Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Film: fascinating insight on obstacles to migration

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Last week, Wyoming researchers released their report on the longest mule deer migration in the world, which was happening virtually unrealized for who knows how long.

This amazing short video, using remote camera photography, illustrates the man-made obstacles these mule deer must endure to continue this historic 150-mile route each year from summer to winter range. 

We should think about this Wyoming Migration Project every time we put up a fence or build a road.

Bird migrations kicking into gear

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The spring bird migration often subtly comes to our attention. Other times, it's obvious even to the casual observer.

Here's a head's up from the weekend by birder Terry Gray in the Palouse:

Today in east Moscow there were many American Robins (300+) and many RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS (100+) moving through.  Some of the male blackbirds were already perched on top of cattails singing for the girls!

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

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

Today, we look at Part 3: Birds.

Intro

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

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

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

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

Birds

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

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

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

Migrations Part 2: Fish can’t always go with flow

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Yesterday, in the Idaho Fish and Game Department's 75th anniversary series of "reminders"  on wildlife topics, I featured the first of a three-part post on migrations — Part 1:Mammals.

Today, we look at Part 2: Fish.

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

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

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

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

Fish

One of Idaho’s most dramatic wildlife migrations is its anadromous fish runs.

Salmon and steelhead travel from Idaho’s mountain streams to the ocean as juveniles, then return as adults to their home waters in Idaho to spawn. For sockeye and Chinook salmon this adds up to 1,800 river miles round trip.

Fish biologists have discovered that many other kinds of fish migrate as well, including bull trout, cutthroat and rainbow trout, suckers, to name a few. The three of the biggest obstacles to fish when they migrate are:

  • Culverts that allow a stream to flow under a road. They can become obstacles for fish passage if the water‘s energy lowers the downside river bed, creating an impassable barrier to fish going upstream. In other northwestern states, surveys have documented that the majority of road culverts may be partial or complete fish passage barriers.   
  • Unscreened water diversions that direct water into irrigation canals. They can also direct fish into the canals and onto farmers’ fields. This is called entrainment and in some instances can result in significant losses to native fish populations.
  • Dams installed for irrigation and power production. Many also block fish migrations.

Idaho Fish and Game works with private and public partners to reduce the impacts of these barriers for migrating fish. For water diversions, fish screens are installed to keep fish out of the canals. Problem culverts can be replaced with newer designs or replaced with bridges to allow fish passage.  

Although difficult and expensive, many dams can be retrofitted with fish ladders to allow safe passage of native fishes to spawning and rearing grounds. Some dams are too high for conventional fish ladders so alternative methods of providing passage must be explored like trapping and moving fish above the blockage.

Tomorrow, Part 3: Birds.

 

Migrations Part 1: Roadkill pegs critter movements

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Migrations are the topic of this week's wildlife story series Idaho Fish and Game is presenting online during the department's 75th anniversary observance.

In Part 1 of the three-part post of "reminders" on migrations, the department notes that mammal movements can be tracked, in part, by roadkill.

And while there are plenty of carcasses to remind us that wildlife is moving along North Idaho roads, the Panhandle's toll doesn't rank close to the carnage found along highways in other portions of the state.  Here's the first part of the IFG migrations post to raise awareness about issues facing wildlife:

Intro

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

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

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

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

Mammals

Wildlife and vehicle collisions are the most visible conflict between migrating wildlife and roads. More than 5,000 deer, elk and moose were killed by cars on Idaho’s roads in 2011.

Information is gathered through a Road Kill database. 

In known hotspots around Idaho up to 100 or more animals are killed crossing roads every year. Some of these include:

  • Interstate 15, between Pocatello and Inkom, cuts through a major deer migration corridor.
  • Highway 75 north of Salmon, where 55 bighorn sheep have been killed since 1986.
  • Highway 30, from east of Montpelier to Wyoming, where up to 6,000 deer and elk cross the road, has one of the worst wildlife road mortality rates in southeast Idaho.          
  • Highway 20 in the Island Park area is known for collisions with elk and moose.
  • Highway 95 from the Canadian border to just south of Coeur d’Alene where 900 animals, most of them white-tailed deer, were hit by cars in 2011.
  • Highway 21 northeast of Boise repeatedly crosses the primary migration route of up to 9,000 deer and elk in the Boise Mountains. Hundreds of deer and elk are hit every winter along this road.

Sometimes money, talent and motivation score a win for wildlife. Examples include the wildlife underpass on Highway 21 outside of Boise, another underpass recently built into Highway 95 just north of Coeur d’Alene, and wildlife fencing along Interstate 15 outside of Pocatello. 

Tomorrow, Part 2: Fish.

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.

Swan deaths: annual spring disgrace continues along CdA River

ENVIRONMENT – I received the following email from a reader this morning:

Last Sunday my wife and I were riding our bikes on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene's between Rose Lake and Harrison. Along the way, we saw what appeared to be a significant number of dead swans. I probably know the answer, but is it the heavy metals in the area that are the cause of their demise?

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is a paved rail trail over a corridor used for a century to transport the produce of mining prosperity and its toxic aftermath. One of the benefits of the conversion to a recreational trail is that it  exposes more eyes to the issue of heavy metals pollution still lingering in the Silver Valley.

The saddest indicators are the carcasess of 150 or so tundra swans that die slow, agonizing deaths in our backyard during their migration stopover on the Lower Coeur d’Alene River.

