As I sit at the kitchen table, watching half-dollar sized flakes of snow drifting by the window in slow motion, I am reminded of the things which are common place in Idaho but unique elsewhere. We live in arguably one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse places on earth. From the harsh, vast and seemingly empty landscape of Owyhee County to the newly established Bolder-White Cloud Wilderness Area, Idaho is simply stunning in many disguises. From a mere seven-hundred feet above sea level at Lewiston to just under 12,700 feet atop Borah Peak, elevation changes across Idaho are dramatic and frequent, and the foundation of our varied climate conditions and habitats across the state. The snow-capped peaks, white-water rivers, natural hot pools and emerald green forests are a magnet for locals and tourists alike, and the material for post cards coffee table books. While photographs of the Upper Snake River Plain are not often the headliner of tourist brochures, this environment is every bit as dynamic and interesting as any other Idaho has to offer. Camas NWR significantly contributes to this. Seasonal variations in temperature, precipitation, and wildlife use are legion. Now that the dead of winter is upon us, the ground is (thankfully) snow covered and no open water remains. The nesting, migrant and water birds are gone until spring. But, not all bird life is gone. This time of year the refuge hosts many winter visitors from the north, in particular Rough-legged hawks. Recent bird sightings of interest include Short-eared Owls (rare for this time of year) and a Merlin: one of the least known falcons. As a bonus, some evenings as many as 40 Bald Eagles come to roost in the cottonwoods near the refuge HQ. Friends of Camas will host “Come to Roost at Camas” in late February to share this extraordinary event with the public. I hope you can join us. Camas National Wildlife Refuge in the winter is, indeed, one of the reasons Idaho is the gem state (it’s not just about rocks!!).
Photo Credit: Patty Picket
Spring continues to tease its way into eastern Idaho and Camas National Wildlife Refuge. Last week it was 70 degrees. This morning there was a hard frost across much of the Upper Snake River Plain. Dr. Edson Fichter, long gone but fondly remembered by his ISU students, referred to spring weather in Eastern Idaho as “Predicable Unpredictable.” As usual, he was spot on. But even the most unpredictable spring results in the awakening of Camas National Wildlife Refuge from the winter torpor, and this year is no exception. In fact, this year, for the first time in several years, the awakening includes significant water to the refuge from Camas Creek. In 2015 Camas Creek ran free on the refuge only one day. This year it has flowed for well over a month and all of the water you see on the auto tour route is natural flow. As a result of the abundance of water, this has been a banner year for shorebirds. While the shorebird migration is now slowing down, the movement of song birds is picking up. Friends will celebrate this influx twice this month. For the fourth year, Friends of Camas will join the Idaho Fish and Game, Ducks Unlimited, the Snake River Audubon Society and several federal agencies (including the Fish and Wildlife Service) for International Migratory Bird Day activities. This will be held Saturday, May 21 at Duck’s Unlimited Market Lake Ranch near Roberts. Click here for more information.
Friends second celebration of songbird migration will be May 28 when we join with the Snake River Audubon for our first ever “Bucks for Birds”, a bird-a- thon to raise money for both organizations to further our compatible mission for environmental education, conservation, and scientific study. Click here for information and registration/donation form.
Friends continues to raise funds for our two summer projects: the Pollinator Garden and the Peregrine Cam. We received a grant from Scotts Miracle-Gro 1000 for the former, and will hear the results from two other grant sources soon after the first of June. If you wish to help us with this project, donate via Pay Pal by clicking the button at the top of this page. Our crowd sourcing for the Peregrine Cam is at nearly 40% of our target goal. To support this project, which has the recent endorsement and enthusiasm of the members of the local education community, click here.
If you haven’t made a visit to the refuge recently, I invite you to do so soon. This is your regional National Wildlife Refuge, and spring is arguably the refuge at its finest. Hope to see you there.
Tim Reynolds, President
Friends of Camas NWR
July 1, 2016
Summer is here and Friends of Camas has been busy welcoming its arrival on several fronts. In late May, Friends and the Snake River Audubon Society, sponsored the first ever “Bucks for Birds”, an east Idaho refuge Bird-A- Thon. This was a success by any measure. We had over 40 participants (some active participants and some as sponsors of birders) and both organizations split nearly $2000 in net proceeds. At the awards potluck, the Pocatello team of Chuck Trost and Barb North selected a day behind the signs (refuge areas closed to the public) with Refuge Manger Briand Wehausen for their 110 species seen. Linda Milam received awards for both the most money raised (nearly $400) and the closest guess to the total number of species seen (146). A late entry raised the total species to very respectable 157!
Click here to see the list.
Ecologically, the refuge is now a maternity ward. Young birds and wide-eyed young animals are everywhere! Goslings have been about for over a month, and ducklings are now abundant, as are the young of all other wildlife species. Pronghorn fawns are already able to outrun a horse. The Refuge is alive! Come visit while the looking is good.
We continue to raise funds for the Peregrine Web Cam and the Pollinator Garden. The former is now over 50% of the way to our target (click here to see our success and help us out). For the Pollinator garden, we have over $22,000 in grants and donations from CHC Foundation, Miracle-Gro 1000, Idaho Native Plant Society, Portneuf Valley Audubon Society, and private donors. This will allow us this summer and fall to complete an ADA compliant walkway, install an automated sprinkler system, and prepare and plant most of the garden. We are still looking for funding for a water feature and a gazebo. You can help us help the pollinators by donating through PayPal in the top right of this page.
