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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.

  

Open house, guided hikes at Dishman Hills Saturday

CONSERVATION — Here's a prime opportunity to become acquainted or reacquainted with the Spokane Area's standout wild gem.

Members of the Dishman Hills Conservancy will be leading short hikes each hour, noon to 5 p.m., on Saturday, Jully 26, to help the public become familiar with the Spokane Valley natural area and see changes that are underway.

The open house activities will be based out of Camp Caro — south of Appleway on Sargent Road.

Ski area expansion prompts Mount Spokane land classification proposals

PUBLIC LANDS — Land classification proposals that could make or break a plan to expand the Mount Spokane alpine ski area will be presented at the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Thursday, July 24, in Bellingham.

In 2010, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park proposed expanding its ski area within the state park to provide more intermediate terrain needed to remain competitive. Conservation and wildlife groups have contested the expansion.

The ski area concession encompasses 1,425 acres of the 14,000-acre state park.

In 1999, land classifications were adopted for the park, but 850 acres was left unclassified in an area designated for potential alpine ski expansion.

The ski area has proposed installing a lift, which already has been purchased, and expanding skiing with seven new runs over nearly 280 acres of that area.

State Parks staff is releasing a report this week that proposes four land classification options. One of the options would designate the land a “natural forest area,” which would preclude any development and most recreation.

An environmental impact statement on the land classifications is to be released this week. Public comment will be taken through mid-August. The commission is scheduled to choose an option on Nov. 20.

The Lands Council based in Spokane plans to argue that the report has flaws, including the stance that the area does not include old growth forest.

“I guess we’re still in a little bit of a battle,” said Mike Peterson, executive director.


Documents:

Travel: Alaska cruise brings a tale of a whale

   I was standing in an alcove on an upper deck about to step out onto the deck of the Carnival cruise ship, the Miracle, when the doors opened and a family blew in. 

 

   A man and this three sons, each holding an ice-cream cone, lunged forward like the wind had reached out and given them each a shove. The youngest—maybe four years old, definitely no more than 5—was so full of big news he didn’t care that he didn’t know me. 

 

    He  ran up to me and said, “We saw the tail of a whale!”

 

    I was impressed. We’d left Seattle the afternoon before and it was just the first morning of our Alaska cruise. 

 

    “Is this true?” I asked his father. “Or is this just a whale of a tale?”

 

    The man laughed and said it was true. They’d been walking along the deck when the whale popped up and showed his fluke, his whale tail, before disappearing back into the sea.

 

    The little boy couldn’t contain himself.

 

     “The whale breathed up (his arms shot up in the air and the ice-cream wobbled on its cone) “and then he dived down like this” (he scooped his free hand up and then down) “and then his tail came up!”

    As an afterthought he added, “Daddy let us have ice cream for breakfast. 

 

    Wow. A wave from a whale and an ice cream cone for breakfast. The little boy had just described my perfect day.

 

    I asked the man if this was their first Alaska cruise and he said it was. He said they live in Texas and they’d come to see Alaska. And whales. They really wanted to see whales and here, just a day into the trip, they’d already had their own private show.

 

    Several years ago, after my first cruise up the Inside Passage, I decided I want to make the trip every summer. For the rest of my life, if I can swing it.  No two Alaska cruises are ever the same. People from around the world plan and save for years and travel a lot of miles to get there. But living in the Northwest, we’re already halfway there. It’s easy to get on a ship in Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia, to spend a week looking at some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. 

 

    I’m working on my Alaska-every-summer plan. This year I was solo but in the company of people of all ages: men, women and children—(lots of children) and large family groups, all ready to go see the sights. And we were off to a good start.

 

    The boy’s happiness was contagious. I looked at my watch. It was still early, they’d be serving breakfast for another couple of hours… I filled a cone with vanilla ice cream and stepped out onto the deck. The wind whipped my hair as I licked the cone and swept my eyes across the horizon.

 

    I’d already decided it wasn’t going to take much to turn this into a perfect day. I had my ice cream cone. Now all I needed was a glimpse of the tail of a whale. 

    And like the little boy, I didn’t have to wait long at all.

 

 

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

Send your kids to “wildlife” camp near Coeur d’Alene

NATURE — WREN, a Coeur d'Alene-based environmental education and conservation nonprofit organization, is accepting applications for its July 11-12 wildlife camp for youths ages 11-13.

The campers will meet in Coeur d'Alene before heading to wildlife education field trips in the lower Coeur d'Alene River chain lakes one day and Farragut State Park on the other.

Instructors are professional wildlife biologists and educators.  Fun, hands-on activities include field trips, live raptors, a butterfly survey and outdoor games. 

