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34 bald eagles counted at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 34 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene.  That's up from 18 eagles counted last week during her weekly survey. Two weeks ago she counted only four.

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

However, last year by the second week of December Hugo had counted 57 eagles and in 2012 the count was well over 130 eagles.

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

Hugo said she plans to survey areas on Lake Pend Oreille to see if the lake's revival of kokanee at has siphoned off some of the eagle interest in Lake CdA.

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

 

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.

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!"

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.

  

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

 

CdA osprey-watching boat cruise July 12

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual osprey viewing and banding  boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene is set for July 12, the Idaho Fish and Game Department just announced.  If you want to go on this popular wildlife educational activity, sign up quick.  Last year it sold out in a day.

  • Reservations can be made by calling the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, (208) 664-3194 or online at cdachamber.com.

The osprey is a fish-eating hawk common to northern Idaho. At least 100 pairs nest annually in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers, says Phil Cooper, IFG educator.  Here's more from Phil:

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

The University of Idaho and the Idaho Fish and Game Department have been studying and banding ospreys at Coeur d’Alene Lake for over 25 years. The work is done to determine survival and mortality rates and to further define the migration patterns and wintering areas of the population. 

To conduct this research, young of the year pre-flight osprey are briefly taken from nests just before fledging. A band with a unique number is gently applied to one leg, and the 6-7 week old birds are safely placed back in the nests.

You may be wondering what the adult osprey think of the process. The adults take flight when the research boat approaches. They make their displeasure known with loud, screeching calls intended to scare the biologists away and to tell the young osprey to lie down flat in an effort to hide. Yet, these brave biologists have over 30 years of experience banding osprey and they can understand ‘osprey’ language. Knowing the osprey are only using scare tactics, they go about their work and get away from the nests in no time flat.

The banding process goes very quickly. After the leg bands are applied and the biologists move away, the adults immediately return to the nests to find their young safe and secure…but sporting new leg bands. 

None of us know if having a leg band is a status symbol or an embarrassment in the osprey world, but the bands allow for the gathering of some remarkable information to help biologists learn about the species and to protect osprey populations.

Would you like to learn more about this bird, common to our area in the summer?  How about coming along and watching osprey research? 

An Osprey Boat Cruise has been scheduled for Saturday, July 12. The trip will run from 9am –11am, boarding begins at 830. 

The cruise will be leaving from the west end of the CdA Resort boardwalk. Parking is available at the new covered parking under Front Street, on nearby streets, and in the pay lot at the North Idaho Museum. The cost of the trip is $15 for adults, $35 maximum per family. Children under 12 are free when with a paying adult.

Space is very limited and reservations are required.  Reservations can be made by calling the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce at 664-3194 or online at cdachamber.com.

Wildlife Biologists will be in a small boat that will travel alongside a Lake Coeur d’Alene Charter Cruise boat. Well known Wildlife Biologist and renowned osprey researcher Dr. Wayne Melquist will take young of the year birds from osprey nests and band them, while the passengers on the cruise boat watch and take photos. 

Speakers on the cruise boat will include wildlife biologists and avian experts, including Beth Paragamian representing Idaho Fish and Game.  They will be on board the cruise boat to provide fascinating biological information on ospreys and other wildlife species.  A limited number of binoculars will be available for loan, however, bringing your own along with a camera, sun hat and sun screen is advised.

Invited guest speakers also include the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s CdA Lake Management Team, and a Cougar Bay Osprey Preservation group.

The annual event is sponsored by the Natural Resources Committee of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. Cooperators include The Nature Conservancy, the Idaho Fish and Game Department, the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of Idaho, the Audubon Society and the Coeur d’Alene Resort. 

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.

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.

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.

Bird photo: The blues that will brighten your day

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Perhaps only a bluebird could sing the blues on a spring morning like a Lazuli bunting.

Thanks for getting our day off on the right note, Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Audubon program explores electronic tools for birding

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Though not as essential as binoculars and a scope for birding, computers and other devices are becoming handy to have at home and in the field to enhance birding efforts.

