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Idaho offers mentored youth waterfowl hunts, clinics

HUNTING — Mentored waterfowl hunting opportunities for 10- to 15-year-old licensed hunters have been scheduled this month by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Silver Valley Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. 

The hunts and associated activities are planned for Sept. 27, the opening day of the annual youth-only waterfowl season. 

The youth season offers novice hunters under age 16 the first shot at locally produced waterfowl that become more wary of hunters and decoys by the time the general seasons open in October.

Participants should sign up early for limited space in the following hunts:

  •  Northern Panhandle Clinic, Boundary Creek Wildlife Management Area northwest of Bonners Ferry.
  • Central Panhandle Clinic, Pend Oreille Wildlife Management Area east of Sandpoint at the Pack River Delta. 
  • Southern Panhandle Clinic, Heyburn State Park northwest of St. Maries.
  • Silver Valley DU event near Cataldo Mission.

Following the hunts, a free lunch will be provided at each location and the mentors will be available to visit and provide their expertise on waterfowl hunting techniques and waterfowl management.

Young hunters must accompanied by a non-hunting adult and bring a shotgun and ammunition.

  • Sign up:  For the three IDFG hunts, call (208) 769-1414.  For the Silver Valley DU hunt, contact Mike Markus (208-512-3697), or email  mmarkus@lovingcarehomehealth.com.

IDFG has a limited number of shotguns that can be borrowed if requested. 

A  preliminary shotgun skills clinic will be offered to the all of the participants. Shooting instructors will be available at the Farragut Shooting Range on Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. IDFG will provide 20 clay targets and assistance for each participant.

Waterfowl hunters under 16 must purchase a youth small game license for $7.25 with a migratory bird validation, $1.75. Federal duck stamps are not required for hunters until age16.

Hunting Passports do not work for this event, as completion of a hunter education program is required to participate.

“Hunting ducks takes a level of knowledge that can best be obtained through experience,” said Phil Cooper, IDFG spokesman. “The idea behind these mentored hunts is to provide the young participants and their parent (or legal guardian) the opportunity to be paired with an experienced waterfowl hunter who can show them how to hunt ducks and geese.

“This quality hunting experience is intended to provide the youth and their guardian the training needed to repeat the experience on their own.”

Idaho sets waterfowl hunting seasons

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has approved waterfowl hunting seasons and limits for 2014-2015.

The upcoming season should be productive as waterfowl populations are thriving in North America, Idaho wildlife managers confirm.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes frameworks for season setting, and within that framework, Idaho Fish and Game will allow hunters to enjoy the maximum number of hunting days and the maximum bag limits allowed under that framework during the 2014-2015 season.

Idaho waterfowl hunters will enjoy a 107 day season for ducks and Canada geese, under the following schedule:

Youth Waterfowl Season: September 27 and 28 statewide.

Duck Seasons:

  • Zone 1: October 4, 2014 to January 16, 2015
  • Zones 2 and 3: October 11, 2014 to January 23, 2015

Scaup Seasons:

  • Zone 1: October 25, 2014 to January 16, 2015
  • Zones 2 and 3: November 1, 2014 to January 23, 2015

Canada Goose Seasons:

  • Zone 1: October 4, 2014 to January 16, 2015
  • Zones 2 and 3: October 11, 2014 to January 23, 2014

White-fronted Goose Seasons:

  • Zone 1: October 4, 2014 to January 16, 2015
  • Zone 2: October 11, 2014 to January 23, 2015
  • Zone 3: November 10, 2014 to February 22, 2015

White Goose Seasons:

  • Zone 1: October 4, 2014 to January 16, 2015
  • Zone 2: October 29, 2014 to January 16, 2015 and February 14, 2015 to March 10, 2015
  • Zone 3: November 26, 2014 to March 10, 2015
  • Zone 4: October 11, 2014 to January 23, 2015

Daily bag limit for ducks will be 7 with the following exceptions:

  • Not more than two female mallards
  • Not more than three scaup
  • Not more than two redheads
  • Not more than two pintails
  • Not more than one canvasback

Daily bag limits for geese are as follows:

  • Canada geese: 4
  • White-fronted geese: 10
  • White geese: 20

Season and rules brochures will be available by mid-September at all license vendors, Fish and Game offices, and on Fish and Game’s website.

