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Bald eagles Marching into quality family time

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are mating and getting their families started. This video clip from a Hanover, Penn., web cam aimed at an eagle nest shows an eagle pair making a quick change of guard as they incubate eggs in cold February weather.

Good parenting examples, eagles.


Tundra swans flocking to region’s open water

Updated with field report.

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

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

Update Feb. 22:

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

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

Photo: Great gray owl lives large

WILDLIFE WATCHING — With huge size and disproportionately large head, the great gray owl is a standout in the region's woods.

The bird's range — mostly in boreal forests — includes an area near Republic, Wash., as well as a fork of habitat south through far-eastern and North Idaho and a swath of Western Montana.  Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson says considers himself very lucky to have great grays nesting just a few minutes from his home.

The largest owl in Montana - very social, they don’t seem to mind our presence. Hands down, our favorite type of owls.

Canyon wren, RVers enjoying Riverside State Park

HIKING — The report from local Audubon Society birders out for a hike in Riverside State Park today is like music to my ears.

Fran Haywood was near the Bowl and Pitcher when she was serenaded by the cascading call of a canyon wren — one of my favorite songsters.

  • Click here for more information about canyon wrens and a link to hear their song.

Fran's observations:

Went to Riverside State Park in Spokane.  Walked across the swinging bridge and along the trail to the left where I found several singing Canyon Wrens. One was on the rock slide just before the trail drops down towards the river. Funny, how there songs seem to be coming from above where they actually are. They really like the slide areas.

Also had flocks of Pygmy Nuthatch.  Many people enjoying our spring-like weather with 5 RV's in the campground.

Canyon wrens also were heard calling along the Little Spokane River Natural Area on Monday, reports Rick Eichstaedt.

Bill to help get kids outside gets hearing in Olympia

OUTDOOR EDUCATION — A Senate committee will hold a hearing today, Feb. 11, at 1:30 p.m. on “No Child Left Inside,” a bipartisan bill (SB 5843) that provides $1.3 million for programs to get kids to away from their screens and back outdoors. 

A media release from the bill’s introduction by Sens. Ranker (D-Orcas Island) and Parlette (R-Wenatchee) note's that Washington’s NCLI has inspired federal legislation of the same name. 

Scheduled to testify at today's hearing are:

  • Oak Rankin of Darrington, whose community was devastated by the Oso landslide in 2014. This bill would enable funding for programs such as the Darrington Youth Outdoor STEM Pilot Project  which helps students learn about local natural resources.
  • Joshua Brandon, a veteran and program manager for Project Cohort, a program designed to support veterans’ mental health, in part through outdoor activities. The legislation’s grant program encourages funding for programs that tap veterans for program implementation or administration.
  • Courtney Aber who heads up YMCA’s BOLD & GOLD programs (Boys Outdoor Leadership Development & Girls Outdoor Leadership Development)
  • Martin LeBlanc of IslandWood, the Bainbridge Island-based outdoor education organization
  • Marc Berejka from REI

Audubon clubs present birding programs

WILDLIFE WATCHING  — Audubon Society chapters in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene have interesting programs open to the public this week:

Tuesday, Feb 10 — African Safari photos and stories will be shared by Janet Callen and Darlene Carlton, who recently completed a 12-day wildlife-rich safari in Botswana. 

  • 7 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd in Coeur d’Alene.

Wednesday, Feb. 11 — Bird banding studies around Spokane: Lindell Haggin will discuss what’s involved with bird banding and what we are learning about the birds of our area. Haggin assisted with bird banding research on the Little Spokane River for 10 years, giving her insights into which birds bite the hardest and which species have the most attitude!

  • 7:30 p.m. at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave. in Spokane.
  • See directions to the meeting location.

Join the crowd to count backyard birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birders are signing up to contribute 15 minutes of their favorite hobby to science.

The Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb.13-16, involves birders of all levels of experience to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species,online.

Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose.

Check it out. 

BTW, kids can really get into this. Grab a field guide to birds or Google what you see and feed the brain for natural science.

