Previous Views from the Board 2018

January 2019

View From The Board…..Linda Milam

We are entering into the short, cold days of winter, days that bring a different kind of beauty to Camas National Wildlife Refuge.  But before we go there, I’d like to highlight my favorite time of year, autumn in eastern Idaho. 

It is the time that Friends of Camas hosts Birds, Bugles and Brunch (BBB) bringing together members and others to commemorate another year of efforts to enhance your enjoyment of this special place.  We gather at the pavilion that was our first big project, completed a few years ago and now used for Friends activities, youth programs and other activities.  Also this year, we were able to show off the work that has gone into the Pollinator Garden near the headquarters building.  Thanks to grants, donations, and a memorial gift, and the work of staff, Friends, Master Naturalists and others, the raised beds bore fruit with many kinds of flowers and showy milkweed, a new gazebo has been built and feeders are in place for the many birds that frequent the refuge.

Importantly, this year, dozens of members, friends and family members gathered to celebrate the lives of two people who were critical to these efforts.  Nancy Maxwell, longtime member of Portneuf Audubon Society was the early impetus to establishing the Friends of Camas.  While she was too ill to participate in many of our activities, we were always aware of her interest and commitment to the Friends and the refuge.  This year, we were pleased to recognize her by dedicating the pavilion to her memory.

John Braastad, longtime U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee, most recently at the Southeast Idaho Complex of refuges, was a regular presence at our events and supported the work of the Pollinator Garden.  After his too early passing, a memorial fund was established to support work at the garden, including the construction of the new gazebo.  At the BBB, the Pollinator Garden was dedicated to his memory.

The other special aspect of fall at the refuge is the migration season.  Just as in the spring, waterfowl, shore birds, and passerines make the stop here to fuel up for the long-distance trip south.  Especially interesting to observe are the Sandhill Cranes and Trumpeter Swans that gather in their hundreds before moving south.  A drive around the auto loop will reward the viewer with many glimpses of these magnificent and iconic birds.

October 2018

Red hot sunrise at Camas by Patty Pickett



October 2018,  Tim Reynolds

Four W’s and the H

My grandfather was the editor of a newspaper in Northern Minnesota for nearly 70 years.  That’s right 70 years.  He was writing coherent and thought-provoking weekly editorials when he was in his 90s!!  All of his writings (even his eloquent and erudite Christmas letters) revolved around answering the basic questions of responsible journalism:  who, what, why, where, when and how.  Following is the same for Friends of Camas.

Who are we?  We are the Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge, Inc.; an all-volunteer organization consisting of individuals with an interest in anything or everything relating to the Refuge: science, outreach, monitoring, wildlife viewing, etc.  Friends of Camas is registered with the state of Idaho and recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, governed by a 9-12 member Board of Directors. 

What do we do?  Friends of Camas fosters environmental education, conservation, and scientific study at the refuge for the benefit of the resources and enjoyment by the visiting public.  Our By-Laws state: The purpose of the corporation is to promote the conservation of native fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats on the Refuge, provide educational opportunities, and foster understanding and appreciation of Camas National Wildlife Refuge, to include the Southeast Idaho Refuge Complex; Bear Lake NWR, Grays Lake NWR, Minidoka NWR, and Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area.


Why do we exist?  The primary reason is that Camas National Wildlife Refuge, as well as all refuges in the Southeast Idaho Refuge Complex and refuges throughout the US, is under-funded.  Friends of Camas, as an independent entity, can raise monies to provide funding for projects which support the Refuge mission but may not be exactly in line with mission priorities.  For example, the Nancy Maxwell Education and Conservation Pavilion was a Friends project which provides great benefit to the refuge and the public but was not a high funding priority for the Refuge day to day operations.


Where do we do what we do?  While Friends of Camas presently focuses our efforts at Camas NWR, we hope to expand our reach throughout the Southeast Idaho Refuge Complex in the future.


When did we start?  Friends of Camas had two beginnings.  First, in 2010, as an Unincorporated Nonprofit Association, which, for several reasons, was restructured into a Non-profit Corporation in 2014. 