 

Apply by Friday for Turnbull Refuge youth waterfowl hunts

WATERFOWLING — Youths up to age 16 who've passed their hunter education requirements have until Friday, Aug. 15, to enter a drawing for a blind in the 2014 Youth Waterfowl Hunt at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service will open up to eight hunting blinds at the Cheney-area refuge to a limited-entry hunt during Washington's Sept. 20-21 youth-only waterfowl season.

Two hunters under the age of 16 and the accompanying non-hunting adults (at least 18 years of age) will be allowed at each site.

Hunters will be selected by a random drawing. Applications, one per hunter, are being accepted at the Refuge or by mail through Friday.

Submit applications on a standard U.S. Postal Service postcard and include the youth’s full name, address and telephone
 number.

Youths may apply with a youth friend or youth sibling on the same application.

Mail postcards to Refuge Manager, Turnbull NWR, 26010 S. Smith Road, Cheney, WA, 99004.

Drawing results will be posted on the Refuge website and letters of confirmation and a youth waterfowl hunt brochure will be mailed to selected youths by the end of August.

A workshop will be held in partnership with the Spokane Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association to select hunting sites and provide waterfowl identification and hunting tips on the Saturday prior to the hunt.

Youths under 16 need a state hunting license and migratory bird validation but not a federal migratory waterfowl stamp.

Info: Turnbull Refuge headquarters, (509) 235-4723.

Washington waterfowl seasons set; elk hoof disease updated

HUNTING — With a record number of ducks counted on the northern breeding grounds this year, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved migratory waterfowl hunting seasons for this fall and winter during a public meeting in Olympia Aug. 8-9.

The commission also approved a new regulation that requires hunters to leave on site the hooves of any elk taken in southwest Washington to help minimize the spread of a disease that affects the region’s herds.

Under the waterfowl hunting package, most hunting opportunities in Washington will be similar to last year. That includes a statewide duck season that will be open for 107 days, starting Oct. 11-15 and continuing Oct. 18-Jan. 25. A special youth hunting weekend also is scheduled Sept. 20-21.

Limits for mallard, pintail, scaup, redhead, goldeneye, harlequin, scoter and long-tailed duck will remain the same as last season. But the commission reduced the daily bag limit for canvasback to one per day because of decreasing numbers throughout North America.

Goose hunting seasons will vary among management areas across the state, but most open mid-October and run through late January. Limits for most geese did not change, except the commission did increase the daily bag limit for cackling geese in southwest Washington from three to four.

The commission also increased the overall harvest quota for dusky Canada geese in southwest Washington from 45 to 85 birds. As in previous years, hunters are limited to one dusky Canada goose a season in southwest Washington.   

The goose and duck hunting seasons approved by the commission are based on state and federal waterfowl population estimates and guidelines. According to those estimates, a record number of ducks – approximately 49 million – were on the breeding grounds this spring in Canada and the United States.

In other action, the commission approved several land transactions, including the purchase of two parcels totaling nearly 2,900 acres of shrub-steppe in Yakima County. The land, located about five miles west of Naches, serves as critical habitat for a variety of wildlife, and is an important connection between summer and winter range for the Yakima elk herd.

The two parcels will be acquired through a partnership with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cowiche Canyon Conservancy and the state Department of Ecology (DOE). The 2,588-acre property will be purchased for $1.38 million, while a 305-acre property will cost $170,000.

DOE and the Kennewick Irrigation District are providing the funding to acquire the two parcels to mitigate for the loss of shrub-steppe habitat that was converted to agricultural land. The properties will be managed as part of WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area.

Department director Phil Anderson said a proposed acquisition in Asotin County has been tabled.

The commission also received a briefing on a scientific panel’s determination that the disease that leaves elk in the St. Helens and Willapa Hills areas of southwest Washington with misshapen hooves likely involves a type of bacterial infection.

Members of the panel, composed of veterinarians and researchers throughout the state, agreed that the disease closely resembles contagious ovine digital dermatitis in sheep. The panel's diagnosis is consistent with the findings of the USDA National Animal Disease Center and four other independent diagnostic laboratories that have tested samples of elk hooves submitted by WDFW since last year.

In other business, the commission conducted public hearings on the 2015-2021 Game Management Plan and proposed updates to the state Hydraulic Code.

The commission also received briefings on the department’s legislative proposals for 2015, proposed 2015-2017 operating and capital budget requests, gray wolf status and new potential revenue sources.