The Spokane Audubon Society will explore electronic birding from apps to the Web during it's monthly meeting, 7:30 p.m.  on Wednesday, May 14, at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

Bring your devices and questions. Alan McCoy, who's participated in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count for 30 years, will help participants explore the possibilities.

Great horned owlets most vulnerable now

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Great horned owlets are huge-bodied birds for their age, and they don't often make graceful first flights from their nests.

Tome Kearney of Spokane snapped a photo of this owlet in his backyard this week as it was fledging.  For perspective, each of the landscaping blocks it's standing on are 4-inches high.

The birds often will spend a day or more hopping around the ground and up to fences, rooftops and low branches as they gain strength and confidence to fly.

They are most vulnerable to dogs, cats and other predators at this time.

Feathers are flying on the grouse prairies

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Dancing and strutting isn't enough for sharp-tailed grouse during the spring mating season that's underway. The males duke it out pretty good to show dominance for breeding the females that are walking around nonchalantly watching the show.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson captured this action this week from a bind in Montana.

 

Two-day-old bald eagle chicks active in nest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — "I love the little wings and the open mouth," says Spokane Valley pastor and photographer Craig Goodwin, back from a North Idaho birding adventure. "The eaglets are two days old."

Goodwin says he's found great bird photo situations including great blue herons and waterfowl in the past few days.

"There is some pretty amazing birding out there right now."

A Web cam trained on a bald eagles' nest has become an Internet sensation in recent years, giving millions of viewers an intimate glimpse of doting parents raising their young. T

he Decorah Eagle Project in Iowa is one of the best eagle Web cams out there. See them bring in squirrels, fish — whatever — to feed their young.  On Sunday, the world saw one of the parents shield the fragile young during a lightning storm.   Fascinating.  

Currently the eagles are raising three chicks, with the third-hatched noticeably smaller than the other two, but gaining strength daily.  Check them out.

Bird thought it was flying into dust storm: Boink!

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This natural bird art is the best reason I've seen for putting off window washing.

Former S-R editor Phil Gruis posted the extraordinary photo, noting that the bird wasn't around so it apparently survived the impact.

An artist at work.

Live raptors featured in Audubon program Tuesday

WILDLIFE – Raptor expert Kate Davis of Montana-based Raptors of the Rockies, will present a free program on hawks and owls at the Coeur d’Alene Audubon meeting, 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 8, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d’Alene.

Davis says she’ll be bringing a few of the 15 species of orphaned or injured raptors that serve as the educational team at her raptor ranch in the Bitterroot Valley.

Photo: Owls blend into the woodwork

WILDLIFE WATCHING — You say you've never seen a Western screech owl in the wild?

No wonder, says Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Pend Oreille Valley Tundra Swan Festival booking tour seats

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  The 2014 Tundra Swan Festival is set for March 22 in the Pend Oreille River Valley and the main attraction is already flocking in.

Bus tours hosted by the Kalispell Tribe are planned to Calispell Lake to view some of the thousands of swans resting in the area’s open waters as their spring migration kicks into high gear.

Participants will re-gather at the Camas Wellness Center in Usk for lunch and a presentation on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by Forest Service District Ranger Gayne Sears.

Cost: $10 or $5 for kids under 13.

Sign up by Friday, March 14. Info: 509 447 5286

Shape your birding knowledge with this chart

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This chart, courtesy of the Spokane Audubon Society's monthly newsletter, helps you put your birding knowledge into perspective.

Northern hawk owl visiting Moscow reported dead

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Sad news:  the northern hawk owl that's been attracting birders from far and wide to the Moscow, Idaho, area has been reported dead.

The rare visitor from the arctic has been hunting and hanging out in the area since it was spotted Dec. 3 near a Moscow shopping mall by raptor expert Erik Stauber, a retired wildlife veterinary professor from Washington State University.

Moscow birder Terry Gray, who's been watching and photographing the bird almost daily just reported the news.

