Sunday, November 29, 2009

Grandson trip

Saturday afternoon, my grandson and I decided to go for a trip in the mountains and look for my elk.  We did not find the elk, but did have a wonderful experience.  First we found four mule deer bounding through the sagebrush.  Then after a long walk, we flushed a Great Grey owl.  It was his first.

As we were headed home we watched the Alpenglow as it colored the mountains pink as the sun was setting.

Not much further, but after the sun had set, we saw 14 head of mule deer feeding on the CRP ground with dry grass as high as the deer.

With the sun set and darkness sitting in we came upon the most exciting sight of the day - four bull moose fighting.  It was amazing to watch as they battled about a hundred yards from us.  Horns would crash, making the sound almost vibrate the truck.

In the dwindling twilight, it was difficult to stop the action without blurring everything.  At one time three of the four were all fighting together.  As one would defeat another, the victor would goose the loser in the butt to send him off as another would attack the victor.  We watched this battle for 15 minutes before they headed up through the trees.

Darn, we missed another football game on TV.  Oh well, just another wild day in Idaho.

Ice fishing Henrys Lake

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving week - I did.  All of our family was home for five days and we had a ball.  Between all the festivities and food, we ice fished Henrys Lake three times.  We were successful every day and saw some beautiful sunsets and sunrises. 
Here is Lion's Head Mountain just northeast of Henrys Lake.

Here is the sunrise on Friday while we were catching fish like mad - just had to take time for the picture.

Results of the fishing was great and we had great times together.

Darn those slippery fish - even below freezing, they are hard to hold on to.

Just three more wild days in Idaho.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  I hope and pray that all you family travel is safe and the turkey is good.  All of our kids and grandkids will be with us this year.  It will be a joyous occasion.

Yesterday we got four inches of snow and the roads were a mess.  At my bird feeders we had over a hundred wanted and unwanted guests and they emptied the feeders quickly and then moved on.  After the snow lightened a little I went out to get a few pictures.

Here is a seed pod left over from the summer.

Another picture is of a cattail with a few snow flakes falling.

The last picture is of hollyhock seed pods holding the fluffy white snow up.  Beautiful but dangerous - just like some people.

A very wild day in Idaho.  Happy Thanksgiving again.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Methuselah - The Sharp-tailed Grouse

A person quarried the other day about my header - Is it a grouse?  The two fighting cocks are Sage Grouse.  Another person asked if we have Sharp-tailed grouse.  We do and I also take thousands of picture of them each spring.
In 2006, I located a banded Sharp-tailed grouse on and lek and watched him all season.  This is the story I wrote for the newspaper about him.  These pictures are all pictures of him. 

Methuselah – beating the odds. (June 2006)

Not many game birds live longer than two to four years, but one smart Columbia sharp-tailed grouse is beating the odds.

This spring while photographing sharp-tails and sage grouse on their leks, I noticed one male with a band on its left leg. I also noticed that its habits were totally different than the other male sharpies. After several calls and research, I discovered the last banding program on sharp-tails was in the mid 1990’s.

“I believe the last sharp-tails banded in the Upper Snake River Valley were in 1994,” said Justin Naderman, a wildlife biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “I really don’t think that it would be a migrant bird. So it is either an old bird or someone has banded it without our knowledge.”

I nicknamed the bird “Methuselah” and worked hard to study his habits and to get pictures of him. Thirteen mornings were spent near his spot on the lek observing and photographing him. His habits were foreign to those of most male sharp-tails.

I would have to get there early before the birds flew to the lek. If I was a little late, other grouse would fly off the lek, only to come back a little later. Not Methuselah, he would disappear into the sagebrush he used as a roost and I would not see him again.

When I beat him to the lek, he would walk into his area, park behind the sage and wait for the sun to come up. His life seemed to be centered around a single sagebrush. Most days he would not display much and would climb up into the sage that he had shaped a bowl in the middle of. From time to time he would climb off the bush to defend his territory or to display. But most of the time he would crouch low in the sagebrush, even appearing to fall asleep there.

Most grouse when hawks would attack would fly off the lek. Not Methuselah. He would dive into the sagebrush and stay there until others returned and started displaying. Out he would come, display once or twice and climb back onto the bush. Most mornings this would happen eight or nine times.

To me the most interesting habit he had was when I was ready to leave, I would get out of the blind and he would dive into the bush. He would not flush from there until I walked by it several times, always flushing behind me after I walked past him.

Hopefully he will survive the summer, fall and next winter. (He did not.)

I would love to study him again next spring; I hope old age gets him. Long live Methuselah.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

SkyWatch Friday - Moon sliver

Last night I got home from school just after the sun went down.  The moon was just a sliver of while as the rest of the sky colored up beautifully.  I sat in my backyard enjoying the changing colors as it got dark and listened to the coyotes howling in the river bottoms.