The commission was briefed on the impacts of a possible reduction in state General Funds. The potential cuts are in response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s directive to state agencies to prioritize their activities and identify reductions totaling 15 percent.

Artist’s passion for wood decoys, waterfowling displayed at GU

WATERFOWLING — Hand-carved waterfowl decoys — pretty to see and effective for hunting — are on display through Sept. 13 at Gonzaga University.

  • Artist Frank Werner of St. Maries, Idaho, will give a public lecture, “An Art of Deception,” about his decoys and his passion for using them at 4 p.m. Friday, June 27, at GU's Jundt Art Museum’s Arcade Gallery. “I'll be talking about decoys, how they fit in the art world, how hunting has influence the art world. with visuals showing how they are part of the American Culture,” he said.

The exhibition is part of the museum’s “Close-In” series of summer exhibitions highlighting the work of regional artists.

Werner, a retired U.S. Marine Corps master sergeant who was born in New York City, is recognized as a master decoy carver whose been carving decoys and hunting with them since 1974. His work has been shown in more than 50 exhibitions since 1984.

He describes his decoys as “strongly gridded, post-modern pieces,” but he emphasizes they are utilitarian first and are not solely decorative.

His elegantly sculpted waterfowl are positioned in attitudes that are typical to their activities: perching, standing, and feeding. No matter how aesthetically pleasing, “duck decoys are meant to deceive,” he says.

Intended for their practical use in the water, the display “cases” in the exhibition are only temporary homes until the next hunting season.

Werner has written and lectured about decoys, folk art, carving competitions, hunting, collecting, and the debate of art vs. artifact.

The museum’s exhibitions are free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The museum is closed Sundays and University holidays. Info: (509) 313-6843.

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!

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.

Goose on the lookout — for what?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Canada geese generally nest on the ground. However, they also will nest in cliffs and high in trees, usually by taking over an existing nest, such as one built by a great blue heron. 

This goose, however, appears to be a (large) duck outta water.

Reports Jim Kershner, who snapped the photo Tuesday on the South Hill Bluff trails overlooking Hangman Creek:

Yes, that's a Canada goose sitting way up on a snag. No, I have no idea why. I don't think the goose knew either.

Snow geese make for cool visit to Slavin trails

WILDLIFE — Many hikers sense that this is prime time to hit the trails in the Slavin Conservation Area — one of the open spaces preserved through the Spokane Conservation Futures Program.   But they're not exactly sure why.

The trained eyes and ears of birder Jon Isacoff documented 45 species of birds this morning at Slavin, which is just south of Spokane off U.S. 195.

His observations and lists offer insight to the sights and sounds that tingle our senses during a visit.

Nice bright morning at Slavin Ranch.  All the usual waterfowl was there.  Highlight was 6 SNOW GEESE, generally tough to find in Spokane County.  Other noteworthy recent arrivals (at location): CINAMMON TEAL and RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER.  Was unable to locate the Northern Pygmy Owl reported at this location on eBird earlier this year. 

Full checklist below.

 

Conservation banquets set for Ducks Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation

CONSERVATION — Members of two important wildlife conservation groups have set their annual fundraisers in Spokane:

Mule Deer Foundation, April 5, Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Dinner, auction, games.

Ducks Unlimited, April 10, Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Dinner, auction, shotgun raffle.

  • Sign-up: ducks.org.
  • Info: (509) 435-6450. 

Duck hunters can relate to this

HUNTING — Washington's duck hunting seasons end on Sunday, Jan. 26.  It's time to get nostalgic.

It isn’t August, but winter sports need precipitation, too

WINTER SPORTS — Ski resorts are the obvious beneficiaries from a good dump of snow, and perhaps the most public insight into the economic importance of a steadily building snowpack through winter.

Farmers, river rafters, hydropower operators and many more interests are keeping their eye on the lack of precip that's leaving the region mostly brown.

Under the general radar, duck hunters and steelheaders, in particular, are sizing up the the dry, mild weather that marked the end of 2013 as a giant bummer.

“Dry, calm weather is nice, but it doesn’t make for great duck hunting conditions,” said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Ducks like water, and that is in short supply in the fields around the state.”

A good downpour would also improve fishing for winter steelhead on the Columbia River and elsewhere around the state, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist based in Vancouver, Wash.

