Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring has sprung

Tuesday I went up to watch the Idaho Fish and Game tend their gill nets (another post) and spent the rest of the day enjoying the wildness of Idaho around Henrys Lake.  It was a beautiful day with the Mountain Bluebirds and the Tree swallows fighting over nest boxes around the lake.  Here is a female bluebird carrying plant material to build the nest in a nest box.
Here the male bluebird stands as a sentinel to protect the female as she builds the nest or is just plain lazy or full-of-himself for being so beautiful.

Even without a nest box, these two Tree swallow love-birds are busy getting to know each other.

By Timber Creek two immature and one mature Bald eagles are waiting for a good chance to pick off a spawning cutthroat trout in the stream.

This White-crowned sparrow got into a fight with a male bluebirds because it got too close to a nest box holding a female bluebird.

At the edge of the road I found what looked like a six-headed snake.  It was not a one snake but a female with five smaller male Garter snakes trying to breed her.

On the cut next to the road were three other males, larger than the five with the female.

Eventually the three joined in the mass of snakes as the wrestled in the mud.  I left before the wrestling was over.

Then I found two chipmunks chasing each other through the sagebrush.

I finished the day by climbing a mountain in search of some garnets and "fairy-cross" crystals.  I found both and got high enough to see some Bighorn sheep.
What a great day it was to enjoy the wilds of Idaho.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Owls of Camas NWR

This morning after doing my Sage grouse lek counts, I went on to Camas NWR to see what I could find.  I was well paid for my time.  I saw a few new birds for the season, but I also noticed a lot of Short-eared owls flying around, chasing off the Northern Harriers when they got too close to some marsh grass areas.
It kept landing on a headgate for water diversion and watched me very closely.

Then right by the road in the grass was a brown spot with big yellow eyes - a Short-eared owlet.

Not too far off I saw another one.
Then another one that was exposed to the diving harriers.

After an attack from the harriers, it flew about 20 yards into some thick bull rushes.

Across the road was another adult - I believe it was the male of the pair.

He eventually took off and chased the harriers away from the area.

On the way home I stopped to check out a Great-horned owl nest and found that the eggs had hatched and now a pair of adults have three hungry chicks to feed.

Just a few rewards of spending time in the wilds of Idaho and enjoying the wildness of it all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sage Grouse displaying

This morning I was on a Sage grouse lek early even though it was windy, snowy and dark - but still enjoyed it.  After watching 42 cocks display and two of them breeding seven hens, I decided to take a series of pictures of a cock displaying.  It was one of the dominant cocks and posed fantastic for me.  The series is in order of the display.  I hope you enjoy and learn something from them.  They usually turn just before they start displaying, but look much like they do in the last picture before they take their first deep breath of air.  They actually take four breaths during each display.

They will rub the expanding air sacks with their wings which makes a squeaking sound.

This is when they take their deepest breath and then start forcing their head down into their chest to push out the air sacks. 

When they release the air out, it will make a "plopping" sound.

Most of the time they keep their feet motionless during the display.  This morning I watched this a couple of hundred times.
A great way to spend a less than perfect day in the wildness of Idaho as the snow started to fall in April.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sharp-tailed grouse starting to display

I was asked to check some historical Columbia Sharp-tailed grouse leks to see it they were still active.  It has been five years or more that these leks have been officially documented as being active.  In two days of searching I have found two active ones and several that had grouse near them but I did not see any displaying on them.  Yesterday morning I checked one on private ground and it had 41 sharpies on it.  It had snowed the night before up high where they were.  Here a male walks up to my truck to see what the strange thing was where he wanted to be.

He stopped and looked at my camera lens - just a big eye - looking at him.

Then he put on a show, displaying his dance moves which I thought was better than watching "Dancing with the Stars"

A hen ran through the lek, and the males decided to fight over her even though she was gone and uninterested in romance in the cold and wet.  And also probably too early in the season.

A beautifully colored male with large yellow eyebrows decided he would walk under the truck but paused long enough for this picture.

Then two courting Northern Harriers came by the lek and all the grouse left in a hurry.

Just another morning spent watching, recording and enjoying the wilds of Idaho.

Monday, April 6, 2015

New Year birds

The last week has been working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, trying to radio collar female Sage grouse to track them during the summer (I will be part of that tracking) and seeing birds for the first time this season.

Probably the worst "bad hair day" every time you see them are the Red-breasted mergansers, especially the males.  Flocks were everywhere to be seen this week with Market Lake being the best place to watch them.
Even though not a new bird, the female Downy was followed to my backyard by a male, but she rebuffed his advances.

Likewise, the female Osprey cowered when the male tried playing footsy with her.  It seemed like they appeared overnight everywhere with 9 pairs showing up to repair their nests around Rexburg.

The comical Ruddy ducks with their strange coloration and funny actions showed up in great numbers at Market Lake also.

American Avocets showed up in a few pairs and a few singles trying to break up the pairings.  They are always a welcome sight as they feed mostly with their heads under water.

Hundreds of elk are moving from the sagebrush covered desert up to the evergreen covered hills and mountains.  Most of their winter range is still closed to human activities until May 1, but then the antler hunters will follow the herd as they head north.

Mule deer are also migrating to the mountains and as you can see, they wintered well as the mature does have big bellies and will give birth sometime in May.

In the last week I was able to spend at least an hour or two up to full days in the wilds of Idaho enjoying what God has blessed us with.  May each of you have a bless'ed week until we meet next.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sturgeon fishing

Monday my friend, Gary and his grandson, Braeden, and I left at 3 a.m. to go fishing for White sturgeon in the Snake River by Glenns Ferry, Idaho.  We got there about 7 and I caught the first one - a baby about 2 feet long.  About 4 p.m. Gary hooked and landed the largest of the trip, one about 6 feet long.  It looked like a female full of eggs.
Gary is an excellent sturgeon fisherman and landed it about eight minutes.  It probably weighed over 100 pounds.

With the fishing slow, Braeden entertained himself by catching crayfish, very large ones.  Some of them were very ornery.

About 10 minutes after Gary landed his sturgeon, I got this baby four-footer.  It felt large to me, but then I was surprised how quickly it tired out.

Some people call them ugly - but I think they are beautiful.  Either way you look at it, a day and a half with good friends in the wilds of Idaho is always a joy to put a smile on the faces of a couple old men and a young boy.  By the way all of us caught at least one sturgeon and a total of five together.  I feel another trip coming later in the summer.