Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Bird in the Hand...

We have a few bird feeders here at our site in Farragut State Park, and the local chickadees and nuthatches scold us if we don't keep them full. I went out to add some seed yesterday and was amazed at how quickly the birds appeared when they heard the sound of a feeder being filled.
Black-capped Chickadee on Feeder
Even as I held the feeder to fill it the first Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches began to use it. 

Just for fun I decided to pour a few sunflower seeds into my hand, and sure enough a chickadees decided that was just as good as a feeder and hopped right on. 
Can I Help You??
It is amazing how tame these birds have become. They are probably so used to us being outside within a few feet of the feeders that they don't notice we're not part of the landscape.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Family Visit

I woke up to find our bird feeders empty this morning (thank you squirrels!!) so added some fresh black oil sunflower seeds to them. In a matter of minutes a group of four Chestnut-backed Chickadees was hard at work trying to get as many seeds as they could.

We see Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees in the nest boxes that we check, but never the Chestnut-backed. Looking at this group I am pretty sure that they are breeding successfully as they seemed to have a couple of the kids along.

The adult birds look smooth and seem to have their feathers sorted out nicely.

The youngsters look a bit scruffy. I suppose that they are still getting their adult feathers.

They whole family whirled around the feeder for about ten minutes and must have grabbed 100 sunflower seeds. And then off they went to do whatever chickadees do. I wonder how long the fledglings will stay with their parents?
Here's looking at you!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Round Lake State Park

We are spending our second summer at Farragut State Park. At 20,000 acres with over 200 campsites, it is a big, busy operation. Just 15 miles away is Round Lake State Park, which couldn't be more different.

Round Lake is a 58 acre lake formed by the last remnants of a glacier melting in that location. With 142 acres of land surrounding the lake, this state park totals a whopping 200 acres. We have visited the park twice and have enjoyed the quiet and the wildlife. The lake is shallow with a muddy bottom, and supports lots of submerged and shoreline plants. Along with the plants come frogs, turtles, dragonflies, and birds.
Round Lake
A shoreline plant with huge leaves got our attention on our first visit. It is called "Skunk Cabbage" and is named for the pungent odor that attracts gnats and flies which pollinate the flowers. Unfortunately (?) it wasn't blooming during our visits so we didn't get to experience the aroma.
Skunk Cabbage
There are several trails along the lake, and on the Swamp Loop we saw this strangely pigmented American Robin.
Leucistic American Robin
On our second visit we hiked around the lake and along the outlet creek on a 3.5 mile trail. Much of this trail is out of the park and on other public lands, but it is all very natural and shaded.
Bridge over Cocolalla Creek
There are several beaver dams forming ponds along the outlet creek.

Beaver Pond
We enjoyed good looks at many butterflies and dragonflies, including this handsome Twelve-Spotted Skimmer.
Twelve-Spotted Skimmer
Our favorite bird on this visit was a Three-toed Woodpecker that poked at a fallen log for a bit before flying off. We've not seen this woodpecker species back at our park, so were surprised to find it nearby.

American Three-toed Woodpecker
We are pleased to have found another beautiful area to explore here in Northern Idaho.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hot, Dry, and Fire!!

This summer has been much dryer than last, and we've had record high temperatures for much of the month of June and early July.

Teri and I were enjoying lunch at our favorite Mexican food restaurant on July 5th when we heard a big commotion out on the patio. We stepped outside to see smoke pouring off of the adjacent mountainside and down into the town of Bayview. Bayview is immediately adjacent to Farragut State Park, so we headed home to see what they needed us to do.

View from South Road in Farragut State Park
It was a dry windy day and there was concern that the fire might blow down into the park. Park staff decided to evacuate the two large campgrounds on the east side of the park nearest the fire. I put the trailer hitch back on the truck and we did some packing up just in case we had to make a run for it. 

Taken from a boat on Lake Pend Oreille
Since this area has been under a fire watch for some time, there are a lot of firefighting resources staged locally. Tanker planes, helicopters, fire boats and Hotshot crews were brought into the area within hours and the fight was on. The entire north side of the park is being utilized for the fire camp, with the radio-controlled airplane field used as a staging area for helicopters. All told there are about 400 people here fighting this fire.
Dropping Retardant
In the first couple days of the fire we volunteers were assigned to man checkpoints to let emergency personnel through but turn back the sight-seers. Teri and I worked the 1 a.m. till 4 a.m. shift that first night, and it was eerie to see the fire burning on the mountainside, with occasional flare-ups as large trees would ignite. It was also strange to see how many folks drove down in the wee hours of the morning "just to see what was going on...".

Overall the fire has burned 1300 acres and destroyed six homes. They have a good fire-line around the fire and the weather has cooled some. We've had a light drizzle today, so we all feel like we've turned the corner. The campgrounds re-opened yesterday and we are back to our normal program schedule. 

We are all looking forward to a return to normal, and hope that this is the end of our fire experience for the summer!!


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Who Pooped in the Park??

Teri and I have developed a couple of new Junior Ranger programs this summer, and "Who Pooped in the Park" may be our favorite!! We borrowed the name from a book series that describes using scat, tracks, and other signs to learn about the different animals in the park. 

First we needed some poop, and luckily several nature supply stores sell authentic looking rubber scat, cast from the real thing.

Red Squirrel Scat Replica
To go along with the scat, we printed out the tracks of various animals, and then had the kids match the scat to the tracks. They did remarkably well!!

Squirrel Tracks
Our best prop is this lovely replica of Black Bear scat. Kids just love it.  You can tell them it is rubber, but they each had to touch and smell it, and most ended up trying to pull it apart as well.
Black Bear Scat Replica
After our "Match the Scat to the Track" game, each of our Junior Rangers chose a few track templates and made themselves a Nature Book that included tracks and facts about the animals that they had chosen.

Teri had made up Fact Sheets for each animal that the kids referred to for information.
Fact Sheet and Scat for Little Brown Bat
We are getting excellent turnout for these programs, with 30-40 kids and their accompanying adults. The adults seem just as interested as the kids, and often will participate in the craft projects as well. 
Another Successful Junior Ranger Program