“Salmon and steelhead get active and move upriver when rivers and streams rise,” Hymer said. “A lot of anglers would welcome a good hard rain, the sooner the better.”

Statewide waterfowl seasons run through Jan. 26, while steelhead seasons vary by area, as described in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet.

Idaho simplifies waterfowl shooting hours

HUNTING — With waterfowl seasons opening Saturday, Idaho hunters are noticing that a table of official hunting hours, which change during the season, are no longer published in the Idaho Fish and Game Department's waterfowl hunting regulations pamphlet. 

That's because the legal shooting hours have been simplified to one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Waterfowl hunters can find sunrise and sunset hours for the area they will be hunting in newspapers and various online sources, including this site.

In addition, a chart of shooting hours is available on the waterfowl page on the fish and Game website

But if you're like me and  still want something on paper you can keep in your pickup, look for the Shooting Hours pamphlet available at license vendors and Fish and Game offices.

 

Hunting, fishing options could expand on 26 national wildlife refuges

HUNTING — The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge in North Idaho and the Willapa Refuge in Western Washington are among 20 federal refuges that could see hunting opportunities expanded under a proposal released today by Interior Sally Jewell.

In addition, six refuges in four states would be opened to hunting for the first time.

While waterfowl hunting already is allowed at the Kootenai Refuge near Bonners Ferrry, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department plans to also allow limited upland bird hunting.

“Sportsmen and women were a major driving force behind the creation and expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System more than a century ago and continue to be some of its strongest supporters, especially through their volunteer work and financial contributions,” Jewell said in a statement released today. “Keeping our hunting and angling heritage strong by providing more opportunities on our refuges will not only help raise up a new generation of conservationists, but also support local businesses and create jobs in local communities.”

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation where they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission.

Controlled elk hunts debuted in 2010 at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney geared primarily to reducing the habitat damage being caused by the growing herd. The refuge also hosts a limited number of youth hunters in designated blinds for Washington's special two-day youth waterfowl hunting season in September.

Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 329 national wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges. Find specifics for each refuge here.

“After careful consideration and review from the Service, this proposal represents one of the largest expansions of hunting and fishing opportunities on wildlife refuges in recent years,” said Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director.

Read on for details on the 26 refuges involved in the proposal.

DU plans treat for youth waterfowlers Sept. 21

HUNTING — Ducks Unlimited is offering a barbecue lunch for youth waterfowl hunters and their parents/chaperones at Mar Don Resort, Potholes Reservoir, on Youth Waterfowl Hunt Day, Saturday, Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Each of the first 48 youth, who is registered online ($5 fee) on or before Sept. 19 – will receive a bbq lunch,  a “duck hunter’s bucket”, Haydel duck call and lanyard, and a gun tool, all donated by Colonel Tom O’Dell, of Moses Lake.  DU has donated a duck identification poster, DU duck call and cap for each young hunter, as well, while Kraft Foods has donated a snack pack for each youth.

Please visit the DU website,  , or, the specific address is: to

Sign up here.

The fee is $10 for the parent/chaperone, who accompany the youth, and they will be fed, too!

An anonymous donor is buying a Greenwing (youth) membership for each of the first 48 who sign up.

Mike Nilsen, WA State DU Chairman-Elect is coordinating the event.  Mike is a career Navy NCO, who is working with Col. O’Dell to make this happen for our young hunters.

Sept. 21-22 is the special youth only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season, which gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters. Check WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet for details.

Sign up for Idaho youth waterfowl hunting day

HUNTING — Three mentored waterfowl hunting opportunities for youth aged 10-15 are being organized for Sept. 28, the opening day of Idaho's youth-only waterfowl hunting season. 

The mentored hunting clinics, sponsored by the Idaho Fish and Game Department and sportsmens groups, take advantage of this special season, before the birds become scattered and wary, to teach youngsters basic hunting skills and giving them a shot at their first ducks.

Clinics will be held at the Boundary Creek Wildlife Management Area west of Bonners Ferry, Heyburn State Park west of St. Maries, and the Clark Fork River delta.

Clinics are free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required:

  • For the Boundary Creek and Heyburn hunts, contact Dave Leptich or JJ Teare, (208) 769-1414.
  • For the Clark Fork hunt contact Ray Millard, (208) 264-5252.