It’s not a pretty sight, but your head's in the sand if you don’t see the carnage and the reasons for it.

Read on.

Clouds of snow geese darken skies in Montana

WILDLIFE WATCHING — More than 50,000 snow geese have been resting at Freezeout Lake near Great Falls, Mont., on their annual spring migration.

Snow geese are the only waterfowl I know of that are hunted during spring migrations as part of an effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reduce the overpopulated birds and reduce the damage they've been doing for years to their arctic nesting areas. 

But because the geese travel in such large groups with so many wary eyes, the are difficult to hunt, and their populations have not been brought under control. 

Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson caught a relatively small group of the migrants in the air at Freezout that filled his frame.  Here's his observation:

They are back in force! Worth the trip if you like seeing large amounts of Snow Geese.
 
The hardest part for us is all of the other “Watchers”. We probably saw 25 or 30 other cars on a weekday.
 
The neat part about this image  is that when I took it, I could have taken 6 or 7 shots across and had the same amount of geese in the frame. Wow !

Migrating waterfowl making a buzz at Turnbull

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Migrating waterfowl are providing plenty of noise and action for birdwatchers visiting Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this week.   Here's today's report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:

For the past week there have been over 100 white swans on Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge's Cheever Lake. Mixed in are a few hundred northern pintail, wigeon, and mallards.  Common golden-eyes , hooded mergansers, buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, and  a few canvasbacks were also observed.  

Last year's nesting pair of trumpeter swans and their off spring have been hanging out in Middle Pine Lake.  Common snipe have been winnowing the last two mornings. 

In case you're not familiar with the northern pintail, it's a subtly-colored puddle duck species that ranks high in eye appeal and aerodynamics.  Here's a tip of the hat to The Designer, and to Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson for the photo reminder.

Ospreys don’t stop fishing after leaving for winter

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While bald eagles have move into the Lake Coeur d'Alene area for a winter feast of kokanee, the ospreys that put on a fishing show all summer long in the area left the area by early November and are migrating to warmer climates.

Last winter during a visit to Mexico, I observed dozens of osprey perched near a village on the Pacific Ocean side of Baja.  Indeed, they find as much bounty in saltwater as they do in Inland Northwest waters.

The video above shows detailed and instructive footage of ospreys fishing, including the underwater sequence of an osprey taking a flounder.

Ospreys normally begin returning to the Inland Northwest in late March.

See eBird data for Idaho for Osprey.

See eBird data for Washington for Osprey.

(“WA data are probably biased toward the west side of the state,” says INW birder Charles Swift.) 

WHERE DO OSPREYS GO?

Here's a blurb from Out & About on the S-R Outdoors page, Feb. 13, 2005:
 
COEUR D'ALENE OSPREY IN CUBA
 
An osprey hatched along the lower Coeur d'Alene River is basking in the tropical warmth of Cuba this winter.
 
The osprey is one of 20 hatchlings that were captured last summer in North Idaho so they could be introduced to South Dakota. Wayne Melquist, a North Idaho wildlife biologist and osprey expert, attached GPS devices to four of the 20 birds before they were put taken out of state as part of a migration research project.
 
The birds were put in man-made nests, called hack boxes, and fed until they fledged on their own.
 
“These birds didn't have any parents to tell them where to go for the winter, but that's true no matter what, since the parents naturally leave for the winter before their young do,” Melquist said.
 
Of the four chicks with transmitters, one is in the New Oreleans area and one got to the coast and then made a beeline for Cuba. Melquist is not sure at this point whether the other two are alive.

Festivals celebrate monarch butterflies fall migration

NATURE — If you're looking for a different sort of fall vacation, consider focusing on one of five national wildlife refuge hot spots for the Eastern population during the fall migration of monarch butterflies.

Every fall, monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles from as far north as Canada to overwinter in Mexico. When swarms of monarchs pause en route to rest and feed on nectar-bearing plants, admirers will be ready to see them blanket trees and shrubs in orange and black.  

See more details on both the East and West migrations.

Read on for more details about monarchs and some prime viewing spots in five states.

Where’s the love after birds fledge from nests?

BIRD WATCHING —  Bill Bender of Spokane treated his Facebook friends this summer to a 22-day photo documentary of the hatching and fledging of two hummingbird chicks. They were hatched in a nest built on a wind chime on the deck of his South Side home.

One of the birds left the nest on day 21, leaving the second chick to hang around one more day before fledging, with mamma rarely seen, he said.

Do birds form tight families that stick together through winter?  Some do, including the trumpeter swans that hatch at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

But species that stick together after the nesting season are rare.

Most young birds are on their own soon after they leave the nest. In fact, in many bird families, the parents migrate south long before their youngsters do, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

In the case of most species of hummingbirds, the female raises her offspring until they are out of the nest and able to feed themselves. A few weeks later, she disappears. The youngsters are left alone to fatten up for their long migratory flight to a place in the tropics where they have never been before, the federation says on its website.

They linger at the natal feeding grounds for several more weeks, sucking up as much nectar, sugar water and tiny insects as possible before heading south.

Report: many western species need room to roam

WILDLIFE — A conservation group is putting a Spotlight on wildlife migrations.

Wildlife Conservation Society report tracks migration routes in the West

In its new report, "Spectacular Migrations in the Western U.S.," (pdf) the Wildlife Conservation Society discusses the importance of maintaining ecologically intact corridors for migration.
—New York Times