Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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.
- Idaho's St. Joe River also is host to summering harlequin ducks, especially up the Marble Creek tributary.
Read on for more detals about the harlequins.
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.
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.
- But I think the moment was captured even better by the video slide show of still photos by S-R photographer Jesse Tinsley.
Kudos to the bank, which stepped up and turned the event into a windfall for waterfowl at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.
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.
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.
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.
- Dr. Richard Johnson, an ornithologist from WSU, is the featured speaker on Friday night.
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.
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.
Of course, plent of other birds, including long-billed curlews, and waterfowl, are enjoyed by viewers on festival field trips.
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:
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 !
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.
WILDLIFE — Just a few years ago we were amazed to see a single Trumpeter swan return Solo year after year, decade after decade at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.
That old bird left his mark. After finally mating and producing a few broods, trumpeter swans have taken hold at the refuge south of Cheney. With the ice gone, we can expect another year of pleasant viewing from the walking trails near the headquarters.
At least three of the five cygnets hatched at Turnbull last year survived through fall.
- See this blog post for history on the Turnbull trumpeters and the senior swan who helped them make their comeback.
Carlene Hardt already has been enjoying them.
I was out at Turnbull on Saturday and I counted 15 Trumpeter Swans on Middle Pine Pond! There were 11 adults and 4 cygnets. Maybe the family from last year was part of it? They sure were vocal and active.
Hunting, waterfowl, wetlands conservation, wolves, sportsman shows and other stories of interest were in the news last week in The Spokesman-Review's outdoors coverage:
HUNTING — Ducks Unlimited officials in Idaho restated their zero-tollerance policy for illegal hunting tactics last week after a former volunteer chapter chairman from Hagerman was convicted of baiting ducks with corn.
Ducks Unlimited leaders condemned Steele’s hunting tactics, not only as a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act but also the ethics of fair-chase that govern hunting, the Associated Press reports.
Mond Warren, the group’s regional director in Nampa, called corn baiting akin to using salt to lure big game such as elk nearer to hunters’ scopes.
“We have a zero tolerance for any type of game violation,” Warren said. “It’s a very stringent policy, there’s no wavering on it. Our job is waterfowl conservation and wetland conservation.”
Warren might have used better analogy. Putting out salt or even bait for big-game hunting is illegal in Idaho but legal in Washington.
Baiting for waterfowl and other migratory birds is strictly forbidden in all states by federal law.
Read on for the entire Associated Press story about the baiting case.
CONSERVATION — Ducks Unlimited is holding a recruitment meeting Thursday (Dec. 13) in Spokane for people interested in helping organize a fundraiser for wildlife habitat projects.
DU is a nonprofit (501.c.3), volunteer run, conservation organization, that covers the USA, Mexico and Canada.
Bernard Brown, DU's senior regional director for Washington, will meet with conservation-minded waterfowl enthusiasts from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. at O’Doherty’s Irish Grille, 525 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Contact Brown at (509) 860-1510 or email Bernard Brown firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUNTING/FISHING — My outdoors column this week discusses some of the disturbing parasites waterfowl hunters and anglers have discovered in the ducks and fish they've harvested in the Inland Northwest.
They're natural; been around for a long time, and in most cases the game and fish are still safe to eat — as far as we know — as long as you cook the meat to at least 180 degrees.
But would I eat visibly parasitized meat? What do you think?
- Waterfowlers: The photo above shows a mallard infested with the sarcocystis parasite, better known as “rice breast.”
- Fishermen: Click on the document attached to this blog post to see the pamphlet “Common Parasites and Diseases in Washington Fish,” prepared by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- Hunters note that the meat of rabbits, bears and cougars also must be thoroughly cooked to prevent exposure to serious diseases: tularemia and trichinosis.
WATERFOWLING — Some North Idaho hunter cried fowl when their duck hunting season opened a week later than usual, giving wood ducks and teal another week to get out of the area unscathed.
However, I found a wood duck bonanza today Wednesday while waterfowl hunting and tourng Ducks Unlimited wetland conservation projects near the Tri Cities.
Hundreds of wood ducks poured in to the Wallula Unit habitat area at the mouth of the Walla Walla River. I'm talking about a flight of perhaps 500 woodies that dropped into the area in just a few minutes.