Read on for more details:

Details of Washington waterfowl seasons changed

HUNTING — Amendments to some of the fine print on Washington's 2013-2014 waterfowl hunting seasons have been made by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and posted on the state agency's website. The changes include changes in limits for ducks such as canvasbacks and scaup and details about goose seasons.

Click here to see the final regulations and a Concise Explanatory Statement that describes the changes the Commission has made to these regulations. 

The Commission also extended the comment period for proposed Wildlife Interaction Rules to Sept. 20The rule involves mitigating wolf-human conflicts.  Submit comments to: Wildthing@dfw.wa.gov.

Idaho sets waterfowl hunting seasons

HUNTING — Idaho's 2013-2014 waterfowl hunting seasons will include 105 days and a two-day youth hunt, along with some changes in goose seasons and limits, according to action by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Monday.

The number of geese that can be taken in light-geese zones has been doubled to 20 birds a day.

Idaho's waterfowl seasons will open with a two-day youth hunt, Sept. 28-29, for licensed hunters ages 10 to 15.

Duck and Canada goose seasons in the Panhandle and most of the state will run Oct. 12 - Jan. 24, with scaup seasons from Nov. 2 - Jan. 24.

In the area around American Falls Reservoir the seasons will run from Oct. 5 to Jan. 17, with scaup seasons from Oct. 26 to Jan. 17.

The daily bag limit is seven ducks – but no more than two female mallards, two redheads, three scaup, two pintails and two canvasbacks – and four Canada geese.

New this year, the white-fronted goose season was separated from Canada geese to accommodate white-fronted goose hunting opportunities in the southwest part of the state. But during the time the white-fronted goose and light-goose seasons occur at the same time, the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns would not be allowed.

  • Washington's migratory waterfowl hunters will have a general duck season open for 107 days — Oct. 12 - 16 and Oct. 19 - Jan. 26. The youth hunting weekend is set for Sept. 21-22. Surveys in the Pacific Flyway show duck populations are near long-term averages, while goose populations are generally at or above management goals.

Read on for more details about Idaho's upcoming goose hunting seasons:

Commission sets waterfowl seasons, protects octopus

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during its meeting in Olympia today set 2013-14 waterfowl seasons, extended protections for octopus in Puget  Sound, approved land transactions and heard testimony on rules for interactions with wildlife including wolves.

Specifically, the commission:

  • Established the 2013-14 hunting seasons for migratory waterfowl.  The general duck season will be open for 107 days – from Oct. 12 through 16 and from Oct. 19 through Jan. 26. A special youth hunting weekend will take place Sept. 21 and 22.  WDFW Wildlife Program staff members said surveys in the Pacific Flyway show duck populations are near long-term averages, while goose populations are generally at or above management goals.
  • Approved seven land acquisitions – five purchases and two conservations easements – for parcels ranging from 1.3 to 191.4 acres in Pacific and Okanogan counties.  Each parcel is either adjacent to existing state wildlife lands or surrounded by other publicly owned land, said WDFW Director Phil Anderson.  The Pacific County acquisitions will help WDFW preserve and restore salmon habitat.  The Okanogan transactions will protect shrub-steppe habitat, mule deer winter range, and migration corridors used by deer, bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
  • Took public testimony on several proposed amendments to wildlife interaction rules that are designed to implement actions by the 2013 Legislature and to ensure the WDFW administrative rules are consistent with the department’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.  The amendments include a proposal that would make permanent an emergency rule adopted earlier this year, which permits ranchers, farmers, and other pet and livestock owners in the eastern third of the state to kill a wolf that is attacking their animals.  The commission will accept written public comments through Friday, Sept. 20, and is scheduled to adopt the regulations later in the fall.
  • Extended protections for giant Pacific octopuses in Puget Sound  by prohibiting the recreational harvest of the species at seven popular scuba diving sites from Whidbey Island to Tacoma.

 

Geese fouling Lewiston-Clarkston beaches

WILDLIFE — Asotin resident Charlotte Tuttle detoured from the usual Asotin County Commissioners meeting Monday to let them know what's on the mind — and feet — of people visiting parks along the Snake River near Lewiston and Clarkston:

“We’ve got goose poop up to our ankles and mandates up to our eyeballs,” Tuttle said, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

Tuttle said there are so many geese along the river near Swallows Park that people can no longer swim at the park or walk on the bike path without encountering gobs of goose waste.

