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Idaho seeks comments on waterfowl seasons

HUNTING — Waterfowl hunters are being asked to responded to a survey on Idaho hunting season options by the end of the week.

“We’ve had some requests for more late season duck hunting, and we’re asking hunters statewide to weigh in on which way they’d like to go,” said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene, noting that the Coeur d'Alene area is in Area 2 for both ducks and geese.

Duck production surveys indicate a great crop of waterfowl in the western U.S., so it's worth chiming in on seasons.

Taket he quick survey here

Read on for details on the proposals currently under consideration.

Rain, floods spurred ducks to reproduce

HUNTING– With the duck factories of North America producing a record high number of waterfowl, Montana and Idaho waterfowl hunters have something to look forward to this fall.

This year, 10 primary duck species on the traditional spring survey areas totaled about 45.6 million—a record high for the survey that dates back to 1955, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recent surveys.

That’s an 11 percent increase over 2010 and 35 percent above the 50 year long-term average.

“This year all parts of the 'duck factory' kicked in,” said Jim Hansen, the Central Flyway coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.  “Just about all of the north central U.S. and Prairie Canada have been wet, but certainly it came with flooding that has been terrible.”

Mallards, the most sought-after species in Montana, were up 9 percent from last year at 9.2 million—22 percent above the long-term average.

Pintails, which have been in decline, showed a 26 percent increase and were 10 percent above the long-term average.

Redheads reached a record high, 106 percent above the long-term average.

Youths get shot at Turnbull ducks

HUNTING — For the second time since 1937, youngsters can apply for limited permits to participate in a two-day youth waterfowl hunt this fall at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will restrict the hunters under 16 to about eight hunting sites during Washington’s youth waterfowl season, Sept. 24-25.

Two youth hunters accompanied by one or two non-hunting adults will be allowed at each site. The hunters must have state small game and waterfowl licenses.

Hunters will be selected in a random drawing.

Applications will be accepted Aug. 1-15.

Apply on a U.S. Postal Service postcard. 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.

The Spokane Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association will conduct a workshop the week prior to the hunt to help the youths select hunting sites and provide waterfowl identification and hunting tips.

Info: 235-4723; fws.gov/turnbull/

Washington waterfowl calling competition open to all callers

HUNTING– A waterfowl calling contest coming up in the Tri-Cities will give the open division winner an all-expense-paid trip to the hallowed quacking grounds of the World Duck Calling Championships in Stuttgart, Ark.

The sanctioned Washington Duck Calling Championships are set for Aug. 6-7 at Wholesale Sports in Kennewick, sponsored by the Washington Waterfowl Association.

In addition to the Open Duck competition, the event has eight other contests and divisions for duck, goose, youth and  two-person competition.

Info: Abel Cortina, (509) 786-9196, email abelcortina@gmail.com.

Read on for details on the divisions.

Ducks Unlimited applauds Fish and Wildlife director confirmation

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The U.S. Senate Thursday evening confirmed Daniel Ashe as the 16th director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ashe, a career employee of the agency, assumed his duties immediately.

Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited — and the FWS director from 2005-2009 — praised the Senate action.

“I have known and worked with Dan for more than 15 years,” Hall said. “He’s a strong supporter of wildlife resources, an avid outdoorsman and a committed conservationist. The Fish and Wildlife Service is an important partner to Ducks Unlimited, and we look forward to working together to tackle the challenges facing wetlands and waterfowl today.”

Ashe has served as the Service's deputy director since August 2009. From 2003 to 2009, he was the science advisor to the Service's director with broad responsibility to develop and implement the agency's scientific policy and programs for resource management.

Researchers round up geese around Spokane

WILDLIFE RESEARCH– Biologists and a team of volunteers are herding Canada geese into pens and clamping leg bands on about 1,000 young birds in Eastern Washington for a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife study of goose population trends.

The teams were herding geese at Qualchan Golf Course this morning starting at 4:30 a.m.

They planned to trap and release geese later in the day at Gonzaga University and Liberty Lake.

In its fourth year, the study seeks to understand nesting declines, hunter harvest patterns and the birds’ use of urban and rural habitat, said Mikal Moore, state waterfowl specialist.

Since the study began, biologists have banded 2,523 geese from eight areas in Eastern Washington, Moore said. Of that number, 406 were observed with neck collars and 359 marked geese were taken by hunters.

The roundup is timed during the molt. Since the adults can't fly, the volunteers can herd the families into pens.  After the goslings are inspected and banded, they're released.

Read on for details about the banding, the study and what birdwatchers and hunters can do to help the research. 

A fowl family moment in the sunshine

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Canada geese are in the full swing of raising their families around the region.

S-R photographer Dan Pelle captured his family unit basking in the sun along the banks of the Spokane River on Upriver Drive and Crestline this week.

Three goose pairs were seen with at least 17 young birds in this area.

Birds flock to family’s ponds, nest boxes

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birds have giving a thumbs up, so to speak, for Ron Dexter and the seven wildlife ponds he's built on the family property near Mount Spokane over the years.