Even the DU habitat biologist I was with said it was an outstanding sight to behold.
HUNTING-GATHERING — While most people head to the supermarket for their Thanksgiving fixings, some sportsmen head to the field.
Washington's late-fall wild turkey hunting season opens Nov. 20 in portions of Eastern Washington.
November is also prime time to hunt ducks, geese, deer, pheasant, forest grouse and a variety of other game around the state.
Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season runs Nov. 10-19 in northeast Game Management Units 105, 108,111, 113, and 124 for any buck. GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a four-antler-point minimum rule.
CONSERVATION — An image of a common goldeneye painted with uncommon talent by Robert Steiner, an artist from San Francisco, Calif., is the winner of the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest.
The artwork will be featured on the 80th federal migratory bird stamp, which will be purchased by collectors, waterfowlers and other wetlands conservationists next year.
The announcement was made today by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Rowan Gould at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, during the annual art contest – the only juried art competition sponsored by the federal government.
This is Steiner’s second Federal Duck Stamp Contest win. His art previously appeared on the 1998-1999 Federal Duck Stamp.
Steiner’s acrylic painting of a common goldeneye will be made into the 2013-2014 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale in late June 2013. The Service produces the Federal Duck Stamp, which sells for $15 and raises about $25 million each year to provide critical funds to conserve and protect wetland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge system for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of people.
Read on for more details.
CONSERVATION — One of the country’s biggest wildlife art contests will be judged in Ogden this week as the annual Federal Duck Stamp Contest comes to Utah for the first time in its nearly 80-year history. The event has been to the West only one other time.
The work of nearly 200 artists from across the United States will be open for free viewing by the public at Weber State University, reports Brett Prettyman in the Salt Lake Tribune. Judges will pick one piece during the two-day event to serve as the 2013-14 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.
Organizers picked Ogden to host the 2012 event due in a large part to the Great Salt Lake and its surrounding marshlands. Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and other wildlife use the habitat throughout the year.
HUNTING– Registration is underway for the limited number of spots in the annual Youth Waterfowl Hunting Clinics sponsored by the Idaho Fish and Game Department’s Panhandle Region.
This year’s clinics are set for Sept. 29, when girls and boys ages 15 and under and their parents can learn the basics of hunting waterfowl in mentored hunting situation during the states’s special hunting season just for youths.
Following a morning hunt with experienced waterfowlers, participants will be treated to a free barbeque and skills clinic.
The clinics are limited to 25 participants at three different clinics:
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 Clark Fork Delta drift yard boat ramp.
Southern Panhandle Clinic: Heyburn State Park, northwest of St. Maries at the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Pre-register with J.J. Teare at the Panhandle Region Office, (208) 769-1414.
HUNTING — Duck and goose calling contests plus seminars by waterfowling experts and a retrieving dog trainer are on the schedule for two days of free events this weekend (Sept. 8-9) at Cabela’s in Post Falls.
Some of the seminars will be conducted by hunters who've been spotlighted in S-R outdoors features, including Pend Oreille County waterfowling expert Kent Contreras and Spokane-area dog trainer Dan Hosford.
8 a.m.-9 a.m. – Registration for junior duck calling.
9 a.m. – Seminar on identifying waterfowl, hunting regulations by Idaho Fish and Game.
9:30 a.m. – Junior Duck Calling Contest (16 and under).
9:30 a.m.-10:30 – Registration for open duck calling.
10:30 a.m. – Reading birds, when to call by Bill Saunders.
11 a.m. – Open Duck Calling Contest. 1 p.m. – Layout blind hunting, judging distance by Kent Contreras.
2 p.m. – Working Man’s Retriever by Dan Hosford.
9 a.m. – Registration for junior and open goose calling.
9:15 a.m. – Duck calling strategies by Chris Redell.
9:45 a.m. – Junior Goose Calling Contest.
10:30 a.m. Reading birds, when to call by Bill Saunders.
11 a.m. – Open Goose Calling Contest.
1 p.m. – Hunting gear, hunting situations by John Plughoff.
2 p.m. – Working Man’s Retriever by Dan Hosford.
Note: dog-training seminars may change times if weather too hot for the dogs.