How do we do what we do?  There are over 240 Refuge Friends groups nationwide.  Some of these refuges are near population centers, and the Friends groups there have the luxury of a large and active membership.  Many of the Friends groups simply get funding for projects from member dues or the revenue from gift shops associated with their Refuge.  Some have endowments which provide consistent long-term funding.  Some can count on fundraising events to provide both operating funds and project-specific funding. Due to our remote location and small membership, Friends of Camas has developed a unique funding model.    We have determined that, with one exception, our major events (Birds, Bugles and Brunch in September, and Come to Roost at Camas in February) are friend-raising events, not fundraising.  The exception is the Bird-A-Thon, which we share with the Snake River Audubon Society, and is only as successful as the ambition of the participants to get sponsors. Our primary financial avenue has been receiving grants and soliciting project-specific donations.  Since our inception we have received, in aggregate, over $125,000 in funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Friends Association, the CHC Foundation, the Idaho Native Plant Society, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bayer Feed a Bee Program, Portneuf Valley Audubon Society, the Idaho Falconers Association, and some generous local donors.   Grants and our supporters are the keys to our success for the Nancy Maxwell Education Pavilion, the Peregrine Falcon web camera, and the Pollinator Garden:  projects which both elevate and enrich the Camas experience.  Unexpectedly, our “business model” has received a recent boost from a huge legacy donation from Rita Poe: someone we never knew, but someone who loved coming to Camas NWR.   We have invested her generous gift so that for years to come it will give us some flexibility and relief in the pursuit of funds for worthful projects. 


Come to visit the refuge and enjoy our successes.  There are more to come!

August 2018    -  Mark Delwiche

The Peregrine Falcon Webcam

Regular visitors to the Camas NWR or to our Webpage will remember that for the last 2 summers we have had a webcam on a wooden tower that peregrine falcons have been using since the 1980’s as a nesting platform.  Those visitors will also remember that the webcam has been on again, off again.  It was on this year for about 3 weeks, 2 of which it was available for viewing on YouTube.  Here is a brief account of our difficulties and about the falcons who spent the summer (without the prying eye of the camera) on the tower.  

Our webcam has a challenging connection to the internet; it goes through 3 wireless links: from the tower to the Headquarters residence, from there to a relay station at a farm on the other side of the interstate, and then to Dubois before it connects to the Mud Lake Telephone fiber optics main-line.   Even when our hardware is working well, the signal to the internet can be tenuous.  This year after relearning the right hoops to jump through to connect online, we had a good link for a few weeks before it became unstable and finally quit.  With the help of the Mud Lake Telephone lineman and a Friends of Camas electronics engineer we managed to verify the camera was still functional, but we could not maintain a signal.  By April 22 it became clear that for a permanent fix we would need to access the tower transceiver.  But the tower is strictly off limits while the falcons are here, often as late as the end of October.  By mid-November should have everything ready for spring.

The good news is the falcons successfully fledged one chick this year.  By March 28 at least one falcon was present and showed obvious interest in the back right corner of the nest box.  On April 23, the day after the camera quit, the falcon was spotted circling above the tower with what looked like a male peregrine (a “tercel”).  A Fish and Game biologist who monitored the nest through the summer sent us the attached photograph July 11.  In the photograph, you can see a falcon standing on the cross-arm below the nest platform.  If you look closely you can see the head of another adult standing behind a squarish piece of basalt placed to the left of the nest box.  And on the right side inside the nest box is a large downy 20-day old chick with its head tucked in.  Just above the chick notice the camera in a little frame, and below the chick, at the bottom of the photo, you can see the wireless dish aimed at Headquarters. 

On July 31 three observers, myself included, watched the chick fly around a little and light on a fencepost briefly before returning to the tower to devour lunch, provided by one of the parents, of a sizable looking fresh kill (bird or rabbit? we couldn’t tell).  We were delighted!

Check back here next April.  With some tinkering and a little luck, we’ll have a link to next year’s live action.  

To view the previous View from the Board, click here.

