Friday, July 31, 2009

Huckleberrying again

Yesterday I went huckleberrying seriously. Oh, my aching back!!! I ended up with seven quarts - just short of two gallons of these beautiful berries.I was not alone even though no humans were close to me. Even though I did not see a bear, they had been to the berry patch within the last couple of days because they left "Rocky Mountain Granola Bars" everywhere. I think it was my occasional singing that kept them away - it usually keeps everybody away.
Early in the morning I was visited by this Pale Swallowtail also looking for sweet necter.
I also got chewed out by this fiesty chipmunk that kept bouncing around me and even tried to get into my lunch.

Mountain Chickadees, hummingbirds, juncos, Bullock orioles and Western Tanagers also visited me feeding on the ripe huckleberries.
On the hike out, my cell phone rang - it was the principal of the school I teach at. He wanted a fishing and huckleberry report. I told him where he could find a cup or two of huckleberries, but he kept pressing as to where I was. Keeping good huckleberry patches secret are more important than keeping good fishing holes secret. But as we were talking four cow elk with three calves walked across the trail in front of me and I was only able to get this picture after they stopped in the heavy timber.
The berries are now cleaned, bagged and in the freezer wait to be used for whatever my wife and daughters want them for. Raspberry/huckleberry jam is a favorite.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


This is my favorite picture of a huckleberry that I took last fall after a light frost changed the colors of the leaves, but the berries were still good.
For those of you who do not know what a huckleberry is - it is a small blueberry that has very intense flavor that birds, bears and humans love.
My first memory that I still have is going huckleberrying with my mother and sisters in Teton Valley. We were able to walk from our home to the patches. We canned them as fruit, made jam, jelly, and put them in pancakes to flavor them. We still do that as well as freeze them for my wife to make Huckleberry Cheese Cake.
The last two years have been tough finding enough huckleberries for our family. We need from five to 10 gallons and I did not get them because dry springs and late frosts killed the blossoms and early fruit. This year is different. The very wet spring has put harvest about two weeks late and I am just starting to find some ripe ones. Yesterday I found a nice patch late in the day and picked half a gallon. Tomorrow I will hit the patch early and hopefully will pick between one and two gallons - unless the bears have found it and rooted it up. There are a lot of green berries and my main patches are a week or two away from being ripe. That means I will stop fishing as much and will hit the berry patches. I will have to battle bears, hummingbirds, other birds and other berry pickers for the great little fruit.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unexpected beauty

While hiding in the tall grass last week watching and photographing the ospreys near St. Anthony, Idaho, I was visited by some unexpected critters that added beauty to my day.
I love all the different shades of green created by this immature grasshopper as it sat on blades of grass, eating away.

Two wood-nymph butterflies kept cavorting around me, chasing each other only this one was brave enough to land near me to enjoy its beauty.

What grand things we have to enjoy if we will but take the time and slow down our busy lives.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yellowstone flowers

Here a few of the beautiful flowers of the Yellowstone trip. I think these are their names. I am very weak on flora names even though I am attracted to beautiful flowers.

Buttercup ??

Bracted Lousewort ??

Richardson's Geranium



Rosy Pussytoes

Shining Penstemon

Prairie Smoke

Lewis' Monkey-flower

Indian Paintbrush

A Thimble berry blossom with a beetle enjoying it.

Osprey #1

I need to catch up on my blogs for this week. I have spent over six hours observing several osprey nests and their behavior. In the future I will write detailed article about ospreys, but for right now I will write about yesterdays observations of a nest I have been watching a photographing all year.
A week ago there were two chicks in the nest and now there is only one. It appears that three adults have joined forces to take care of this nest. A month ago I observed three adults building and maintaining the nest on the Henrys Fork of the Snake River near Ashton.
As I watched the nest, the female started calling and making a heck of a racket. Soon I saw two other osprey show up circling above the nest. They were beautiful to watch but then they too became very vocal.
Then I saw four cormorants flying up the river toward the nest. Even though cormorants are fish eaters, I have seen them eat ducklings and destroy nests of birds nesting near the water.
As the cormorants got closer, the two osprey circling the nest would take turns dive bombing them with one of the ospreys always staying between the cormorants and the nest. The female osprey stayed in the nest while the other two seemed to be protecting the nest from the cormorants.
The cormorants circled higher and higher with the osprey circling below them. Finally the four cormorants broke up with the osprey is hot pursuit of them.
What a show. I do not know if the cormorants posed any danger to the osprey nest, but it sure appeared to. After the cormorants left, the two osprey went back to searching for food on the Henrys Fork and I did not stay long enough to see if they brought food to the nest. I was late for work I had to get done.
There is just too much to observe and enjoy out there in the Wilds of Idaho and the rest of the world.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tree swallows and woman's work

After fishing on Tuesday, July 21, I stopped to watch some Tree swallows as they worked their family responsibilities. Two hungry mouths kept polking out of the opening in the nest box as the young swallows wanted food and quickly.
Both parents were very busy bringing food for the hungry youngsters. Here one parent brings in two damsel flies for the young. Then that parent goes inside and stays there for some time while the other parent makes two trip to capture food and bring it back to the young demanding twerps.
Finally the parent emerges from the nest box with a mouth full of poop from the babies. I always wondered what happened to all the crap those babies manufacture from all the food they consume!!!!!! The answer is that they also have to have their disposals changed from time to time. What a nasty job!
After I get my wood loaded, I usually stop by the Henrys Fork at Macks Inn to eat, drink, relax and observe the families floating down the shallow water from Big Springs to Macks Inn.
This was a funny one to me - a woman's work is never done even on vacation. Here two women tow their partners down the river while the men lay back and relax. I hope they didn't have to do it all the way and there was a change of horses in mid stream.
Here two families float side by side down the river. They were having a great time splashing each other as the float neared the concusion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wood gathering and fishing

This morning I drove to Henrys Lake to do some fishing and found it very slow until about 10 when I found a pocket of fish just north of Duck Creek in 11 feet of water. The fish there made the trip worthwhile and as always, or almost always, I got a load of wood for heating next winter.
They say when you burn wood for heat it warms you twice - once when you get it and once when it burns. I disagree. Sawing and loading firewood does not warm you - it boils you over. You have to put on mosquito repellent twice or three times, because your cooling system washes it off.