WATERFOWLING — Abel Cortina of Prosser won the premier solo event in the Washington State Duck Calling Championships last weekend, earning a berth in the prestigious World Duck Calling Championships held over Thanksgiving holidays in Stuttgart, Ark.
John Plughoff of Yakima dominated goose-calling, winnng the Washington State Goose event as well as the Open Goose event.
Cortina — chairman of the Washington Waterfowl Association and one of the judges in the state event — won the Washington premier contest in 2003 and went on to place 16th at Stuttgart.
Cortina missed several years of competitive calling while serving in the military, although he won the 2005 Arizona state title while stationed there and returned to finish second hin the Washington state event last year.
Cortina teamed with another WWA member, Mike Maier of West Richland, to top the Two-Man Duck event.
Apparently Cortina’s position with the WWA judges doesn’t help him in the competition. Judges never know who’s competing at any time; they’re in a segregated area and can only hear (and grade) the calls — not seeing the callers.
Read on for the list of top callers in each division.
CONSERVATION — If you visit Turnbull Refuge or other national wildlife refuges, consider buying a federal Duck Stamp rather than paying the $3 vehicle entry fee. The $15 stamp is good for entering any refuge for an entire year, and it helps fund a wildly successful wetlands conservation program.
Anyone who hunts waterfowl is required to buy a duck stamp, but many birders and other conservationists buy the stamps because they know the value of protecting wetlands for the benefit of a wide range of wildlife.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says 98 percent of proceeds from sales of the stamp are used to acquire and protect vital wetlands supports hundreds of species of migratory birds, wildlife and plants. The stamps can be purchased from the U.S. Postal Service, from some sporting goods shops and online.
Since the program’s inception in 1934, Federal Duck Stamp sales have raised more than $750 million to acquire and protect more than 5.3 million acres of habitat for hundreds of units of the National Wildlife Refuge System in all 50 states and U.S. territories. These refuges benefit the public by providing access to outdoor recreational activities including hunting, fishing, birding, photography, environmental education, and interpretation.
This year’s Federal Duck Stamp features a single wood duck painted by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn. The Junior Duck Stamp features a northern pintail painted by Christine Clayton, a 17 year old from Sidney, Ohio.
HUNTING– The 2012 Washington State Duck Calling Championship is Aug. 25, sponsored by the Washington Waterfowl Association, Yakima Valley Chapter.
The event, a qualifier for international competition, will be held at Columbia Park in Kennewick. Contests include:
- Washington state Duck Calling Championship, open only to Washington residents.
- Washington State Goose, open only to Washington residents.
Winners will qualify for the World Duck Calling Championship in Stuggart, Ark.
The event also will seven additional open divisions for duck and goose calling, plus contests for two-person duck and goose, peewee and junior divisions.
Info and registration: Abel A. Cortina (509)786-9196.
WATERFOWL HUNTING — Preliminary surveys indicate a wet spring is just ducky for waterfowl.
While the jury's still out on whether pheasants and other upland birds will produce many young after the wetness that smothered our region during nesting, ducks apparently prospered throughout much of North America. The notable exception is pintails.
Is you're retriever in shape?
Here's a summary of the North America breeding ground population surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
Mallard: totaled 10.6 million ducks, a 15 percent increase over last year and a 39 percent increase over the long-term average.
American wigeon: increased 3 percent from last year, but remains 17 percent below the long-term average.
Teal, Green-winged and blue-winged: numbered 3.5 million and 9.2 million, 20 percent and 3 percent respectively above last year. Both are well above the long-term averages by 74 percent and 94 percent.
Gadwall: increased 10 percent above last year’s estimate, and 96 percent above the long-term average.
Northern pintail: numbered 3.5 million, down 22 percent from last year’s estimate, and 14 percent below the long-term average.
More info: www.ducks.org
WATERFOWLING — The 2012 Washington State Duck Calling Championship is set for Aug. 25, sponsored by the Washington Waterfowl Association, Yakima Valley Chapter.
The event, a qualifier for international competition, will start at 7 a.m. at Columbia Park in Kennewick.