July 2018  - Sue Braastad

The Pollinator Garden

Most people come to Camas National Wildlife Refuge in hopes to see the deer, elk, cranes, owls, ducks etc.  You know, the critters that you need binoculars and big scopes on their cameras to see well.  There is another world to see and appreciate at the Refuge Office.  We are in the process of building and enhancing a Garden that attracts the LITTLE wild creatures of the Refuge – the bees and butterflies and hummingbirds. 

This garden is also a demonstration garden and is divided into three different areas of water usage.  Plants are picked for each area according to their water needs.  The Arid area (directly west of the office) will be watered about every 2-3 weeks.  The Semi-arid (approximately south-west of the office) will be watered every 1-2 weeks.  The Mesic area (south of the office) will be watered every 2-3 days.  This is depending, of course, on weather and if we are establishing plants.

There are also raised beds for milkweed to attract Monarch Butterflies.  There are two species in these beds – showy and swamp milkweed.  Monarch Butterflies are such a highlighted species these days and you can read more about them at

How do you turn a large lawn into a huge garden?  It ain’t easy.  It takes lots of planning and lots of volunteer hours.  Idaho Master Naturalists and Friends of Camas have donated hundreds of hours to the project.  You start by killing the grass and planning where the structures and paths go (a gazebo is coming!).  Then plan the flower beds from there.  You plant and weed and mulch and plant and weed and mulch and weed some more.  To help control the weeds, cardboard was put down where the plants did not spread, shrubs, etc.  And then you weed some more.  We are still experimenting and learning.  For example, the lovely water feature is giving us a challenge with algae growth.

Are all the plants native plants?  No, not all.  In the Arid and Semi-arid areas, the native plants definitely are the preferred species as they can survive in those conditions.  In the Mesic area, a few non-natives are included because of their known ability to attract bees and/or butterflies. 

We started to see the payoff last summer.  The planted areas were buzzing with bees and a-flitter with butterflies and darting with hummers.  It was a joy to see and to listen to, but you had to get down and close, that is where the action is.

The next time you come up to Camas – bring your magnifying lens and macro lens for your camera and visit the garden!!

June 2018

Monarch Caterpillar

Last month Friends of Camas NWR, along with the Snake River Audubon Society, hosted their 3rd Annual Birdathon, which was very successful.  Reports have been received from eleven birders, in seven teams, with 141 bird species observed.  Proceeds from the event have reached $2,703.00, with several outstanding pledges yet to be received. Expenses for the Birdathon were a minimal $313.32. Both the expenses and the proceeds will be split between Friends of Camas NWR and Snake River Audubon.

This month, Camas NWR will host a Monarch Butterfly Workshop on Saturday, June 30th.  The workshop will run from 9am to 2pm, at Camas NWR.  This will be a hands-on, family friendly training on the steps people can take to help with the conservation of monarch butterflies and their habitat. The workshop will be presented by the Xerces Society and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  Pre-registration is required, with limited space.  To register go to:

June and July are great times to visit Camas NWR, as most all bird species are present and are either nesting or already have their young.  During this time of year, each different area of the refuge is wonderful for viewing a variety of birds. Wetland conditions are good so far this spring season, therefore offering great views of waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. This year there is also one confirmed trumpeter swan nest. The shelterbelt tree area around the office offers a nice variety of song birds, owls and hawks. The sagebrush uplands also have a good diversity of song birds, if you take the time to look and listen for them. You can also find butterflies, from the small Melissa blues to the large Monarchs and many in-between, in all of these habitats as well.

Pam Johnson

Trumpeter Swan Cygnets

May 2018

Photo by Karl Bohan

Wildlife Calendar and Photography

As the name implies, Camas National Wildlife Refuge is all about wildlife. Incredible diversity can be found there from mammals to birds to reptiles, but the show really doesn’t happen all at once. To see all that the Refuge has to offer, you need to visit throughout the year. That is where the Events/Wildlife calendar can help you. For instance, do you want to know when the spring songbird migration is at its peak? Check the calendar. Want to know when you might start seeing deer fawns? Again, the events/wildlife calendar has the answer. You can find out what is new and what is expected at any given time by consulting the calendar. Then you can plan your visits accordingly.