We welcome two new board members: Jacob Gray, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Manager of the Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area, and Zoe Jorgenson, an educator in School District 91. Their bios and head-shot will be on line soon. We are excited about the skills they bring to Friends and expect their active participation will help Friends better meet its goal of fostering environmental education, conservation and scientific study for the benefit of the natural resources of Camas NWR and the enjoyment of them by the public.
New Friends member Tony Boicelli submitted a photo of the month that is jaw-dropping beautiful. Friends is fortunate the many local and talented photographers are willing to share their photographs with us.
Be sure to check out the Activities Calendar. The summer is just warming up! It is a great time of year to visit your local National Wildlife Refuge
Tim Reynolds, President
October 1, 2016
Well, it has happened again. Summer has slipped into fall with very little preamble. This is a good thing. Recent rains (more like downpours) have doused the regions wildfires. The much needed moisture will provide a fall flush of vegetation everywhere, and will help, at least a little, the depleted reservoirs in Eastern Idaho recover from an unprecedented dry and hot summer.
In spite of the summer heat, ponds at Camas National Wildlife refuge fared fairly well this summer. Because of a near normal winter snowpack, the first in years, Camas Creek flowed onto the refuge for several weeks, rather than the handful of days the creek has reached the refuge in the recent past. As a result, the refuge was generally in good condition all summer long.
Friends of Camas was also in good condition this summer. Our Bird-A- Thon, a joint effort with the Snake River Audubon Society, was highly successful. The event raised visibility and funds for both organizations, and Friends gained a few new members. The Starry-starry night event, held at Camas by the Idaho Falls Astronomical Society, was a measured success. After a cloudy evening, the skies cleared and the stars and star gazers both showed up for viewing fun after dark.
For this summer, Friends of Camas is particularly proud of the progress we have made on two long-planned and highly visible projects: The peregrine web cam and the pollinator garden. Both are well on the way to completion.
For the Peregrine Cam, we reached 80% of our funding goal (see https://www.crowdrise.com/camasperegrinecam/fundraiser/friendsofcamasnation1), which allowed us to purchase the camera, solar panels, and other hardware. We intend to put these items in place on the Peregrine Nesting Tower in late October after the birds are gone for the year. The peregrines fledged three young this year. It is exciting to look forward to next year when anyone with internet access will be able to watch the nesting process in real time.
The basic infrastructure for the Pollinator Garden, a joint effort of Friends of Camas and the Idaho Master Naturalists, is nearly complete. The ADA compliant walkway was installed in early September, and the main elements for the sprinkler system were installed two weeks later. Native trees and shrubs have been ordered, with delivery expected the second week of October. These will be planted a few days after arrival and the drip irrigation system will then be completed. In early November the Hamer Elementary students, through a Pheasants Forever Program, will plant 1.3 acres around the pollinator with a mixture of forbs and grasses. It will be fun to watch the garden mature. Friends’ Third Annual Birds, Bugles, and Brunch was again a success. Attendees left with full bellies, new bird houses, an appreciation Camas NWR and an understanding of Friends mission to foster environmental education, conservation, and scientific study for the benefit of the resources and the enjoyment of the public at the refuge.
As the days cool, bird migration and big game activity at the refuge is heating up. Now is a great time to visit your local National Wildlife Refuge.
Tim Reynolds, President
December 1st, 2016
Photo Credit: Patty Picket
It’s hard to believe the end of 2016 is in sight. With an unseasonably warm fall, as evidenced by the photo above of open water on Big Pond in early November, it seems 2017 should still be months away. As proof, Sandhill Cranes were still at the refuge less than two weeks ago. But, recent colder weather is opening the door to winter. Rough-legged hawks are beginning to show up. White-tailed deer bucks are showing signs of the rut, and many waterfowl have drifted away from Camas National Wildlife Refuge to overwinter elsewhere.
The protracted Fall has been a blessing for two Friends projects. First, the Peregrine Web Cam. A generous donation by the Idaho Falconers Association, in the name of recently deceased Master Falconer and Founding Member of IFA Charles Scwartz, (photo left) brought us within $100 of our funding target. Moments after we announced the generosity of the Idaho Falconers Association, we received a donation (the second!) from a conservation minded individual which put us over the top! In a flurry of
activity to beat winter, Friends Board Member Mark Delwiche installed the camera, solar panels, and associated electronic components on the nesting tower, and tested everything the week before Thanksgiving. All appears to be in order and a big GO for streaming the nesting process via the internet when the Peregrine Falcons return next spring.
Second, the long fall has allowed us to make significant headway in converting the lawn around the HQ building into a pollinator garden designed to provide four distinct habitats, mostly of native species, to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, insects and other pollinator species. An ADA compliant Pathway was completed, an irrigation system installed, nearly 70 native trees and shrubs were planted (thank you Idaho Master Naturalists!), and six raised beds for a monarch/milkweed study were constructed, put in place, and filled with topsoil. And, with the support of Pheasants Forever, the Hamer elementary kids came to the Refuge for activities about pollinators and habitat. These conservationists of the future seeded over an acre with native grasses, forbs, and shrubs. It will be fun to watch this area sprout and grow next spring.Click here for photos.
This has been a good year for Friends. Our first ever “Come to Roost at Camas” (watching Bald Eagles fly into their night roost) was a great success, as was the Bird-A-Thon in cooperation with the Snake River Audubon Society, and our annual fall “Discover Camas” day. We look forward to more successes next year. If you want to help guide the direction of Friends in 2017 and beyond, consider joining the Board. Contact me to see how to do so.
Tim Reynolds, President
Timothy D. (Tim) Reynolds, PhD.
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