Eagles still lingering at Wolf Lodge Bay

WILDLIFE WATCHING —Bald eagles at Lake Coeur d’Alene for their annual gathering to feed on spawning kokanee are dispersing, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist says.

Carrie Hugo, who has surveyed eagles in Wolf Lodge Bay almost weekly since early November, counted 28 eagles Friday – 27 adults and one juvenile.

The peak count this winter was 140 on Dec. 23.

A record 273 bald eagles was counted at Lake Coeur d'Alene on Dec. 29, 2011.

Winter tips for feeding birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Feeding wild birds is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the U.S. While a handout can help birds find the calories needed to survive the winter, improper feeding can spread disease or increase birds' exposure to predators.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game encourages bird enthusiasts to keep a few things in mind to help assure successful bird feeding.

"The location of your feeder and what food it offers is very important for attracting birds," said Deniz Aygen, IDFG wildlife program coordinator. "To attract a variety of birds, many bird watchers use a variety of feeders and foods in several different locations."

Additional suggestions for successful bird feeding include:

  • Place feeders near cover to protect feeding birds from weather and predators. Move feeders if you notice birds striking windows.
  • Birds can be particular about what and where they eat. Sparrows, juncos and doves typically feed on the ground or on a flat platform, while other birds prefer an elevated feeder. Some ground-feeding birds prefer corn, milo or millet, but sunflower seeds are also a popular food. Adding finch or thistle seed can attract pine siskins, goldfinches and house finches. Insect-eating birds, such as woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches feed on suet or peanut butter mixtures.
  • If possible, provide water nearby. Specially designed heaters are available to prevent freezing. Once water and food are offered, try to continue through the winter, but don't be concerned if you miss a few days, since feeding birds are mobile and are probably visiting other feeding stations besides yours.
  • Keep feeders and feeding areas clean. Clean feeders regularly by scrubbing with soapy water, followed by a quick rinse in water diluted with a small amount of bleach. Store seed in tight, waterproof containers to prevent mold and to deter rodents.

Reardan Audubon Lake expanding for birds, birdwatchers

CONSERVATION — A non-profit land trust has stepped up to secure wetlands important to migrating waterfowl and other birds in Lincoln County along U.S. 2 west of Spokane.

The Inland Northwest Land Trust has purchased 150 acres adjoining the 277-acre Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area, a nature preserve in Reardan managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Spokane-based land trust plans to sell the channeled scablands property to the state agency when funds become available. The deal assures the area's wetlands, vernal pools, alkaline mud flats and basalt features will remain undeveloped for wildlife.

Garry Schalla, INLT executive director, said state wildlife officials were given an option by the owner last year to buy the land, but the state needs about two years or more to apply for state funding through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

“INLT was the lead organization in the original 2006 acquisition, so when Audubon and WDFW called on us, we were glad to help out,” said Chris DeForest, INLT conservation director. The deal was closed Jan. 15.

The area originally was dubbed Audubon Lake decades ago after bird watchers started tuning in to the large variety of bird species that pass through the Reardan area, especially during spring and fall migrations.

The wildlife area is a stop on the Northeast Washington Birding Palouse to Pines Trail developed by Audubon Washington. It's also a notable feature on the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.

The 80-acre main lake and wetlands on the north side of Reardan are at the headwaters of Deep Creek and Crab Creek.

“Although most of our work is to help private individuals conserve their own land, this will eventually be a public preserve,” Schalla said. 

The Land Trust plans to clean up the site and work with state and local agencies and organizations to design a trail system that gives birders and school groups access to viewing the wildlife while shielding sensitive areas, he said.

Bird photographer offers tips on getting the picture

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Professional photographer Ron Smith will give a free presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 14, on tips for photographing birds.

The program, sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society, starts at 7:30 p.m. at Riverview Retirement Community, 2117 E. N. Crescent Ave. Social gathering starts at 7 p.m.

Smith has worked in camera sales and printed large-size prints for a professional lab. He taught photography to children at SFCC summer school, and adult classes at night. Ron ran a  wedding and portrait business for over 25 years, so when he retired, he thought he would try his hand at photographing something that didn’t smile: wildlife and birds. He quickly discovered that birds aren’t the easiest of subjects!