A living history presentation about the animals Lewis & Clark discovered and other features are new for this year’s camp.  Students will also explore wildlife tracking and bird identification.  They will learn how scientists study wild animals and their habitats.  

Pre-registration is required.  Cost: $75. 

Info:Jenny Taylor, (208) 755-4216. 

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

 

Fascinating funji delicate, pink; will it kill you?

NATURE — This week's damp June weather is a gift from God for mushroom gatherers, and Priest Lake is a hot spot for variety.

Indeed, Pecky Cox, producer of the everything-about-Priest Lake website, found this beauty in her neck of the woods on Wednesday.  Can you positively identify it? 

A coral mushroom?

Would you ask you readers,” she wrote. “It's not yellow like the other one. OK to eat? Smells like dirty socks the way it's supposed to… but pink-ish?”

Study: Midwest farming linked to decline of monarch butterflies

ENVIRONMENT — The Heartland is no longer the land of milkweed and honey for monarchs.

Study links farming methods in U.S. to rapid decline of Monarch butterflies
A new study published last week in the Journal of Animal Ecology said a change in farming practices in the Midwest of the United States that led to a rapid decline of milkweed, where monarch butterflies lay their eggs in the spring and summer, is tied to the marked decline in the number of the butterflies.
—Toronto Globe and Mail

Lone fawns rarely deserted by Mother Deerest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A wildlife population explosion takes place around this time every year and anyone can stumble onto a baby critter virtually anywhere outside. 

“Wild bird and mammal species typically produce young in the spring and early summer,” says Phil Cooper of the Idaho Fish and Game Department. “This allows the young to have time to gain the strength and size needed to survive the challenges of winter, or the rigors and dangers of fall migration.”

Wildlife managers make little attempt to hover and protect individual fawns and calves being born to deer, elk and moose this spring. Nature is geared to some surviving and some perishing to the benefit of other wildlife.

Wild animal newborns are particularly vulnerable to predators in the first few days of life until they are able to run or fly well enough to escape predation.

Predators such as wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, eagles, raccoons, skunks, weasels and other species need to eat to survive. Nature provides for them.

But nature shouldn't have to provide for domestic dogs and cats.

Pet owners can reduce wildlife injury or death to wild newborns during this critical period by keeping pets confined.  Although pets may have plenty of food available, their predatory instincts can take over when allowed to run at large. 

People also can help young wildlife by leaving them alone.

Every spring,  fish and wildlife agencies around the region receive several calls a day about deer fawns that people see, with no doe visible in the surrounding area, Cooper said.  Callers are often convinced that the fawn has been injured, abandoned or orphaned.

“While fawns are occasionally injured or orphaned, they are never abandoned,” he said.  “An adult doe has extremely strong parenting instincts and will not abandon a fawn.”

Wild parents often leave their offspring for long periods while they hunt or gather food.  A doe can leave her fawn hidden in the grass for eight hours until she determines the time is right to return and nurse.

Hanging around a fawn or calf you might discover in the field likely will likely push a doe or cow farther away and deter it from returning.

“IDFG has had fawns brought in by people who say, 'I stayed there and watched it all day, and the doe never came back,'” Cooper said. “Without realizing it, the presence of a person likely kept the doe in hiding.”

“If you find a seriously injured animal; or, in those extremely rare instances where you know with certainty that a wild animal has lost its parent, intervention may be appropriate.  Contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for instructions on the next step.”

It is illegal to confiscate young wildlife and attempt to raise them on your own, he said, noting that cute babies can become a burden or a danger to people as they mature.

First chick hatches under Sandpoint ‘osprey cam’

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

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

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

Idaho won’t kill ravens to save sage grouse, yet

WILDLIFE — Decisions, decisions.

Idaho delays plan to kill ravens to save sage grouse for a year
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services missed its deadline to complete an environmental review of Idaho's plan to kill up to 4,000 ravens to help increase the number of sage grouse in the state, and for that reason, the state cannot implement the plan until next year.
—Twin Falls Times-News

Moose-Palooza at Twin Lakes

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Ed Cairns had a great critter-watching experience at the upstream end of Twin Lakes near the Washington-Idaho border.

“Five moose eating and swimming in the video.
“Lots of birds, even a couple of Great Blue Herons…..one is sitting on the fence line at about 14 seconds into the video.
“I saw nine moose (one baby), three rabbits, one elk and several deer.”
  

Grizzly bear dies in fall in Glacier National Park

WILDLIFE WATCHING  — The death of a grizzly bear in Glacier National Park is a reminder to hikers and climbers that spring and summer trekking across steep snowfields can be hazardous.