The following contests are scheduled:
- 2012 Washington state Duck Calling Championship, open only to Washington residents. (The Winner will qualify for the 2012 World duck Calling Championship to be held Thanksgiving weekend at Stuggart, Arkansas.)
- Open Duck Calling contest (open to anyone)
- Junior Duck Calling contest (open to ages 11-17)
- Pee-Wee Duck (open to all children under the age of 11)
- Two-Man Duck (open to all ages)
- Junior Goose (open to ages 11-17)
- Washington State Goose ( Open to Washington residents only)
- Open Goose (Open to all callers)
- Two-Man Goose (open to all callers)
Info and pre-registration: Abel A. Cortina (509)786-9196.
CONSERVATION – Duck Unlimited will hold its annual Guns, Gear and Beer fundraising event starting at 6 p.m. June 16 at The Condon Barn, 4801 S. Coleman Lane in Spoakne.
Cost: $40, includes steak dinner, beverages and DU Membership
Info: Dave Cote 939-5351; Mike Condon 995-0707.
SPRING MIGRANTS — The region's wet spell is putting a damper on a lot of activities, but waterfowl are in their element as they pause during their spring migrations in the Inland Northwest's wealth of flooded fields and wetlands.
Ducks, geese and swans have so many options, they're fooling even experienced birders in their back yards.
John Stuart of Newport, fresh in from a birding trip in his neck of the woods, was disappointed over the weekend to see the 1,500 tundra swans had left Calispell Lake in Pend Oreille County.
“The migrating Tundra swans, usually a big noisy deal on Calispell Lake, sort of pulled a switcheroo on us, thanks to the weather,” he said in a report to Inland Northwest Birders. He assumed that because the lake had risen 3 feet in a couple days — and swans necks being only so long, they could no longer reach the submerged comestibles and had to take their leave.”
But soon after he put out the report, he heard from other birders and set the record straight Wednesday afternoon:
Apparently my story of the Swans at Calispell Lk. was not as black and white as I supposed. Terry Little found a big crowd there on Friday (30th) and Jon Isacoff found a couple thousand on Tues (3rd), while we saw none on Sunday. But Jon found a guy at Riverbend (about 10 miles north) who said the swans had been up there feeding on the larger than usual flooded field. So apparently the birds were finding some alternative feeding areas without leaving the area.
So the rain eliminated one area for feeding but created at least one new one.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Area birdwatcher Ron Dexter, who lives in the Mount Spokane foothills, has the welcome mat out for colorful migrants that return each year for his hospitality. Ron posted this delightful update this morning:
Each spring, we look forward to the arrival of Wood Ducks on our ponds. The first pair arrived about 10 days ago, then a few more every couple days. Yesterday, I counted 17. They are very flighty and try to sneak in to our duck feeding area twice a day. Our regular pond birds are Mallards of course. We fed approximately 40 through the winter. We have 4 domestic ducks. A spring fed water supply keeps an open space in the ice for them to bathe, etc. Two pair of Canada Geese arrived about 2 weeks ago to fight over the nesting platforms.
The Wood Ducks, however are our favorites. They checkout all of the nest boxes and eventually each will lay 10 or 11 eggs. Sometimes two will lay eggs in the same box. I have counted as many as 22 eggs in one box. 19 of those were hatched by one Wood Duck. The eggs all hatch within a 24 hr period and when the coast is clear she calls the kids out of the nest box. Believe it or not, they jump to the water or ground below no matter the distance. They actually spread their arms and legs like a sky diver and bounce like a cork when they hit the ground. Within a few hours, mama duck takes the young on a quarter mile hike through tall grasses down to the creek.
Last year one mama got quite used to us and kept her young on the pond for 2 weeks which we throughlly enjoyed. She hides them in the cattails most of the time, but the brave or naughty ones dart our and around the pond looking for something to eat. Ahhhh, spring is arriving
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Organized outings and access to experts are among the benefits of visiting festivals celebrating the arrival of migrating birds.
Based near Usk in the Kalispell Tribe's Wellness Center, the day includes a tour to see tundra swans gathering at Calispell Lake, plus lunch and short presentations by several speakers on topics ranging from swans to wolverine research in the area.
Preregister for the tour here. Cost: $10 adults, $5 youths under 13, includes lunch.
Info: (509) 447-5286.