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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.

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.

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.

Graphic illustrates wind energy impacts to birds

WILDLIFE — Following last week's milestone court settlement in which Duke Energy will pay $1 million to mitigate for the deaths of golden eagles and other birds caused by wind turbines in Wyoming, Northwest Public Radio featured this EarthFix graphic to help explain in simple terms the threats unrefined wind farms pose to bird populations.

Wind energy company prosecuted for killing birds

WILDLIFE — A wind energy company has agreed to pay about $1 million in fines and mitigation actions in the deaths of 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds in Wyoming. The American Bird Conservancy says its the first prosecution of a wind company in connection with bird deaths.

The Department of Justice on Friday announced a settlement on the prosecution of Duke Energy’s wind developments.

“Wind energy is not green if it is killing hundreds of thousands of birds," said said George Fenwick, ABC president. "We are pro-wind and pro-alternative energy, but development needs to be Bird Smart. The unfortunate reality is that the flagrant violations of the law seen in this case are widespread.”

The enforcement action is the first time the government has drawn a line in the sand, said Michael Hutchins, coordinator of ABC’s National Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.

“The boundaries for the wind industry are voluntary, meaning that companies have been able to pay lip service to bird protection laws and then largely do what they want," he said. Poorly sited wind projects exist or are being planned that clearly ignore the advice of federal and state biologists who have few, if any, means of preventing them from going ahead.”

The charges stem from the discovery of 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows by the company at its “Campbell Hill” and “Top of the World” wind projects in Converse County between 2009 and 2013.   The two wind projects are comprised of 176 large wind turbines sited on private agricultural land. 

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!

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)

Bird dog surveys the harvest

HUNTING — My English setter, Scout, had six consecutive points on hens, then one solid find on a solo rooster.  

Stir-fry dinner coming up.

Free programs offered by local outdoor groups

Inland Northwest outdoors groups are sponsoring a wide range for free programs this week. Among them:

  • Bicycling the TransAmerica Trail, second of two programs, this one featuring the journey from Pueblo, Colo., to Florence, Oreg.,  by garry Kehr, 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Bicycle Club.

See map and directions to Riverview Retirement Center auditorium,

  • Clark Fork Delta Restoration, by Susan Drumheller of the Idaho Conservation League, 7 p.m., Tuesday nov. 12 at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.
  • Annual Fly Auction fundraiser, 7 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.
  • Hanford and the Columbia River, by Theresa Labriola of the Columbia Riverkeeper, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon

Turnbull trumpeters a splashing autumn sight to behold

UPDATED 11-6-13 at 3:10 p.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This year's crop of trumpeter swans was still putting on a snow last week for visitors to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge headquarters area.

For the first time in decades, two pairs pulled of clutches of cygnets this spring.  The families provided plenty of wildlife viewing entertainment during the spring and summer.

Each family lost at least one of the offspring, but the survivors are looking strong and frisky and ready to migrate to wherever they go when iced-over ponds force them to leave Turnbull during winter.

Local photographer Carlene Hardt, who produced a book about the Turnbull trumpeters that's available at the Turnbull store, snapped these photos of one family and the playful cygnets last week.  Said Hardt:

 I was at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge last Friday and I was delighted to see both Trumpeter swan families on Middle Pine. It was good to see that one swan pair still has three cygnets. Unfortunately, the other pair has only two remaining cygnets (out of the 4 that hatched). One cygnet was recently found dead. 

I started photographing them just before sunset when they were very active and vocal. They were interacting with each other and sometimes chasing each other. It was fun to watch!
  

Mike Rule, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist at Turnbull offered these encouraging insights into what's going with the refuge swans:

The loss of the 2 cygnets from the Middle Pine Lake pair was unfortunate.  One was lost  about 3-4 weeks after hatching.  We never found the carcass.  The death of the 2nd cygnet occurred  on the   22nd or 23rd of October.   I am not sure of the cause of death , but I don't think it ever fledged like the other two in that brood.  I observed the 2 adults  and 2 cygnets flying around on the 19th and the one cygnet was still on Middle Pine. We did collect the body and it has been sent to the Madison Wildlife Health Lab.  Hopefully we will hear back soon about the cause of death.  

We have recently been seeing a group of 11 flying around  so the 2 pairs and there young of this year have picked up a couple of swans from the previous years' broods.  I expect to see more  any day now.  We are hoping more of the 2009 and 2010 cygnets will return to nest next year. Winslow Pool, which has been dry for 2 years now because of a failed water control structure, has been repaired and is refilling.  This has been an important swan pond, it is the original swan display pond  where the first cygnets were released on the refuge. So having it functioning again is a real plus for the swans. 