Just another end to a wild day in Idaho.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First ice fishing trip of the season

Yesterday evening I went to Henrys Lake for my first ice fishing trip of the year.  Several people had done well on Sunday and Monday on ice only about 2 inches thick.  With the cold weather I decided to try it.  It was abou 40 degrees and it looked like some of the ice was getting in bad shape around Staley Springs.  Here a group of fishermen are on the ice just yards from open water.  Some of them had trouble getting off the ice because the edge melted.

So I drove to the County Boat dock where the ice was from three to four inches thick.  The Fish and Game reported that the fishing and the ice was better in that area.  I met a neighbor with a large four pound brook

By the time I got to fishing, it had slowed down, but I did manage to catch three before it got dark.  It was an enjoyable evening and a great way to start the ice fishing season.  Henrys Lake will close to fishing on Nov. 30, so I will have to make a couple more trips up there.

At four inches the ice is safe for even little kids to get on the ice.

Just another wild day in Idaho

Monday, November 16, 2009

Winter birds are here

Yesterday afternoon I had a few hours after church so I took a couple of them and went birding along the Henrys Fork of the Snake River.  I saw a lot of raptors like a Sharp-shinned, Light-morph and Dark-morph Red-tailed, Rough-legged Hawks and three bald eagles.  Here is a very dark Red-tailed hawk flying off its perch.

I saw hundreds of ducks, Trumpeter swans, a few killdeer and other shorebirds.  Here is a pair of Wilson's snipes trying to keep warm on a slough with a few snowflakes falling.

And then on the way home I located a flock of Cedar Waxwings eating Hawthorne berries.  They are some of my favorite birds.

Just a few minutes of wildness in Idaho.  Have a great evening.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Busy week

What a week.  First we missed school for a day and a half because of electrical problems so we headed for the mountains.  We saw 19 moose.  This is one of four bulls chasing a cow around.

It was Red Ribbon Week (anti-drugs) that the student body officers were in charge of.  Here they are on "Put the Shades and Sweats on Drugs" day.

That was the same day I turned 64 and this is the cake the SBO made for me and we had a great time eating it during the class.  I am the guy on the cake catching a rainbow trout.

Then on Saturday we headed for the mountains and did not see a moose as they were all hiding in the trees with almost a foot of snow on the ground and on the trees.

Winter is here making driving a little wild in Idaho.  Have a great week.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

SkyWatch Friday -

Boy has this week been busy- but had a wonderful week. Here is a"fly over" of planes celebrating Veteran's Day.

And then this beautiful sunset taken near Malad, Idaho, on the state line between Idaho and Utah.  

Have a great day.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sage grouse

I have been gone to Utah to a leadership conference with my Student Body Officers. It was a great experience and the kids were absolutely great - all 20 of them.

While in the motel, I read an article about how barbed wire fences are harmful to the Great Sage Grouse and this may place them on the endangered species list. Rather interesting as this will be the thousandth time this has been attempted. Last spring a group tried to outlaw photographers from visiting the leks (breeding grounds) where the grouse congregate each spring. These leks have been used for hundreds of years.  The group said we were disturbing the breeding of the grouse. It is a long story so I will write about that later. But here is proof that when the sex bug bites - who cares if a truck is within eight feet of you.

Meet Whitey - the dominate male of a lek I love to visit. He has been the dominate cock on the lek for the past three years and probably breeds 50 per cent of the hens that visit.  This leaves a lot of jeolous males mad at him. I named him for the white feathers on his left side.

I have seen him surrounded by as many as eight hens waiting to be bred while they ignore the other displaying males.  Here a hen squats, informing Whitey she is ready to be bred.

Whitey mounts her not eight feet from my truck as my camera continues clicking.

As he completes the breeding he is attack by a jeolous male.  I can imagine what is being said, "Who do you think you are?  Warren Jeffs!!!"  as this is the third hen bred that morning by Whitey.

The hen is not very lucky, as she is trapped under the battling males and limps off after escaping from them.

Not two minutes later Whitey is surrounded by four other females, all desiring to be bred by him.

He breeds his fourth hen of the morning just as the sun comes up and the last one as the lek is attack by a pair of golden eagles that flushes them.  There were 27 males and 14 females on the lek that morning.

Hopefully I will be able to visit the leks next spring to get a few more pictures before that activity is outlawed.  I only have about 40,000 pictures of sage grouse, but not the perfect one yet.

Hoping for more wild days in Idaho with the sage grouse.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

SkyWatch Friday - Just another sunset.

