater, where big runs of fall chinook and coho are providing plenty of food for scavengers. Recovery of these runs may be changing eagle movements even though numbers throughout the region could be increasing.

The recovery of Pend Oreille's kokanee population in recent years may be giving bald eagles more choices.

Last year at this time Hugo counted only three bald eagles at Wolf Lodge Bay.  “It is not too unusual for the count to be very low (in mid-November),” she said.

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

A record 273 bald eagles was counted at Lake CdA's Wolf Lodge Bay on Dec. 29, 2011.

Veterans’ sign-up for CdA bald eagle cruise Friday

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A special cruise boat is being reserved for veterans, military personnel and their families for a tour on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Nov. 29 to view the annual congregation of bald eagles that come to feast on spawning kokanee.

The yearly event is so popular, two tours will be offered, advance registration is required and priority will be given to veterans, active military personnel and their families who have not previously joined one of the cruises, said Suzanne Endsley, Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman.

The BLM, in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, offers the Veteran’s Eagle Watch Cruise on Wolf Lodge Bay free of charge. Registration is required and party size is limited to six persons.   

Reservations will be accepted by telephone starting Friday at 7:45 a.m.

Reservation can be made for either the morning cruise that departs at 10 a.m. and returns by noon or the afternoon cruise that sails at 1 p.m. and returns by 3 p.m. from the Coeur d’Alene Resort Lake Cruises boat dock located on the east end of the Resort.

The general public can book eagle-watching cruises with Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises, (208) 765-2300 ext. 5623. The boats will run weekends Dec. 6-28 and Monday-Friday from Dec. 26 to Jan. 4.

The two-hour cruises cost $15-$23, with the cheaper tickets for kids and seniors.

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.

Birding, fly fishing programs presented this week

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Video: Terror in the trees as hawk hunts squirrel

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Through the tranquility of autumn leaves falling from the trees, life and death situations play out in our forests on a daily basis beyond human eyes.

This video of a red-tailed hawk hunting a tree squirrel is pieced together to depict an actual predator-prey encounter. The photography is absolutely stunning.  Check it out.

Photo: Ptarmigan change color with the leaves

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Just as the leaves are changing changing color on the trees this month, a member of the grouse family is slowly changing colors to eventually blend into its mountain wintering areas.

White-tailed ptarmigan are the species you're most likely to see in the North Cascades and high areas of Montana and British Columbia.

The willow ptarmigan that Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson captured with his camera this week in northern turndra is showing its colors (above), and what will be its lack of color in a month or so when the snow blankets the high ridges.

“These birds are really great,” Johnson said. “We love to sit and listen to their sounds – they sound like a cartoon! We can’t help but laugh when we hear them!”

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.

Outdoor groups revive monthly programs

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

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

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

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!”

Great Blue Heron stalks dining diversity

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's a great glimpse into the versatility in hunting and feeding skills of a great blue heron, known to eat a lot of fish and amphibians geared to water.

Watch it to the very end.

Nothing but the freshest food for this fella.

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.

  

First Utah condor chick confirmed

ENDANGERED SPECIES — It’s official: a pair of California condors are raising a wild chick in Zion National Park, the first chick to be documented in Utah in the bird's recovery under endangered species protections.

The nest is in a cavity 1,000 feet above a remote canyon floor. This chick is the offspring of first-time nesting parents. The occasion is particularly momentous because the results of first-time nesters often fail.

“This is the first documented occurrence of California condors raising a chick in Utah,” says Eddie Feltes, condor project manager with The Peregrine Fund.

Keith Day, regional wildlife biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says the chick won’t try to fly until November or December.

“California condors take about six months to fledge,” he says. “Their fledging period is the longest of any bird in North America.”

The parents will spend the next year raising the chick. “California condors typically produce one chick every other year,” he says.

Curious to see what the chick looks like?  The location of the wild chick is being kept secret for its protection, but you can visit the condor camera at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where a condor hatched in the rearing facility within days of this wild-born condor.

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

 

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.

Wild turkeys are brooding below Mount Spokane

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Local birder/photographer Ron Dexter caught this wild turkey hen marching a newly hatched brood of eight chicks near his property at the foothills of Mount Spokane on Sunday.

Looks like they got through last week's cold and rain just fine.

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.

First chick hatches under Sandpoint ‘osprey cam’

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An osprey chick has just hatched for all the world to see under the watchful eye of the Sandpoint, Idaho, Osprey Cam.

The chick is the first of three eggs to hatch. The others should hatch soon. Viewers can tune in to watch in real time as the new osprey family begins and grows.

The video camera is on a nest above Sandpoint’s War Memorial Field on Lake Pend Oreille.

Red-tailed hawk photo captures power on the wing

WILDLIFE WATCHING — North America's most common hawk — the red-tailed hawk — is a picture of fierce aerial heartburn if you're a rodent, snake, bird, hare or other creature on its menu. 

Outdoor photographer J. Foster Fanning of Curlew made this outstanding and powerful image of redtail landing in a ponderosa pine recently at Curlew Lake State Park.

Birding festival at Lake Pend Oreille Saturday

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

Missing pet pigeon flies to school of young owner

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.