“Besides great blue herons, belted kingfishers, etc., our main attractions are the wood ducks that have slowly increased in numbers,” he reported this week.

“This morning there were 20, half males and half females.  I have erected 22 nest boxes, so we still have room for more wood ducks, so if you see any, send them our way.

“Some years, we also have hooded mergansers nesting. At times they will lay in the same box and one or the other will set. The female will hatch out both species. The young stay in the nest box until she calls them out within 24 hours of hatching. They jump out of the nest box with tiny wings spread like parachute jumpers and bounce like corks when the hit the ground. 

“They hang around the pond for a few hours, then mama will lead them on a trip through the weed to a nearby creek.”

  

Ducks Unlimited shooting and dining for wetlands

CONSERVATION– Ducks Unlimited has scheduled several upcoming fundraising events to benefit wetlands conservation. Amont them:

April 2 Coyote Falls Sporting Clays fun shoot near Almira. Practice starts 9:30 a.m., event at 10:30 a.m. Preregister by Wednesday: (509) 639-0168 or email coyotefallssporting@gmail.com.

April 7 – Spokane DU annual dinner, doors open at 5:30 p.m. at The Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Tickets $50 single, $275 sponsor.

Contact Gordon Hester, 755-7576 or register online.

Pullman Ducks Unlimited banquet is Saturday

CONSERVATION — Pullman Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual banquet  and auction Saturday, March 26, at Banyan’s Restaurant at the Palouse Ridge Golf Course. 

Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m.; dinner served at 7 and live auction at 8.  

Tickets: Jeremy Lessmann, (509) 330-1822.

Spring birds filling the wet scablands

NATURE WATCHING — January's warm streak was cruel, luring buttercups to bloom prematurely west of Spokane.  But now they're blooming with confidence around town, and birds are flocking in all around us.

Spokane Auduboner Kim Thorburn takes a special interest in the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area south of Creston, where she does bird surveys.  Read on for her report from Wednesday:

‘This Could Be True’ item of the week

HUNTING — The inscription on the metal bands used by the U.S. Department of the Interior to tag migratory birds has been changed, according to totally believable sources on the Internet.

 The bands used to bear the address of the Washington Biological Survey, which was abbreviated:

Wash. Biol. Surv.

Supposedly that changed when the agency received the following letter from an Arkansas camper:

Dear Sirs:

While camping last week I shot one of your birds. I think it was a crow. I followed the cooking instructions on the leg tag and I want to tell you it was horrible.

The bands are now marked:

Fish and Wildlife Service.
  

Eagles terrorize Sprague Lake coots

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The winter ice cap was almost gone from Sprague Lake a few days ago, but this week's cold snap has reversed the trend — and that's bad news for the coots that had taken up residence in the open waters. 

Here's the Saturday scoop just received from birder Greg Falco of Sprague:

Today Sprague Lake is almost all frozen (minus 12 for a low at my place).

There are about 5 small openings in the ice with ducks, mostly Common Goldeneye, tightly packed.   The coot flock was in one opening about 40 feet across, and getting smaller.

Twelve bald eagles were standing on the ice around the defenseless coots.  More balds were perched around the lake. 

Nothing scientific, but I’ll say the coot population has been reduced by more than 100 in the past week with about 50 birds left.  I’ll be surprised if any are left tomorrow.

Let winter get you down

WATERFOWL — These ducks are offering their free services as models to promote the effective qualities of down insulation as they hang out comfortably on the ice in below-zero conditions.

Down is the lightest most compressible and efficient natural insulator for cold weather clothing.

But the ducks stress that consumers should insist on clothing filled with 100 percent GOOSE down. 

Dining out in the duck blind

WATERFOWLING — A friend told me today that his fingers were cramping shut after plucking waterfowl from a productive hunt. Been there, done that.

Nowadays I tend to breast-out most of my waterfowl.

A fun way to use duck legs is in the blind itself.  Bring along a small barbecue and briquettes. After your group acquires a few ducks, remove the duck legs, sprinkle with Cajun seasoning or whatever suits your taste; then wrap in bacon using a toothpick to fasten it on.

Enjoy the warmth from the grill, the aroma and a great mash-shore snack while waiting for the next round of incomers.

George Orr leaving Wildlife Commission

 WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — George Orr, the always quotable Washington Wildlife Commissioner from Spokane, announced today that he will be leaving the commission when his term expires next year.

Orr, a retired fireman and former state legislator, made the announcement during a commission conference all meeting called for other matters.

“I told the commission today that I’m not going to reenlist,” Orr said. “I’ve served God and country pretty handily since 1960: went into the military, served on school boards, union offices, PTA and elected and appointed offices around the state. Now it’s time to spend time with my wife and good buddy, and perhaps spoil my grandchildren a little more.

“Something else might come around later, but for now I’m not reenlisting.”

Orr’s announcement came four days after Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed eliminating the wildlife commission or making it merely an advisory group instead of a policy-making panel responsible for hiring and firing the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department director.