Bald eagles still hanging out at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Today's weekly winter survey of Lake Coeur d'Alene bald eagles — possibly the last of the season — tallied 93  eagles at Wolf Lodge Bay feasting on spawning kokanee.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo counted  87 adults, 5 immature, 1 unknown.  That's plenty of birds for good viewing and photography.

The landslide that blocked SR 97 yesterday was quickly cleared.


Pacific Coast sea bird die-off puzzles scientists

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Scientists are trying to figure out what’s behind the deaths of seabirds that have been found by the hundreds along the Pacific Coast since October.

Mass die-offs of the small, white-bellied gray birds known as Cassin’s auklets have been reported from British Columbia to San Luis Obispo, California.

Julia Burco of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tells the Salem Statesman Journal that the birds appear to be starving to death, so experts don’t believe a toxin is the culprit.

But why the birds can’t find food is a mystery.

Researchers say it could be the result of a successful breeding season, unusually violent storms or changes in ocean chemistry.

Bird carcasses have been sent to a federal lab in Wisconsin for more research.

  • Meanwhile, scientists are still gathering information about the sea star wasting syndrome that's been killing masses of starfish along the Pacific Coast.

Birds a lot of hot air when temperatures dip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wind energy company fined $2.5 million for impact to birds

WILDLIFE — Another step in the developing bird crisis… Call it Gone with the Wind:

Company to pay $2.5M for protected birds killed at Wyoming wind farms
PacifiCorp Energy, a subsidiary of Oregon-based PacifiCorp, will pay $2.5-million in fines for the deaths of 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds at its wind farms in Wyoming's Converse and Converse counties between 2009 and this year.
—Portland Oregonian

Waterfowlers should be on watch for avian flu

HUNTING — Although it's mainly a West Side issue at this point, all Washington waterfowlers should be on avian influenza alert after two birds have been documented with the disease this month.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking for the public's help in monitoring for the disease.

Meanwhile, hunters should review the following common-sense precautions, which are always recommended to reduce the risk of contracting any wildlife disease:

  • Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
  • Wear rubber gloves while cleaning game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Wash tools and work surfaces used to clean game birds with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach.
  • " Separate raw meat, and anything it touches, from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.
  • " Cook game birds thoroughly. Meat should reach an internal temperature of 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites.

State wildlife managers ask that anyone who sees a wild bird that is sick or dead call WDFW at (800) 606-8768. They are particularly interested in waterfowl and birds such as eagles, hawks, falcons, ravens, and gulls that prey on them or scavenge their carcasses.

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.


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.

Speculative ornithology

A few years ago, a friend came up with the whimsical concept of Beakbook — a social media network for birds.

I thought of that this morning while out walking in downtown Spokane. What if Beakbook really existed?

Just imagine.

I just know downtown's sparrows would be labeled "thugs" and "loiterers" by birds who claim they never come down here.

And area crows would "like" posts about roadkill squirrels.

What else?

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.

Wild turkeys window shopping in Dayton

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Downtown Dayton, Wash., is a hot spot for wild turkeys, who apparently feel at home on Main Street even in the week before Thanksgiving.

Reports the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

This was the scene in downtown Dayton (Columbia County) this week.  Hunters are hoping at least some of these big birds "head for the hills" come Thursday, Nov. 20, when the late fall general either sex wild turkey hunting season opens in eastern WA game management units.

Details on that season here.

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.

Tracks: wildlife stories in the snow

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weather presented only one brief opportunity for good tracking conditions through fresh snow during the nine-day Washington modern firearms elk hunting season that ended on Sunday.

Fresh snow is to hunters what the pages of a book are to voracious readers. We long for it.

Even though I tried to focus on elk tracks on the one day of snow we had in the Blue Mountains last week, I couldn't help but be sidetracked by other creatures and the stories they left in the snow for me to read.

In this case, my pursuit of wapiti was interrupted by a fling with, perhaps, chickati.

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.