This is what a murmuration looks like

This video is hard to explain but it cerainly has some exquisite choreography. Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith experience one of nature's greatest and most fleeting phenomena, a "murmuration" on Ireland's Shannon River. The pair created a short film about their amazing row and submitted it for the World Wildlife Fund competition "Life, Nature and You. Make the Connection." It's a magical moment.

(Disclaimer: NSFC. Not safe for cats.)

 

 

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Announcing their presence

Unlike Deputy Barney Fife, I cannot claim to understand bird-speak.

But I have a hunch about what some of them are saying at this time of year.

"Don't rake your leaves."

I'm guessing this because I noticed something the other night. Cats lose their stealth when moving through a yard covered with dry leaves.

And if I have noticed that, I would imagine the birds have, too.

Normally silent felines create crunching and rustling that all but blares "Here comes trouble!"

At least that's how I imagine a bird would view it.

Hunting dusky grouse can give you the blues

HUNTING — Hunting dusky grouse with a pointing dog is one part bliss and several parts misery and despair.

Duskies — the name given a decade ago to the former "blue grouse" east of the Cascades — are notoriously fickle about holding to a point.  

They might hold, as did the one pictured above, or they may not.

They might fly up in a tree and look at you or they may flush at the hint that you're coming their way and rocket downhill a quarter mile into the timber.

They like high ridges and openings at the edges of timber. Often the terrain is rocky.

It can be tough going — and tough shooting.

I liken dusky hunting to a chukar hunt with timber mixed in to increase the shooting difficulty factor.

I was one for three on Saturday with two other birds flushing a full 40 yards away from Scout's solid point.

Tough quarry. 

Oregon storms blast swallows; thousands dead

WILDLIFE — Barn swallows and violet-greens took a harsh blow from storms and high winds that hammered Western Oregon in the past week.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarians received multiple Monday about dead and dying swallows. 

Groups of 10 to 200 swallows were reported dead or near death in barns and other structures where they perch, the agency reports.  Mortality appears to be greater closer to rivers and standing water where the birds concentrate.

Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian, estimates that thousands of birds have died. “This type of mortality event is unprecedented and considered a rare and unusual event,” said Gillin. “The effect on bird populations is unknown.”

A number of birds were examined at the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and pathologists determined the swallows were thin and had not eaten recently with their cause of death most likely being weather-related starvation. Veterinarians believe that the four consecutive days of rain and wind prevented the swallows from feeding at a time when they would normally be preparing for winter migration.

September was the wettest on record for the Willamette Valley.

Swallows feed on insects during flight and inclement weather events can have an effect on young and weaker birds that cannot take in enough food to meet their energy requirements. Swallows are seasonal migrants to Oregon and migrate to Central and South America during winter.

Video: How hummingbird tongues function

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Like little jewels in the sky, hummingbirds capture everyone's attention when they "hum" by.

But only recently have scientists been able to study them closely enough to understand how their tongues function while feeding on flower nectar.

The hummer's tongue is about twice as long as it s beak.  The tongue is a unique "nectar trap" with two tubes and rows of flaps attached to a supporting rod that extends and then retracts compactly into the beak.

See how it works!

Video: Raunchy dancing? Forget MTV, go to Midway

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Miley Cyrus doesn't have anything on these birds!

Take a look at the twerking of the mating Laysan albatross on Midway National Wildlife Refuge.

If this tweeks your imagination, learn more about the birds on this tiny dot of an island in the Pacific.

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.

One highlight from my weekend email

A reader took me to task for not knowing that ravens and crows are the same thing.

They aren't, of course.

We all make mistakes. And I was happy to write back and briefly point out his.

But I really don't get it. Wouldn't you make sure you knew what you were talking about before firing off a blistering rebuke?

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.

Osprey cruise a unique local wildlife experience

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BIRD WATCHING —  Tickets for Saturday's osprey viewing cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene sold out the day after the notice was published, proving word is out that this is a bucket list wildlife opportunity in the Inland Northwest.

The photos came from Carlene Hardt, who wrote this note after taking the cruise:

Thank you for writing about the Osprey Cruise on your blog! I didn't know they did this every year.  There was one Osprey family on their piling nest in Cougar Bay that we watched being banded. The chicks stay in the nest for 8 weeks. I was surprised by their camouflaged coloring and long wings. There were several guest speakers durning our 2 hour cruise.

It was a wonderful way to spend the morning.