 A member of the Glacier Park road crew found a male grizzly bear dead on Going-to-the-Sun Road on Thursday morning.

An initial investigation by the National Park Service indicated the bear, one of about 300 grizzlies in the park, probably fell onto the road from a steep snowbank.

A necropsy revealed the 190-pound bear suffered head injuries, broken ribs and other internal injuries consistent with a fall. Park officials say the terrain above where the bear fell includes a steep snowbank, some steep cliffs and a drop of approximately 12 feet.

Fawn photo: Big-game birthing season underway

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “This is the first fawn we’ve seen this year – we took a couple quick images and moved on – mom was still working on having another one!” says Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Wildlife officials in Washington, Idaho and Montana all are issuing reminders to leave fawns alone if you find one.  Even though they may seem abandoned, it's normal for whitetail or mule deer does to stash their fawns motionless in a hiding spot for up to 8 hours before returning to feed.

Video: Moose gives birth to twins in backyard

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “Only in Alaska,” says Levi Perry in posting a YouTube video of a cow moose giving birth to twins —  in the backyard of his girlfriend's home on the east-side of Anchorage.

The video captured Sunday by Victoria Hickey and Sarah Lochner recaps the birth of one calf and the loving attention of the mother to clean up the youngster. Minutes later you realize that while she was tending to the first-born, she was nonchalantly giving birth to the second calf.

It only takes minutes for her to get them looking clean. The little ones waste no time testing their legs and moving in for dinner.

Tiz the season of renewal! Wildlife watching at its best.

Volunteers invited to Turnbull Refuge planting party

PUBLIC LANDS — Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge and Spokane Audubon Society will host a community work party 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, May 10. This is part of an ongoing community effort to restore native riparian habitat to benefit birds and other wildlife species.

Hundreds of native saplings will be ready to plant, and fencing to build at the project site to protect the trees from deer, elk, and moose browsing. Everyone is welcome!

The Refuge will also host a potluck lunch.
  • Where: Turnbull NWR Headquarters, 5 miles south of Cheney on Cheney-Plaza Road: turn left on Smith Road and drive 2 miles on gravel road to headquarters.
  • Clothing: Long-sleeved shirt, work pants, sturdy boots or shoes, gloves.
  • Equipment: (If you can) shovels and pliers.

There’s a morel to this story

MUSHROOMING — Let's see, April's cool rainy weather has evolved to sunshine and warming.

It's prime time for mushrooming!

Hot spots, so to speak, for finding morel mushrooms are areas that have burned in the past few years.  But Ken Vanden Heuvel snapped the photo above on Tuesday in an unburned lowland forest area noting it's the first time he's seen a morel mushroom along a local trail he was hiking.  You never know.

Be advised that there are rules, both ethical and legal, governing mushroom picking.

The Dishman Hills Natural Area, for instance, is not open to mushrooming or removing any of the area's natural resources.  The urban nature preserve is protected as a conservancy for all to observe, study and enjoy. Removing the natural resources takes the experience away from everyone.

The Umatilla National Forest allows anyone to pick mushrooms. However, a permit is required if you transport more than one gallon in Oregon or more than five gallons in Washington.

Expert mushroomers who want to maintain the resource they enjoy year after year recommend carrying your mushrooms as you harvest them in a net bag to allow residual spores to spread for future mushroom production.

 

 

Readers photos capture the outdoor moment

PHOTOGRAPHY — Readers have shown their talents, outdoor savvy, enthusiasm and good humor with the photos they've submitted to our Outdoors Reader Photos Page.

The flurry of squirrel photos triggered by the submission (above) by Phil Hough of Sandpoint was a hoot.

Check out all of the great photos here, and get ready for May!

Spring showers bring out wildlife at snail’s pace

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This is what I get for sending my daughters to college in Western Washington, where rain brings out the wildlife.

What would you do in this situation? Bear spray or lemon-butter sauce?

Wyoming mule deer log longest migration

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Wyoming herd of about 500 mule deer travels 50 miles from the Red Desert to the southern end of the Wind River Range, where it joins about 5,000 more deer to walk another 100 miles. It is the longest recorded mule deer migration in the world, according to the Wyoming Migration Initiative.

The research, presented today at the University of Wyoming in Laramie is more evidence to support the importance of migration corridors for the survival of our wildlife, a cause for future-wise wildlife and sportsmen's groups for years. 