On the way out of the woods, I stopped to take a picture of the load and there stood a doe Mule deer with a fawn. The doe stood motionless for several minutes and as soon as I moved to try to get a better picture of the fawn, they high-tailed it.
All while I was cutting wood, this Red (pine) squirrel chewed me out. I was hoping he would chew some wood for me to load.

A great day with a few added blessings. One of those blessing was that I missed a skunk that ran across the road in front of me at 4 a.m. while I was headed to Henrys Lake. Awesome.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Henrys Lake Fishing and Eastern Kingbirds

I fished with Jim and Jeff again on Henrys Lake Friday, and it was not as good as it was on Wednesday, but we still caught a lot of fish, but no big ones.

On the way home, I decided to check out an Eastern Kingbird nest I located a couple of weeks ago. I set up my blind and the birds put on a show for me.

The four newly hatched chicks were very hungry and the parents were busy catching insects to stuff in the hungry babes.
A parent captures a large dragonfly and returns to the nest of four hungry mouths.
After waiting a while, the parent stuffs the large insect into the mouth of a hungry chick. If you look closely you can see the wing of the dragonfly to the right of the parent.
The parent then watches over the chicks while its partner hunts and harvests flying insects.
The other parent returns with its mouth stuffed full of insects to feed the hungry babes.
Only one hungry mouth left to fill after two trips for each parent to the nest to feed the chicks.
After feeding the last baby Eastern Kingbird, the parent apparently starts singing a lullaby as all the babes appear to be asleep. After they are all settled down, both parents catch more flying insects and roost on a nearby willow to feed themselves.
It didn't take very long before all four chicks are howling for more food.
A parent begins picking flying insects out of the air next to the nest as the babies continue to yell for food.
More food for two of the hungry mouths while the other two continue to yell for food.
After more feedings, one of the parents sits about the squalking mass of reproduced chicks. I can only imagin the thoughts running through the parents mind. "Sex isn't all it is cracked up to be!!!!" "Once a parent - always a parent." "Slavery was outlawed by the 13th Amendment."
What a show I had while I watched the family of birds. On the other side of the pond, a pair of Olive-sided Flycatchers were doing the same thing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Red-necked Grebes on Henrys Lake

Not only the fishing at Henrys Lake draws me there several times each week. The abundance of birds there also excites me. Mountain Bluebirds, Song sparrows and swallows line the roads and utilize many of the nest boxes placed along the road. The other day I had a young Tree swallow land on my fly rod while I was fishing. I let it rest awhile before it flew back toward the shore.

For several years I have been doing a count on adult Red-necked grebes as their population continues to increase on the lake. With only four to six recognized breeding spots in Idaho, the Red-neckeds are booming on Henrys.

Last year I did four counts and the most I saw in one day was 62 adults. This year I have only made two counts and the high so far has been 87 adults and 36 pairs had chicks with them.
While fishing in the A-Frame Bay, I had several pairs swim very close to me with their chicks. Close enough for some fairly good pictures.

In 2005 there were an estimated 100 breeding pair in Idaho with the first pair showing up on Henrys Lake in 1986.

They are an interesting bird that prefer the sculpin that live in Henrys Lake. It is interesting to watch the adults dive for food and then feed it to the young. Or to watch the young chicks ride on the backs of the adults.

A chick grabs an adults feather to climb up on the back for a piggy-back ride as the adult shouts its displeasure.
I will be writing an article for the Rexburg Standard Journal newspaper in the next few weeks on them. They are a fun bird to watch.

Fishing Henrys Lake

Yesterday I guided Jim and Jeff from California on Henrys Lake. It was the best fishing day we have had this year. Both are expert fly fishermen and can cast full sinking lines.

We were fishing Targhee Creek mouth and caught a lot of nice brook trout up to 21 inches. But the fish of the day was Jim's 24 inch hybrid and Jeff's 28 inch hybrid.
We caught fish on the Mity Mouse, Hot Chocolate, RC and Light Olive CBs. We had a great time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Red-naped sapsuckers

I am always a few days behind with my blog as it takes me a few days to get my pictures downloaded

Last Thursday I decided to spend the afternoon in the mountains east of Rexburg, in the Moody Creek area, looking for huckleberries. I found a lot of green ones, but no ripe ones yet. They are about two to three weeks away from really producing.

I was leisurely driving down a mountain road when I heard the sound of baby woodpeckers in some aspen trees. I pulled over and watched until I saw an adult Red-naped sapsucker land on a tree. After it left, I positioned myself so I could watch. Both adults would bring bills full of sap, insects and even berries to the young.

Here is a picture of an adult feeding the young.

After feeding the young the adult would fly to a near-by branch and pound away on it.
Or it would wipe its bill off on the branch before flying off to gather some more goodies.
I watched this operation as both parents were kept busy as the young ones would peer out of the nest waiting its turn for food. Sometimes yelling to get the parents to hurry up did the trick.