The hawk owl, a bird of boreal forests in Alaska and Canada, became a sensation because of its willingness to stay in the same area and be photographed by many, many birders after Gray posted photos and began giving daily reports on where the bird could be seen.

Northern hawk owls have been recorded and documented farther south in Idaho (Hailey and in eastern Idaho)  and several had been recorded for Moscow and Pullman around 20 years ago, says birder Charles Swift.

But the bird is a rare or maybe once-in-a-lifetime bird for many enthusiasts in this region.

Birders had expressed concern about the bird's lack of fear for powerlines and vehicle traffic as it hunted for mice and voles in the wild patches along the town's edges and roadways.  The bird was found injured but alive on a road where it had been hunting. Apparently it was struck by a vehicle.  It was taken to WSU veterinarians but did not survive.

Click Continue reading for more details about the bird and from WSU News. (Note the error in reporting that this is the first documented sighting of a hawk owl near Moscow):

 

Bald eagles drifting away from Lake CdA gathering

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles is thinning out at Lake Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay area where the national symbols gather each year to feast on spawning kokanee.

After peaking at 217 two weeks ago, the number of eagles counted today by U.S. Bureau of Land Management biologist Carrie Hugo dropped to 53 — that's  51 adults and 2 juveniles.  

The eagles came later than normal this year and stayed in large numbers longer than in the past, perhaps because many of them had been taking advantage of the revived kokanee fishery in Lake Pend Oreille.  

  • See more on the Pend Oreille and Coeur d'Alene eagle gatherings.

"Chances are the number of eagles (at Lake Coeur d'Alene) is slightly higher than my count reflects today," Hugo said, noting that she spotted at least 20 soaring eagles but does not include flying birds in her surveys. 

"Having said that, the numbers should continue to decline rapidly from here," she said, adding that no more surveys would be conducted until the birds should begin returning again in November.

 "It was another good year with a few surprises in the numbers!  We might have to find someone to monitor Lake Pend Oreille next year!"  

SHARE YOUR EAGLE PHOTOS

The Spokesman-Review has set up a web page where readers can upload some of the great images they're snapping of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Check it out, especially Tim Colquhoun's map of the best eagle viewing areas at the northeast end of the lake.

Poor visibility postpones CdA eagle survey

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weekly survey of bald eagles gathering at Lake Coeur d'Alene was postponed today because of poor visibility caused by the incoming storm.

Carrie Hugo, BLM wildlife biologists, said she saw enough eagles to believe that the eagle numbers are still high.  In last week's survey she counted 217.

She said she'll try again on Wednesday to do the survey.

But  Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson hit it right on Monday, coming before the storm and finding plenty of action for good, sharp photos, as you can see above.

Rare visitor looks like owl, eats like hawk

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The hawk owl that's been luring birders to the Moscow, Idaho, area for more than a month continues to deliver for photographers eager to document a rare visitor to the region.

Spokane-area birder Ron Dexter offered this recent photo with interesting details from his observation of the northern Canada bird's hunting behavior:

It was hunting from a powerline on the north side of White Ave. A small creek runs along that side of the road. The banks are covered with weeds and grass and provide raptors a hunting ground for mice and voles.
 
The first two attacks from the owl came up empty except for claws full of weeds. Finally, it sprang from the power line and dove into the grass along the road only 20 feet from me and grabbed a vole. Then it flew into a nearby tree. It would pin the rodent to a tree limb and chomp at it with its beak, then pick it up and fly to another tree where it ate it. It did not swallow the meal whole like most owls do, but ripped off pieces. Hawk Owls hunt in the daytime and eat like hawks, thus the name.

Eagle’s comeback testament to Endangered Species Act

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

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

—Missoulian

Eagle count soars to 129 at Lake CdA

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

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

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

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

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

EAGLE WATCH WEEK

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

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

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

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

SHARE YOUR EAGLE PHOTOS

The Spokesman-Review has set up a web page where readers can upload some of the great images they're snapping of eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene.  Check it out, especially Tim Colquhoun's map of the best eagle viewing areas at the northeast end of the lake.

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

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