Previous Views from the Board 2018

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 https://xerces.org/monarchs/.

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: https://tinyurl.com/camas-nwr-workshop.

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. http://www.friendsofcamas.org/birding/

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.  http://www.yorkccd.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2-Leaf_Characteristics.pdf  

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   http://www.mykidsadventures.com/pinecone-bird-feeder/

Bird watching scavenger hunt  http://redtri.com/bird-scavenger-hunt-checklist/

Bug collecting – pooter   https://www.amentsoc.org/bug-club/fun/experiment-pooter.html

Magnetic shells  https://www.familyeducation.com/fun/nature-art/magnetic-seashells

Build a terrarium  https://www.familyeducation.com/fun/nature-activities/build-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 prbrkr@aol.com for application, rules and details.

Karl Bohan