Last Monday night heading home after spending a day in the mountains, the sun was setting and I made my son-in-law late as I had to stop and take pictures of the setting sun.

He could not believe how the blues created by the shadows of the clouds stood out.  I am always amazed at how quickly the lights change during a sunset or a sunrise.
This next picture was taken just four minutes before the first one.

Just the end of another wild day in Idaho.

Check out other beautiful pictures of the sky on SkyWatch Friday

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Header contest - Tree bark- Red-naped sapsucker

Here is an interesting bark picture of a live hollow aspen with a nest of Red-naped sapsuckers in the Moody Creek area.

Here is another picture of a Red-naped sapsucker at Beaver Dick Park near Rexburg.  If you look close you can see the hole made by it so the sap would pool up in the holes.

Bark does not thrill me very much unless there is something happening other than bark growing.  My new header is more than just bark growing if you look very close.

Thanks "This is My Blog - Fishing Guy."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The inter-species kiss

This afternoon as I was watching and photographing my bird feeders, a royal battle starte between the Pine Siskins and the American Goldfinches.  The more aggressive siskins usually won the battles. Here a siskin "locks lips" with a gold finch.

Wild affection in a backyard somewhere in Idaho.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunset over Snowshoe Butte

I have been challenged to do a daily post for everyday this month - my birthday month.  Today as my son-in-law and I was coming out of the mountains after a day chasing elk and wolves, the sun was setting behind Snowshoe Butte.  The butte is located right on the edge of the Targhee National Forest and BLM lands.

Just the end of another wild day in Idaho.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Promised essay

I write several essays each week - usually just to clear the air when something makes me angry.  Several students have asked me to print some on my blog.  So here is another one - not polished, but just my feelings about world happenings.

Here are some of my students working together to build trust, knowing she will be caught before falling to the floor.

Cause of Gang Rape?

Last week the news was filled with the two hour, gang rape of a 15 year old girl in California. The perpetrators of this horrible act were estimated from 5 to 10 males between the age of 15 to 21, with a dozen more watching or filming the acts. It was not surprising that alcohol was involved. This was the subject of many TV shows and as I followed it, I became more and more upset with the act, but not only the act, but also the blame that was placed on schools.

So called “experts” in human behavior continued to discuss it almost as a normal circumstance of certain people and parts of our society.

One expert described it as the act of “emotional retardation” of our youth and of urban culture. It was also discussed that “violence is the normal reaction for them.”

True I work with teenagers, but from a rural setting and violence is NOT normal for them. Most of them are not “emotionally retarded” and have a sense of protection by other teenagers they associate with.

The thing that upset me most was the blame put on the “schools are to blame” for not teaching “emotional intelligence.” Come on – teaching values and morals were taken away from the schools and teachers many years ago. The comment was we should teach more than our core subjects to students and should insure the safety of the students. Have they heard of the No Child Left Behind Law that takes most of our time, effort and money to insure? In three years we have to guarantee that 100% of our students will pass the test, whether they speak English, are mentally handicapped or come from homes whose parents could care less about education.

Whose values do you want us to teach? Whose morals do you want taught? Are you going to allow prayers brought back into the school? Are you prepared to allow the 10 Commandments or Islamic values to be posted on the walls? Should children from parents who don't care about education be taken from them and placed somewhere else?

No, we cannot have schools doing those things – it would take away from freedom of individuals and the courts would be full of law suits against teachers and schools.

The solution does not rest with the schools. Oh, I would be happy to teach a class on core values like the one I was asked once to develop a class on. I believe the problem rests in the breakdown of the family and of family values.

Parents are so busy they no longer have time for their children. A recent poll showed that parents spend an average of 12 minutes a day speaking with their children while the children watch three hours of TV or spend playing violent video games. So who is really raising our kids?

How many of us have ipods for each of us as we travel instead of talking together? How many times each week do we eat together as a family? How many original married couples are still together with just their kids? How easy is our alcohol stash for our children to get into? Where are we between 3 and 5 p.m. when most teenage crime and misbehavior happens? Have we replaced giving our children things instead of time?

Its a tough world out there and someone has to live in it. Paul Quinnett said it this way, “To be an orphan your father (or mother) doesn't have to die.” They tell me that gangs are there to give kids support because they have no family structure to lean on.

Yes, I discussed the gang rape with my students and we discussed values lacking and present in our lives. Being an old man with grey hair and trusted by my students and their parents, gives me the chance to teach values. I also listen to children who need a sounding board to lean on. I don't give much advise, just listen, they don't need a judge – they usually know the answer already.

To quote Quinnett again, “To all the lost fathers (and mothers), I hope they will find themselves, and soon, their children are looking for them.”