“Migration corridors and habitats where big game animals rest and forage during migration are critical pieces in a complex habitat puzzle that is key to the health of populations of mule deer and other big game animals,” said Ed Arnett, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Center for Responsible Energy Development. “If we do not safeguard all the pieces of that puzzle, including important habitats associated with migration, big game populations likely will decline and impact both our outdoor traditions and our hunting-based Western economy.”

The University of Wyoming's study and others like it will help point out the highest priority areas to target with conservation dollars for easements, habitat enhancement and other management  projects to best conserve these important areas for migration, he said.

  • The TRCP has proposed that the BLM should incorporate explicit language on big game migration corridors and associated habitats into its planning handbook to improve landscape planning and balance the needs of big game with energy development and other potential impacts

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.

Birder counts woodies galore

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The sight of a wood duck will brighten anyone's day.  That's why Wayne C. Weber of Delta, British Columbia, is probably wearing sun goggles this week.  Here's his birding report from April 15 in northcentral Washington:

While birding in northern Okanogan County, I made a brief stop at Nighthawk, on the Similkameen River west of Oroville. From the bridge across the Similkameen, I noticed quite a few Wood Ducks in the river and perched on the banks, so I stopped to make an exact count. In three counts of the Wood Ducks, the number kept going up; my final count was 91 birds!  Most of these were perched along the riverbank from the bridge downstream for about 400 yards, and a small number were actually swimming in the river. There were about equal numbers of males and females.

This is easily the largest group of Wood Ducks I have ever seen in Washington. (The previous high count for Okanogan County in eBird was 20 birds!) Although I’m sure a few Wood Ducks breed along the Similkameen River backwaters near Nighthawk such as Champneys Slough, I suspect that this was a migratory concentration.  Whatever the reason for this aggregation of Wood Ducks, it was impressive!

Yellowstone Park roads opening to vehicles

PARKS – Snowplows at Yellowstone National Park opened the main road into Old Faithful over the weekend, marking the beginning of the spring tourist season.

The East Entrance is scheduled to open May 2 and the South Entrance May 9. 

National Arbor Day: Plant a tree!

Photo: Seedlings grown at Arbor Day Farm are ready to be sent to new Arbor Day Foundation members 

     I call the Hawthorn tree outside the window my “weather tree.” If it has leaves, it is summer. If the leaves are wet, it is raining. If it has berries, it is fall. If there is snow on the branches, it is winter. If the limbs are edged with tiny green buds, it is spring. 

    Countless times each day as I work, I glance up at the tree, noticing the way the birds are dancing in the branches or the wind has set it in motion. March can’t make up its mind, but April starts the short season of spring in the Northwest. Flowers bloom, trees, like my Hawthorn, bud out, grass begins to grow again, sending pale green blades up through the dead leaves and other detritus of the previous fall and winter. Tulips wake up and jonquils bloom. April stirs a body. It makes you want to go out and plant things. Like a tree.

    April also brings Arbor Day and countless tiny tree seedlings packaged to be given away to school children across the country, always with the same exhortation: Plant trees! 

    Last fall I visited Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and the sight of tables full of plastic tubes filled with miniature Blue Spruce, White Pine and other species being packed to ship out to new Arbor Day Foundation members, brought back the excitement of being a child given the gift of a tree, and the way we felt important as we planted the spindly seedlings in the back yard. 

    I walked the grounds of the teaching farm, through the Hazelnut grove, through the orchard, sampling heirloom apples, and I was reminded of the importance of trees in my own history. 

    My grandfather was a naturalist and often pulled one of his tree-identification books from the bookshelf to show me an illustration. He kept a mental inventory of beautiful or rare trees he discovered as he drove the back roads of the deep south. I remember him pulling over and stopping the car to show me a tall Dawn Redwood in the neighborhood. He pointed to the tangled branches of the Monkey Puzzle tree in the yard of a grand old house at the edge of town. When the majestic Ginkgo trees at the small private college with which he was affiliated turned to gold, he took me to see them, waiting patiently while I gathered a handful of delicate heart and fan-shaped leaves that had fallen. One year he gave me a small Ginkgo. I planted it, moved it twice, and then finally left it behind as I moved away forever. As far as I know it is still there, an unmarked legacy to a man who loved nature and loved me.

    When I moved west to Spokane I immediately visited the city’s “tree garden,” the 56 acres of trees and shrubs at Finch Arboretum just west of downtown. I still go there sometimes. It is an excellent place to wander. 