Butch Aiken - emergency services director for the county - said anytime there’s a trouble-making goose in the Seattle-Tacoma area, it’s brought to eastern Washington, and now those geese are causing problems on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property near the river.

Children cannot swim at Swallows Park because it’s contaminated by the geese, Aiken said.

Residents asked the commissioners to explore possible solutions, such as allowing people to hunt geese during a certain time period.

“It’s worth looking into,” said Asotin County Commissioner Jim Fuller.

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.

Canada geese sign off for the evening; Landers, too

WATERFOWL — I'm thankful for today and looking forward to tomorrow, just as these goslings appeared to be saying at last light on Thursday, photographed by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Spokane’s Downtown “Duck Man” a shining star of spring memories

WILDLIFE — Among the urban wildlife spectacles that stand out in Spokane's history, it's tough to beat the Duck Man's help in usering a brood of ducklings from their nest at Sterling Savings Bank to the water in Riverfront Park.

Joel Armstrong made some good catches in the May 16, 2009 episode  as he helped the mallard mother parade her 12 ducklings down the Lilac Parade route — just shortly before the parade started.

Video of the event rightly made national news, above.

Kudos to the bank, which stepped up and turned the event into a windfall for waterfowl at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Birder spots rare Baikal teal near Missoula

BIRDING — “As soon as I looked at it closer, I knew right away it was a Baikal teal,” said Western Montana birder Radd Icenoggle. “There have only been 11 or 12 of them spotted in the continental U.S. south of Alaska.”

He immediately going online Sunday night with his photo and observations of the rare sighting — in an irrigation ditch.

Like the storm that blew in last weekend, he created a flurry of activity among birders who wanted to bag a life-list bird they'd otherwise have to travel to another continent to see.

The male Baikal teal is unmistakable, with its striking green nape and its long-dropping dark scapular feathers. It breeds in eastern Russia and winters in eastern Asia.

Read on for the story from the Missoulian.

Ducks Unlimited to honor Whitman County landowner

CONSERVATION – The Spokane chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fundraising banquet April 11 at the Lincoln Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Bob Zorb of Spokane and St. John, who was unable to travel for the national ceremony in Washington, D.C, will receive DU’s national private lands conservationist of the year award at this Spokane event.

Get tickets online at ducks.org/washington.

Sandhill Crane Festival set with birds, speakers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Organizers have assembled a collection of field trips and speakers while nature is supplying the wildlife for the 16th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival.  Sign up in advance on the website; many activities fill quickly.

Events kick off Friday (April 5) with boat tours on Potholes Reservoir and a “biking for cranes” tour.

Saturday’s events include tours of burrowing owl/ground squirrel habitat, tours that feature geology shaped by prehistoric flooding, tours of prime crane viewing locations, and dozens of lectures at Othello High School. Lecture topics this year will cover everything from crane biology to wildlife photography.

  • Idie Ulsh, master birder and former president of Seattle Audbon, will be the banquet speaker on Saturday night during the silent auction. 

Vendors, children’s activities, and the opportunity to view raptors up close and in person will be also available throughout the day on Saturday. More tours will be available on Sunday.

The Othello farming community plays a central role in supporting crane migration each year. Cranes and other migrating birds feast on corn and grain left over from last year’s harvest, and some fields are left open through the migration season to allow birds the chance to rest during their travels.

Celebrities flock in for Othello Sandhill Crane Festival

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The headline attraction at the annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival has already arrived for the April 5-7 series of programs, field trips and banquets based out of Othello and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

More than 1,000 sandhill cranes were at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge last weekend, said Spokane outdoor photographer Craig Goodwin.

Of course, plent of other birds, including long-billed curlews, and waterfowl, are enjoyed by viewers on festival field trips.

Spring gets slow start for birders near Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As spring returns to northeastern Washington, Mike Munts, wildlife biologist at the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge has resumed his periodic updates on refuge wildlife watching.

“It has been a bit of slow start,” he reported Sunday. T”he lakes and ponds are just starting to break up but the river has mostly thawed and Hatch Lake on the drive out from Colville is opening up so it should not be too much longer here.

“Temperatures have in the 50s the last couple of days and birds are starting to trickle in.”

One notable species seen this weekend is a white-winged crossbill.

Click continued ready for Munts' list of birds seen on the refuge in the past two weeks:

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.