While speakers told stories and offered information about these hawks that dive into lakes and river for their meals of fish, the people on the cruise boat could watch osprey expert Wayne Melquist band young osprey in nests along the lake.

Melquist would hold the birds up so people could see the osprey's sharp talons as he attached the band.

The banding day is scheduled before the chicks are old enough to be tempted to bail out of the nest at the approach of a human.

At least 100 osprey pairs nest each year in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers. 

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

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.

Photo: Turnbull trumpeters tending to young

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Photographer Carlene Hardt and numerous other wildlife watchers have been watching trumpeter swans at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney as they raise their young that hatched last month.

Here's the photo and the note she sent this week after spending some time watching the family of two adults and four cygnets off the paved walking trail near Middle Pine pond.

The rules say I can't go off trail on Cheever so I will not be able to see the second family. 

Isn't it wonderful that there are two Trumpeter pairs and two new families! The cygnets are so adorable and I know they will grow up fast! I watched them imitate their parents eating and preening. 

Two trumpeter swan broods hatch at Turnbull Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trumpeter swans are doubling the fun Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this summer with two nesting pairs, each of which has hatched a brood of cygnets in the past week.

Just seven years ago, only one trumpeter called Turnbull home. I named him Solo in a column documenting his lonely two decades of seeking a mate.

In 2009, Solo, by then a geriatric swan age 35-48, attracted a viable mate. He sired the first brood of trumpeters on the refuge since his first mate was killed on her nest by a predator in 1988

Solo disappeared two seasons later, but his mate bonded with another male to produce a brood last year.  This year, it appears that one of the birds produced by the swans also has returned with a mate.

Here's today's report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:

Both nesting pairs of trumpeters at Turnbull NWR have hatched.  The pair on Cheever Lake  hatched 3 cygnets  on June 13 and the Middle Pine pair hatched 4 cygnets on June 19 or 20.   The female of the Middle Pine pair is likely Solo's (the really old swan) mate who started the ball rolling again in 2009.

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.

Harlequin duck, 17, returns to Glacier Park

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A male harlequin duck, known to be at least 17 years old, was recently identified in Glacier National Park by University of Montana researchers and Glacier National Park scientists.

  • The banded duck is believed to be the third oldest on record. The oldest known banded harlequin duck has a recorded age of 18 years and 10 months.

“Prior to these findings, harlequin ducks were reported to live up to only 10  years of age, which makes this finding a positive indicator of the health and longevity of harlequin breeding populations in Glacier National Park,” said Lisa Bate, Glacier Park biological science technician. “Research indicates harlequin ducks mate for life unless something happens to one member of the pair. This old male has returned the last three years with the same female.”

Researchers launched the study in 2011, using radio-telemetry and banding to learn more about the location of harlequin nests and factors affecting offspring survival.

Upper McDonald Creek is considered an important breeding stream for harlequin ducks, comprising 25 percent of known broods produced in Montana. The area also has the highest density of breeding harlequins in the lower 48 states.

About 40 pairs of harlequins in the park are known to be in Glacier Park.

Read on for more detals about the harlequins.

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.

Double the pleasure: 2 trumpeter swan pairs nesting at Turnbull

WILDLIFE — Turnbull Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney is in a family way this month with critters birthing and hatching young all over the place. (See list of 108 bird species documented at Turnbull in just two weeks at end of this post).

Fans of the late the trumpeter swan named Solo will revel in news that TWO trumpeter pairs are nesting at the refuge this year, up from one pair last year and no pairs for 22 years before 2009.

Solo was one of the original Turnbull trumpeters who lost his mate to a predator in the 1980s. He defended his territory at Turnbull through a 22-year drought without a suitable breeding partner before siring a family in 2009.  

The trumpeters are crowd pleasers because they're so visible. The nesting pairs are on Middle Pine and Cheever ponds. If all goes well and their cygnets hatch in June, the attentive parents will parade their families for all to see from the visitor paths all summer and into the fall.

Amateur photographer Carlene Hardt focused on the trumpeters for two years and recently published a nifty book of photos and trumpeter information, "A Swan and His Family." The book, available at the Turnbull Refuge headquarters store, chronicles Solo's family life for several years.

Also worth checking out at the store is the booklet, "Discover Birds at Turnbull," published after years of research by students at the former Discovery School.  The book has good information about a variety of Turnbull bird species with photos by local expert photographers.  

The book is a showcase for Turnbull's service in providing wildlife and nature education for up to 8,000 students who visit the refuge each year.

Meanwhile, don't forget all the other bird species found at the refuge.  Click "continue reading" for Tuesday's report report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist.