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Grizzly bear researchers working near Sullivan Lake

WILDLIFE — Federal grizzly bear researchers are working near the Salmo-Priest Wilderness to trap and fit GPS collars on grizzly bears.

The researchers also are trying to get DNA samples from other bears to help determine the number of grizzlies in the Idaho-Washington Selkirk Mountains.

"No captures and no mortality to report as yet this season," said Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research leader based in Libby.

"The trap crew is working around Sullivan Lake area and we have several people out setting up corrals with trail cameras to try to snag hair and get pictures of bears throughout the recovery area. 

"The trap crew will probably move into the Priest Lake basin during June."

Last summer, the crew caught and collared one adult male grizzly bear.  

The trap team also captured 10 black bears (7 males and 3 females) that were ear tagged and released at the site of capture.

The study has collared 6 grizzly bears (1 male and 5 females), although one female's collar detached for recovery last fall. That collar had been on the bear since 2012. 

The collars are programmed to detach as they reach the limits of their batteries. Researchers can then restore an expensive collar and reuse it rather than have it uselessly dangling around a bear's neck.

The research is a joint effort with British Columbia, in cooperation with the states of Washington and Idaho.  Canada researchers worked in the Selkirks north of Highway 3 last year and collared 9 grizzly bears (7 males and 2 females).

Kasworm is monitoring those bears, too, as part of this project to peg grizzly population trends.

Wildlife lovers should refrain from robbing the cradle

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual pleas are coming from Idaho, Washington and Montana fish and wildlife agencies as birds and big-game animals are bringing off this year's crop of offspring.

"IF YOU CARE, LEAVE THEM THERE," says the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department for the umteenth time.

 

Every spring Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks issues a message to Montanans to leave new born fawns, birds, and other infant wildlife where people find them.

"If you care, leave them there," said Ron Aasheim, spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Helena.

Aasheim said that most birds, for instance, learn to fly from the ground up, and not from the nest.

"Whether you find a fawn or fledgling bird under a tree in a neighbor's yard or bunny under a bush it's important to know that wild animals commonly cache their young for periods of time to protect them from predators while the adults are feeding."

Montana law prohibits the capture, feeding, possession and harassment of wildlife—both game and nongame species. These laws also protect Montana’s wild animals from becoming "pets."

To learn more about living with Montana’s wildlife, visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov then Living With Wildlife .

Draft plan released for Swanson Lakes, Revere, Reardan wildlife areas

WILDLIFE — ,A draft management plan for the Swanson Lakes, Revere and Reardan Audubon Lake wildlife areas in Lincoln and Whitman counties was released Monday for a 30-day public review on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

A public meeting is set for 6 p.m. May 19 at the agency’s regional office, 2315 N. Discovery Pl., Spokane Valley.

The public can comment on the draft plans here.

The Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area includes 21,000 shrub-steppe acres purchased in 1993 primarily to protect threatened sharp-tailed and sage grouse and other species. The property is adjacent to U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands and was purchased with Bonneville Power Administration funds set aside to mitigate for wildlife losses from construction of Grand Coulee Dam. Swanson Lakes is in Lincoln County, about 10 miles south of the town of Creston.

The Revere Wildlife Area includes 2,291 acres of Palouse grassland and shrub-steppe.  It was acquired in 1992 with Lower Snake River dam construction habitat mitigation funds from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Revere supports mule deer, upland game birds, raptors and other wildlife.

The Reardan Audubon Lake Unit, managed as a separate unit of the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area, includes 277 acres of wetlands, grasslands and a lake that support over 200 bird species.  Unlike Swanson Lakes and Revere, this small wildlife unit is not open to hunting. The popular bird-watching site, which is immediately north of US 2 at Reardan, is listed on Audubon Washington's Great Washington State Birding Trail and the Ice Age Floods Institute National Geologic Trail.  The site was acquired in 2006 with a state grant and help from the Spokane Audubon Society and the Inland Northwest Land Trust, which just recently added another section to the area.

 

Birding programs explore loons, nests of feathered architects

BIRDING — Audubon Society chapters in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene have interesting programs on loons and bird nests open to the public this week:

Tuesday, May 12 — MasterBirder Idie Ulsh will explore the nests of birds ranging from hummingbirds to eagles in a free program, 7 p.m., at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd., sponsored by the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society.

Ulsh has completed an three-years study of bird nests, including their construction and placement and will use photos to discuss the nurseries of more than 30 species. Ulsh is a past president of Seattle Audubon, founder of the Washington Butterfly  Association a nature photographer and an independent college counselor.

Wednesday, May 13 — Daniel Poleschook and Ginger Gumm, experts in loons and bird photography, will present an update on loons in Washington, 7:30 p.m. at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave. in Spokane.

The couple has been involved in banding and lab sampling of nesting loons and chicks as well as record keeping for the United States Forest Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and BioDiversity Research Institute since 1996.

Video: People crazy about getting bear photos

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I'll refrain from commenting on this widely seen recent video of tourists crowding around a Yellowstone Park black bear sow and her three cubs.  Until park staff ordered the visitors to their vehicles, the bear had a hard time finding an escape route. No one was hurt in this case, but….

OK, I'll say one thing:  This is more evidence that humans continue to be stupid about wildlife.

Outdoor writer Brett French of the Billings Gazette reports:

Tourists near Gardiner got an up-close reminder about why it's best to keep your distance from wildlife.

Bob Gibson, who works for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, shot a photo in Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday evening, May 6, of a sow black bear and her three cubs caught on a bridge over the Yellowstone River, between Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, and Cooke City.

Gibson was with videographer Winston Greely, who shot video of the encounter.

As FWP wrote, "Luckily, no one was hurt and these bears made it safely back to the forest."

Clark Fork Delta replanting volunteers needed

HABITAT —   April 21-23, May 6, 7, 13, 14, 19, 27, 28, June 1, 2, 2015: Volunteers have been chipping in on shoring up the Clark Fork River Delta to massive erosion that's been wiping out habitat by the acre. 

You can help by being part of "Delta Force" - the superhero-style volunteer crew that's taking on one of the largest environmental restoration projects in our region.

One hundred thousand native plants need to be planted in the delta this spring.

  • No experience needed.
  • Boat ride aboard the “Delta Queen” to work site provided.

Upcoming volunteer events are set for May 13, 14, 19, 27, 28, June 1, 2.

Sign up to help at www.clarkforkdelta.org.

Contact: Nancy Dooley at the Idaho Conservation League in Sandpoint, ndooley@idahoconservation.org, (208) 265-9565

Second black bear in a week removed from Five Mile area

WILDLIFE — A young black bear was captured in the Five Mile Area of Spokane Saturday, less than a week after a nuisance bear was killed by wildlife officials to protect the neighborhood.

After receiving complaints for homeowners, the second black bear was removed from the same area over the weekend and relocated to southern Pend Oreille County, said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman.

Officer Mike Sprecher received a call about the second bear on Friday, May 1, and set a live barrel trap in the Lloyd Charles neighborhood on Saturday. By  about 8:15 p.m. Saturday that bear, estimated to be about the same age but slightly smaller than the first bear, was in the trap and on its way to a remote release site, Luers said. 

On April 27, a particularly troublesome bear was shot and killed in the Five Mile-Waikiki area by wildlife officers after more than two weeks of attempts to live-trap or tree the animal with with hounds so it could be tranquilized and relocated.

The second bear's willingness to be trapped gives it a second chance at being wild.

Two questions:

  • Has the bear been habituated to human food to the point that it will become a problem to someone else?
  • Is somebody in the Five Mile area continuing in to feed wildlife or leave out garbage in a way that's attracting bears?

Maybe that leads to a third question:

  • Is it time to ding the bell of people clueless about living with wildlife and saddle them with the cost of tranquilizing and relocating bears that become a problem because of human negligence?

‘Family Birding’ class offered in Sandpoint on Saturday

WILDLIFE WATCHING —It’s not too late to sign up for North Idaho College at Sandpoint’s “Family Birding Outing” class taught by ornithologist and author Brian Baxter on Saturday, May 2.

The class, which starts at 9 a.m. at the NIC at Sandpoint parking lot, involves a road tour and short hike with instruction on spotting birds of prey, waterfowl, swans, ducks, eagles, hawks, herons, woodpeckers and shorebirds.

Baxter will offer tips on habitat, nesting birds, mating behavior, and predator/prey relationships along with a visit to two of the top birding sites in North Idaho. 

Come prepared for a fun day of birding with lunch, binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras.

Baxter has degrees in both forestry and wildlife biology, and has been teaching outdoor education programs for more than 20 years.

To register, contact the NI C Workforce Training Center at (208) 769-3333 or request more information at workforcetraining@nic.edu or visit www.nic.edu/wtc.

Starvation among woes of British Columbia moose

BIG GAME — Moose studies launched in the last year or two are beginning to turn out some data, although it's preliminary and conclusions can't be drawn, yet.

Studies are underway in Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming, as well as in Washington and in North Dakota.

Here's an update on a study in British Columbia that will be raising the startling question:

Why are moose starving?

Biologists share what they've learned so far in B.C. moose study
A five-year study of moose in the interior of British Columbia launched in 2013 hopes to figure out why the number of moose is on the decline. Last weekend at the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s convention, Gerry Kuzyk, an ungulate specialist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said that, of the 19 radio-collared moose that have died so far during the study period, nine were killed by wolves, three by unregulated hunting, three due to starvation, one by a vehicle collision and three due to unknown causes.

Nuisance black bear killed in Spokane’s Five Mile area

WILDLIFE — A black bear that has been causing problems from patios and garbage bins to chicken coops in the Five Mile Area was killed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers today, April 27.

The young bear was killed with the help of houndsmen in a six-hour mission — the third attempt in a week.

"It had been causing a lot of problems for quite a while and we've been trying to catch it since about April 10," said  Capt. Dan Rahn, the department's head enforcement official in Spokane.

The bear had evaded traps and would not go up a tree when tracked by hounds, making it a difficult task to capture the animal and reducing the options officials had for dealing with the nuisance bear, he said.

Safety to the public is a key factor in when, where and how wildlife officers ultimately deal with a large potentially dangerous problem animal, whether it's a bear or a moose.

"We had an opportunity to euthanize it today, so we took it," Rahn said.

Olympics Enchanted Valley closed to camping as hiker trash lures bears

CAMPING — Sloppy campers have trashed the opportunity for hikers to tent overnight in the popular Enchanted Valley of Olympic National Park, at least for the next 30 days.

Backpackers reported cleaning up pasta and trash left behind by hikers ahead of them earlier this month, the Washington Trails Association reports.

Black bears were lured in by the food and were reported to be unafraid of people.

"Park staff closed the popular valley to overnight camping for 30 days," WTA reports. "During the closure, rangers and wildlife biologists will monitor the situation."

 

"Bears that eat human food come to consider people as a food source, and are extremely dangerous," said Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. "Sadly, bears have gotten into and consumed human food this spring in Enchanted Valley and we have closed the area to camping effective immediately."

 

Pack it in, pack it out is the standard rule in national parks and national forests, including camping areas in the Colville and Idaho Panhandle national forests.  Wildlife that becomes conditioned to eating human food become a risk of injury or disease.  Usually, it's the critters that lose.

Pledge to keep trails clean

Biologists present clinic on living with moose

WILDLIFE – Moose have found their way into Spokane-area neighborhoods in a big way in recent years.

This is good, until it goes bad with an 800-pound critter stomping through playgrounds, breaking down fences, chasing dogs, bolting across heavily-traveled roads and defending their calves.

Tips on living peacefully and safely with moose will be shared with the public by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff:

  • Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 p.m., South Hill Library, 3324 S. Perry St.
  • May 11, 6:30 p.m., North Spokane Library, 44 E. Hawthorne Rd.
  • May 20, 6 p.m., Fish and Wildlife Department Eastern Regional Office, 2315 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.

Wildlife biologists, conflict specialists, and enforcement officers will present information about moose biology, including habitat use and
movements, how to safely handle situations when moose wander into urban areas and when and where to call for assistance.

Reader photo: Ospreys put on fishing clinic at Fernan Lake

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — If you haven't been checking out The Spokesman-Review's Outdoor Reader Photo Gallery,  you don't know what you're missing.

Tim Colquhoun, for example, just posted a dramatic photo series of an osprey diving into Fernan lake to snatch a big fish. Awesome.

Check out the gallery to be inspired about what's going outdoors in the region.

And don't hesitate to upload your best shot.

Bighorns killed on Bison Range to curb disease

WILDLIFE — More bad news for bighorn sheep.

Six young bighorns that escaped the fence around the 19,000-acre National Bison Range near Ravalli, Mont., were shot last week in a measure to confront disease that's been killing the wild sheep on several fronts.

Sport hunting for bighorns in that portion of the Cabinet Mountains will be closed this fall.

Bighorn die-off prompts Montana to close hunting district near Plains
An aerial survey in early April of Hunting District 122 in Western Montana found just 18 bighorn sheep, the lowest number since the herd was reintroduced into the area in 1979. State wildlife officials said the deaths of 90 sheep in the area over the past two years was likely due to pneumonia picked up from domestic herds that wintered in the area in 2012 and 2013.

Due to the die-off, the state closed the hunting district for this year.
—Missoulian

 

Aldo Leopold film screens Tuesday, free

ENVIRONMENT — Green Fire, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, will be screened at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, at the Community Building Lobby. Admission is free.

The film showing sold out when it debuted in 2013 at the Riverfront IMAX Theater.

The late Leopold, known as the father of modern wildlife management, shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement.

Leopold is the author of A Sand County Almanac, which should be required reading for everyone who steps foot outdoors.

This showing of Green Fire is courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation and facilitated by the Inland Northwest Land Trust.

After the screening Kirk and Madeline David will lead a facilitated discussion about Aldo Leopold and his conservation ethic.

RSVP not required, but helpful. (509) 328-2939 or email Vicki at vegesdal@inlandnwlandtrust.org.

 

Discarded fishing gear has fowl impacts

FISHING — Anglers have a responsibility to gear up properly to reduce break offs and clean up line and tackle as much as possible, whether it's theirs or that of another fisherman.

A lot of critters are out there making a living in and under favorite fishing holes. Fishing gear, from spent lead shot to monofilament can kill them.

While photographing waterfowl at Fernan Lake on Thursday, local birder Larry Krumpelman shot the image above of a male wood duck with fishing line hanging from its mouth — and probably a hook down its throat.

Something to thing about.

Prairie grouse are in the mood this month

WILDLIFE WATCHING — April is like party time for prairie grouse, as Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson reminds us with this photo of a dancing male sharptail.

Johnson shot the image above this week in Montana from a blind at the site — known as a lek — where males congregate to display and win the opportunity to breed with nearby females.

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse have declined dramatically in Washington, where there are efforts to protect habitat and revive their numbers.

 

Researcher brings program on hummingbird banding project

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A researcher with the Intermountain Bird Observatory at Boise State University will be in Coeur d'Alene to present a program on a hummingbird banding project.

The program is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd.

Jessica Pollock, research biologist, will discuss banding these tiny birds and what studies have revealed about their biology and habitat.

Pollock has been banding hummingbirds for 10 years in Idaho and British Columbia.

The program is sponsored by the for the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society.

Mule Deer Foundation banquet Saturday in Spokane

WILDLIFE — The Mule Deer Foundation’s Spokane Chapter will hold its annual local fundraising banquet Saturday, April 11, with dinner starting at 6 p.m. at Mukogawa Fort Wright Commons, 4000 W. Randolph Rd.

The foundation’s Washington chapters have put nearly 150 percent of the money they raise at chapter banquets directly into on-the-ground projects because of matching money from the national organization, said state coordinator Dan McKinley.

The Mule Deer Foundation is dedicated to preserving mule deer habitat and boosting muley populations that are dwindling in many areas of the West despite being prized by wildlife viewers as well as hunters.

Most recently, the foundation has provided funding to state wildlife managers for projects such as re-seeding habitat charred by last year’s Carlton Complex fires, donating robotic deer decoys to wildlife police for curbing poaching and supporting researchers with funding and volunteer help.

Email: spokanechaptermdf@gmail.com

Info: muledeer.org

Kittitas County man charged for shooting, wasting 30-plus deer

POACHING — A clueless landowner, who described deer on his property as "rodents," has been charged with shooting and killing more than 30 deer over several  years and leaving them to rot on his property near Thorpe, Washington.

According to the Daily Record, Rodney Arnold Lang, 63, told Washington Fish and Wildlife police that he had a right to defend his property from deer that came into his land and orchard.

The man never filed a complaint or claim for any wildlife damage, department officials said.

He apparently followed only two of the three S's:  He Shot and Shut up, but he didn't Shovel.

Thanks go out to the neighbor who saw some carcasses and a pile of bones from the past and turned in the selfish poacher.

Wildlife refuge inspires photo contest

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — Challenging yourself to make a good outdoor photo is a great motivation to look closer and longer at wildlife, nature and landscapes.

The Friends of the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge once again are encouraging shutterbugs to pause on the refuge southeast of Colville.  The group's annual photo contest continues until Aug. 15.

  • See some of the top entries from the last contest above.

By the middle of April, many of the roads on the 40,198 acre refuge will be open, and the photo opportunities will expand, said organizer Joel Anderson.

Contest categories are animals, plants, human use and scenic.

Contact Anderson at onionjoel@gmail.com for rules and entry forms.

Sportsmen donate robotic deer to wildlife police

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Robotic white-tailed deer decoys and metal detectors costing more than $5,000 have been donated by the Spokane Valley-based Northwest Sportsman’s Club for use by state wildlife police.

The remotely-controlled decoys and highly sensitive metal detectors will be used by officers in the greater Spokane area to make poaching cases. 

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Mike Sprecher said the donations provide equipment not otherwise available in program budgets.  The donation is just the latest example of the club’s efforts to support the department, he said. 

In the past the club has donated night-vision goggles, paintball guns for wildlife conflict work, and a winch for moving tranquilized moose and other large animals. Club members have volunteered time to assist with Lincoln Cliffs bighorn sheep and Turnbull elk capture and marking projects, fish fin-clipping and kids fishing events.

“We appreciate the support of this small, local group,” Sprecher said. “Community involvement is crucial to our mission of preserving, protecting and perpetuating Washington’s fish and wildlife populations.”

An annual fundraising auction held in January allows the group to support the department and many other environmental, educational and charitable organizations, said Theresa Belknap, club spokeswoman.

Trail-building volunteers discover cool creature

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Volunteers building a new trail spur in a portion of Riverside State Park last weekend became acquainted with a critter that tends to stay out of sight.

Workers moving rocks on the Knothead Trail above the confluence of the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers exposed a western skink, a lizard with a distinctive blue tail.

The skink has a shiny appearance because the body is covered in smooth and shiny, rounded scales. The dorsal coloration consists of brown, black, and golden-yellow or cream longitudinal stripes extending from the nose to the anterior portion of the tail. Younger western skinks have brilliant blue tails that become progressively duller as they age.

Warning: That attractive tail is part of the skink's defense system. Predators, including curious people, that tend to zero in on the tail when trying to catch the skink will get only a piece of the action. The tail is designed to break free so the creature can scamper off to safety.

So if you see one, don't break off its tail, which the lizard needs to survive other attacks — and to look pretty.

Click here to find out how you can join the next Washington Trails Association trail work party.

Top 25 outdoor reader photos from March

OUTDOORS — The Spokesman-Review Readers Outdoor Photos web page hasn't just been popular — it's become a regular pit stop for a breath of fresh air.  

Here are my picks for the Top 25 photos uploaded onto our gallery in March.  What do you think?

I can't wait to see what's catching your shutterbug eye in April.  We already have a good start.

Wild turkey suppression planned on Spokane’s South Hill

WILDLIFE — A meeting to enlist volunteers in curbing the growth of wild turkey flocks on the Manito Park area is set for 6:30 p.m. tonight (March 30) at Spokane’s South Hill Library.

Candace Bennett, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department conflict specialist, is organizing a “wild turkey Easter egg hunt” over several weeks to treat eggs in some wild turkey nests so they don’t hatch.

The number of wild turkeys has grown to nuisance levels on the South Hill, but what's out there will mushroom significantly if all of the nesting hens are allowed to pull off new clutches this spring.

 

Bighorn sheep die-off closes hunting area near Yellowstone

 

HUNTING — A bighorn sheep die-off caused by disease has triggered the closure of hunting for the animals just outside Yellowstone National Park.

Montana Wildlife officials said Monday that at least 34 bighorn sheep have died in the pneumonia outbreak that began late last year near Gardiner, Montana. That’s almost 40 percent of the herd that ranges in the Gardiner and Cinnabar areas north of Yellowstone.

Wildlife commissioners issued the closure during a Monday conference call and said it would reopen when the population recovers.

Sheep in the Gardiner area have experienced smaller pneumonia outbreaks in the past few years.

There are domestic sheep in the same area. State officials say bacteria can be transmitted from healthy domestic sheep to bighorn sheep, causing pneumonia in the wild animals.

S-R Readers’ Outdoor Photo Gallery captures March moments

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — Newspaper editors knew the great outdoors would provide inspiration when they put out the call for your images, but the photographic talent readers are sharing has surpassed all expectations.

The Spokesman-Review Readers Outdoor Photos web page hasn't just been popular — it's become a regular pit stop for a breath of fresh air.

Equipped with cameras ranging from smartphones to SLRs with monster lenses, readers aren't just sending snapshots of big fish.  They're providing a broad perspective of what's up outside, one photo at a time.

Since the online feature debuted a year ago, more than 650 images have been uploaded at spokesman.com/outdoors

People are telling us where they're going, what they're doing outdoors and what catches their eye.

The photos offer insight on the changing of seasons, the emergence of wildflowers and the return of migratory birds.

The Spokane River, with all of its moods and the recreation it provides, is a popular subject. So are sunsets — the kind that make you vow to be out there next time weather serves up such a beautiful end of the day.

But some photos are coming from west in the scablands, south in the big-river canyon lands and northeast from high in the wilderness where readers are sharing sights many folks would never see.

Our March 2015 Readers Outdoors Photo Gallery may be the best overall monthly collection since the online feature debuted last year. 

I tried to pick  the top 10 and failed miserably at narrowing it down that tight. 

I'm posting my picks for the top 25 images (above) from the photos uploaded this month, and I'm still leaving out a lot of shots that caught my interest.

Some of the images are excellent because of their photo quality. Others are great because they capture a moment to enlighten us about the outdoors. Some are appreciated real-time field reports on conditions.

The images capture the flows of rivers and waterfalls from downtown Spokane to Towell Falls on Rock Creek south of Sprague.

They chronicle where the snow is, and where it isn't anymore.

Photographers looked this month up to capture porcupines and birds in trees as well as the full moon. They gazed down to picture the first flowers bursting from the soil, marmots venturing from their holes, lady bird beetles swarming in the duff and amphibians emerging from the recently thawed pond mud.

It's not surprising that people head out with cameras at night chasing the Northern Lights, although the quality of the results has us begging for more solar flares

More enlightening, perhaps, is how many hikers and even cyclists leave the warmth of home to enjoy the quiet under the stars.

Check out the good work readers are posting. Upload your own.

Collectively you're creating a picture story of the outdoors around the Inland Northwest that no other single person could tell.

Photo: meadowlark brightens the prairie

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Western meadowlark has a way of brightening anyone's day during a walk through the Eastern Washington prairies.

Not just with its brilliant spring breeding plumage, but also with its song:

Thanks to Ferry County photographer J.Foster Fanning for the photo (top) and the reminder that there's more than one reason to get outdoors this month.

NW left out of Outside’s ‘Most Incredible Trips’ list

OUTDOOR TRAVEL —

Two spots in Montana have made Outside magazine's list of "The 30 Most Incredible Trips to Take in 2015."

Otherwise, the Northwest was virtually left out in favor of river trips in Fiji, islands in Bermuda, adventuring in Chile, road biking in California and food in Texas.

The exception is a Redmond-based bicycle travel company named "Best for outfitted trips for families." The write-up says:

Roughly 10 percent of Bicycle Adventures’ trips are now geared specifically toward families with preteens in tow. This year the Washington-based company launched three multi-day rides in Oregon, Idaho, and South Dakota that follow car-free bike paths and pass through kid-captivating areas like Mount Rushmore … with stops for ice cream, rafting, and swimming holes. Have younger kids? They’ll pedal tag-alongs hitched to adult bikes, and toddlers and infants can ride in provided trailers. From $2,295.

The Route of the Hiawatha on the Montana-Idaho border got residual praise by being one of the trips Bicycle Adventures features.

Meanwhile, Montana continued to get more attention than any single state with two mentions in the Top 30 list.

  • American Prairie Reserve in northcentral Montana is featured as "Best of the Wild West."
  • Mary May’s on 100 acres along Cottonwood Creek near Bozeman is ranked "Best Airbnb Property."

Outside's list was composed by its two veteran travel writers, Tim Neville and Stephanie Pearson, who scoured "the globe to uncover surprising new ideas."

The story recommends a range of activities at the American Prairie, from camping to mountain biking, wildlife watching and canoeing the nearby Missouri River.

“We’re glad to have Outside’s spotlight shine on all that we’ve accomplished so far," said Sean Gerrity, president of American Prairie Reserve, in a statement. "We hope it will result in more supporters for our ambitious project.”

Mary May's is touted by the Outside writers for the variety of options available from the door of the small studio that rents for $125 a night, such as skiing, a trip to Yellowstone National Park or hiking.

Othello gears up for Sandhill Crane Festival

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The headline attraction at the annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival has already arrived for the March 27-29 series of programs, field trips and banquets based out of Othello, Wash.

Founded in 1998, the festival highlights the spring return of migrating sandhill cranes that stop over to rest at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge and feed at surrounding farm fields.

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

Sign up in advance, since many of the trips and sessions will fill up. Info: (866) 726-3445.

The festival is an excellent wildlife experience indoors and out. For example:

Field trips include a Potholes Reservoir boat birding tour and other birding tours at Lower Crab, the Columbia Refuge plus several tours geared specifically to seeing sandhill cranes.   One of the crane tours is for bicyclists.

Seminars by experts touch on more than 35 different topics such as songs birds sing, native plants for the garden, dragonflies, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, pollinators of the shrub-steppe, butterflies, trumpeter swans, burrowing owls, Ice Age floods, ground squirrels and one not to be missed — arachniding.

  • A film about raising a young sandhill crane also will be screened.

Banquet speakers include:

  • Friday, Roy Lowe — Seabird conservation on the Oregon Coast.
  • Saturday, Scott Burns — Cataclysms on the Columbia: The Great Missoula Floods.