    While I was at Arbor Day Farm, my daughter and son-in-law were in the process of buying their first home. I decided I would give them an Arbor Day Foundation membership as a housewarming gift so they could plant the 10 free trees that come with the membership in their new backyard. My son, another nature-lover who grew up to be the kind of man my grandfather would approve of, spent the winter studying the history and properties of that most majestic tree, the Douglas Fir. I decided he needed a membership as well and I know he will happily plant his ten tiny firs on the property surrounding his mountain cabin. I am intrigued by the foundation’s work on sustainable hazelnut farming as a way to provide nutrition and combat the effects of climate change. Joining that charter will give me three hazelnut bushes of my own.

    I still have a box of old photos that belonged to my grandparents and there are one or two faded, unmarked, photographs of trees that must have caught his eye for one reason or another. Looking at them I remember they were taken before cell phone cameras, that he didn’t just drive by and snap a photo the way I do now. He would have had to make a trip with a camera. Then the film or slide would have to be developed. This wasn’t a whim. It was a compulsion.

    I thought of that when I came across an old Arbor Day poster. It stated “Trees prevent wind erosion. They save moisture and protect crops.” True. But it was what was written after that that grabbed my attention and resonated in me. “Trees,” the poster declared, “contribute to human comfort and happiness.” And they do. 

    Beyond the indisputable environmental impact, there is an intimate connection between trees and the human spirit. Looking up at the constantly-changing sky through the branches of a tree, feeling the texture of the bark against our fingertips, breathing in the organic perfume of a living thing, we’re moved in subtle ways we don’t always stop to recognize. 

    Sometimes, like the Hawthorn outside my window, they simply remind us that there is a rhythm to life, a cycle of seasons that come and go and come again.

Note: National Arbor day is the last Friday in April but each state can set its own day. In Spokane, Arbor Day events will be held on Saturday, April 26.

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

 

Photo: five cougars near Newman Lake home

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Ken Vanden Heuvel got a big surprise when he checked out the photos on the trail cam that's pointed down the driveway of his Newman Lake-area home.

Check it out closely:  1, 2, 3, 4 — 5 cougars in one shot.

Time to keep the dog in the house!

  • Even more impressive is the photo I published in 2010 with the story about about the Wenatchee hunter who captured a pride of EIGHT mountain lions in ONE trail cam photo.  See the story and photo here.

Video: duckling is breakfast for northern pike

WILDLIFE — Being cute is no defense in the harsh world of nature.

When a northern pike zeroes in on a duckling, there isn't much a mother can do.

UI summer science camps let nature be teacher

NATURE — The University of Idaho is offering summer science camps that allow youths grades 6 through 11 to go outdoors for hands-on discovery.

Enrollment is open for students interested in spending a week The McCall Outdoor Science School on the shores of Payette Lake learning from University of Idaho graduate students, exploring the mountains, lakes and rivers of central Idaho and releasing their inner scientist.

  • River Science Boys’ Expedition: June 22-27, Grades 6-9, $387.50
  • W.O.W.S. (Women Outdoor with Science): July 6-11, Grades 6-11, $387.50

These are five-day field science expeditions where students explore the rugged Idaho mountains, go whitewater rafting and learn what university climate, water and alternative energy researchers are studying.

  • Beyond MOSS: July 13-18, Grades 6-9, $297.50

This five-day program goes beyond the school year MOSS program for those who have been to MOSS or who will be coming soon.

  • Adventure Day Camp: June 17-August 1; Grades 3-5 and 6-9, Cost varies

This day camp focuses on learning, playing and enjoying nature while letting imagination drive discovery.

The McCall Outdoor Science School is an outreach of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources. The residential science school engages Idaho students in year-round learning through our school partnerships. The college also hosts an on-site graduate program for university students who serve as teachers while working towards their graduate degrees.

Video: What it’s like to walk into a rattlesnake den

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spring and fall are the best times to find rattlesnakes congregated by a den, if you happen to stumble upon one.

Montana resident Michael Delaney took this video — clearly he was wearing leather boots and chaps — and offered this insight:

The den is only about 1/2 mile from our house, and we just came across it one time. The best times to find them at the den are in the spring when they're coming out and in the fall when they're going back in. During other times of the year you usually won't see anything there. Then den is right next to a tall creek bank, I think they use the cracks and holes from erosion as their den. 

IF YOU'RE SQUEAMISH about snakes, do yourself a favor and don't watch this video.

I post this to illustrate what you could walk into in portions of Eastern Washington and Idaho… and why you would want to back out immediately.

Video: motorist sees elk herd from wolf’s perspective

UPDATED April 10 with background about video, which went viral after the initial posting. 

WILDLIFE — Watch this video of a massive elk herd crossing a road near Bozeman, Mont., and envision which of these critters you'd zero in on if you were a predator.

Read on for the story behind the video.