This information is essential to anyone who wants to view wildlife. It is even more important to those who hope to take compelling wildlife images. If you go looking for tree sparrows in summer, you are going to be disappointed as the calendar indicates that tree sparrows aren’t expected to migrate through until December. You can’t photograph what isn’t there.

When you look at the calendar, you will notice that the dates can be pretty specific. Don’t get hung up on the exact date though. As the disclaimer indicates, these dates are averages from records kept over the years. They will vary with weather, seasonal availability of food, marsh flooding and a lot of other factors, many of which we can’t even see. If you are particularly interested in an activity on the calendar, I suggest that you start looking a bit in advance (a week or more wouldn’t be inappropriate) to ensure that you don’t miss the peak or even the entire event.

For 2018, we have decided to combine the events and wildlife calendars into one calendar. This should make it easier for you to find out everything that is going on with the Refuge and the Friends of Camas.

For photographers, this is a reminder that the 2018 photography contest is open. Last year was the first year for this contest and participation was less than we had hoped for but the winning images were fantastic. Categories include wildlife, scenics and flora. Only DIGITAL submissions will be considered. Prizes are small but your fame could be tremendous. Winning photos will be posted on this website and may be used in promotional materials for Friends of Camas NWR. So, get your submissions ready and check back here often for the official opening of the contest. You can see the official rules by clicking here.

We hope you will visit Camas NWR in a variety of seasons to take advantage of a wildlife show that never stops and whose actors change throughout the year. It is a show you won’t want to miss!

March 2018

Photo by Patty Pickett

Getting into Nature

March 27, 2018

Spring is finally here, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors with the family.  There are many ways to get children actively involved scientifically with nature. The simplest way to become engaged is through the process of observation.  Simple scavenger hunts, or camera safaris create opportunities for children to analyze and verbalize about the world around them.  Bird watching is a great way to observe and make notes of animals in their natural habitats. The Friends of Camas website has a list of birds to watch for in the area.

Categorizing is another important scientific skill that can be a lot of fun for kids.  Make a collections of leaves, rocks, or bugs and then group them according to various attributes.  The attributes can be as simple as size or color for the younger child, or more complicated like shape and types of leaves.  

With a simple search there are many educational and fun activities that can be used to engage the whole family in natural scientific inquiry.

Bird feeders

Bird watching scavenger hunt

Bug collecting – pooter

Magnetic shells

Build a terrarium

Making Camas National Wildlife Refuge a part of your family outdoor experience this spring is sure to add to your adventure. Thousands of birds and dozens of other wildlife species can be found and spring is just a great time to get out. We hope to see you at Camas!

Zoe Jorgensen

April 2018

2017 Contest First Place Winner, Sue Braastad

Second Annual Birdathon 

Come Join US!

     It is time.  Time to emerge from hibernation and shake off the cobwebs of winter.  Time for migrating back outdoors and enjoying the launch of Spring and all the new life that comes with it. Perhaps best of all it is time for the 2018 Birdathon!

      Put on by Friends of Camas NWR and the Snake River Audubon Society, the Bucks 4 Birds Birdathon event is a great opportunity to have some fun and support a couple of great organizations dedicated to promoting awareness of wild spaces and the species that depend on them. Sograb your binoculars and species checklist and head out to one of Southeast Idaho’s National Wildlife Refuges or Wildlife Management Areas Memorial Weekend and see how many bird species you, or a team you sponsor, can find. We will have an Awards Potluck Picnic Celebration at the home of Shari Sellars, 17155 Old Ririe Hwy, Ririe on Saturday, June 9th with prizes to be awarded.

     We encourage you to get sponsors (friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, or colleagues) to support our organizations by pledging a certain amount per species you find, or to be a sponsor for a birder. If you or someone you know would prefer to make a fixed donation to our organizations that’s great too!

Please see the links on the Friends of Camas Website or contact Pam Johnson at for application, rules and details.

Karl Bohan