Previous Views from the Board

September 2020

Tim Reynolds

In two highly publicized events during February of 2020, 96 pronghorn antelope were killed by train collisions near Hamer in Jefferson County. Mass mortality caused by train collisions is not a unique event at this site. Similar events occurred in 1985, 1986, 1992 and 2011. Such large losses of adult pronghorn antelope have a significant adverse effect on population size, and the recent events may account for as much as 50% of the herd that summers on the east side of Interstate-15.  Fencing along I-15 prevents these animals from accessing historic winter range west of the highway.  In July 2020 the East Idaho Chapter of Safari Club International was awarded a grant from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for a radio-collar study of pronghorn antelope which winter east of I-15 near Hamer.  Because Camas NWR was likely part of the historic winter range, Friends of Camas NWR, the Henry’s Fork Wildlife Alliance, and SCI provided matching funds for this research.  The focus of this study is to identify specific migration pathways and pinpoint areas hindering or interrupting migration.

Monies were used to purchase radio-collars and provide helicopter time for a net-gun capture operation conducted by IDF&G in late July.  Sixteen pronghorn were captured and collared in Shotgun Valley westward from Island Park Reservoir to Monida Pass; two more were captured south of Dubois just west of I-15.  The attached figure shows capture sites (solid colored circles with black dots) and movements during the first few days after capture (solid circles, no black dots).  Additional collars will be deployed this winter on pronghorn antelope near Hamer

July 2020

Sue Braastad

All gardens are a work in progress.  The Camas National Wildlife Refuge Pollinator Garden is no exception.  But the goal of any garden is to fulfil the original purpose – look pretty, feed the birds or provide resources for pollinators.  And the Camas garden is definitely fulfilling its’ purpose.  If you explore the garden you will find the flowers crawling/flying with insects.  For the most part that is a good thing!  The bumblebees have been there in force, and that is excellent as they are native bees.

Other improvements are benches in the gazebo and benches in the garden area.  The tree snag near the gazebo has been carved with a chainsaw!  Check out the critters carved into it!  And please check out the garden continually as it progresses.

A picture is worth a thousand words so my space will be mostly pictures this time.

June 2020

By Pam Johnson

Friends of Camas offer a variety of public activities throughout the year.  The first activity of the year is ‘Come to Roost’, which is held in February.  This activity is held in the late afternoon at Camas National Wildlife Refuge, where visitors can observe Bald Eagles flying back to the Refuge to roost for the night in a shelterbelt of trees.  The number of Bald Eagles can vary from 10 to 60 or more.  Spotting scopes are set up to aid visitors in watching this impressive site of the birds flying in and hearing them call to each other. 

There are two activities hosted in May.  The first is the celebration of Migratory Bird Day, this is a day event hosted by Camas NWR and Idaho Fish and Game.  A variety of other groups, including Friends of Camas, participate by providing fun activities for the whole family.  The site of the event alternates each year between Camas NWR and Market Lake WMA.  This May the event was cancelled, but it should be up and running for your family to attend next year.

In late May there is a Birdathon, which is hosted by Friends of Camas and Snake River Audubon.  This is a competition where birders, as individuals or teams, spend a day birding at their favorite National Wildlife Refuge or State Wildlife Management Area to see how many species of birds they can find.  This year 7 contestants participated, and they observed 134 bird species. The largest number of species observed by a team was 97.  Proceeds from the event at this time are $3,932,  which will be split between Friends of Camas NWR and Snake River Audubon.

There are no activities scheduled during the summer months, but it is still a great time to visit Camas NWR.  The Refuge has a diverse group of habitats including wetlands, sagebrush uplands, tree shelterbelts, and riparian.  Each of these habitats has a vast assortment of wildflowers, butterflies, insects, birds, and mammals to enjoy.    

September brings the final event.  ‘Birds, Bugles & Brunch’ is hosted by the Friends of Camas at the Refuge.  The main activity is a hayride through part of the Refuge to listen for elk bugling.  There are a variety of other activities like bird walks, bird house building, and learning stations for participants to enjoy.  There is also a delicious breakfast brunch offered to all.  We hope to have this event on September 19th, but be sure to check the website later this summer to see if it is on schedule.

May 2020

Terry Thomas

If there is a “best” time to visit Camas National Wildlife Refuge, it has to be the next several weeks. The birding community has long recognized that Memorial Day weekend is the peak of the songbird migration. If you hope to add significantly to your life list, then from now through the first week of June is the time to do it.

The marshes are booming at this time of year. Most of the waterbirds have arrived and from cattails to open water, there are species using the habitats. The variety of birds and mammals can be staggering if one has a little patience, a spotting scope and knows where to look.

Spring is also the time of birthing and hatching. Many of the waterfowl already have broods that are fledging right now, but others are just starting. The same is true for the elk, deer and moose. The next month will see all the fawns and calves enter this life with wide-eyed wonder and the cuteness index pegs into the red with each new birth.

The Refuge is probably in its finest condition this time of year. By now, trees are all in leaf, grass and cattails are greening and ponds are as full as they are going to be all year. For a sensory overload, be on the marsh for sunrise and catch the vibrant colors of a new day reflecting in Big Pond or Redhead Pond. Don’t forget your camera and to enter your photos in this year’s contest.

Spring is also the time when days are long, offering you a chance to get to Camas in the evening after work and school are over, yet the temperatures are still reasonable.

From wildlife to scenics to weather, now is the time to visit Camas National Wildlife Refuge, not just once, but as often as possible, for the show is different every day.

April 2020

Karl Bohan

Wow!  Another year has gone by since Idaho Gives 2019.  Friends of Camas NWR has been busy since then.  In the last twelve months, we have stocked up on microscopes, binoculars, models, and other outdoor educational equipment,  partnered with local schools on field trips, added many flowers and interpretive signs to our flower garden, and set record attendance at each of the public events we host at Camas.  This coming year, we will be making improvements to our educational pavilion, looking into erecting an observation platform over the marshes, and evaluating possibilities for enhancing water distribution at the refuge in order to improve marsh habitat later in the year (now that less water is available than when the refuge was first established). We are also collaborating with another non-profit to find ways to mitigate pronghorn vs train mortality in the Hamer, Idaho area.  Oh yeah, we also added sound to our peregrine camera YouTube feed.

 As always, we depend entirely on donations and fundraisers to keep moving ahead with improving the ability of Camas NWR to meet the needs of its feathered and furry residents, as well as to enhance the appreciation and understanding of the many wild things our refuge has to offer. Friends of Camas has active, energetic board members and enthusiastic volunteers who together in 2020 donated over fourteen hundred unpaid hours of labor into public education, outreach, research, and community events. ANY contribution you are willing to make to Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge through the Idaho Gives event would be greatly appreciated.  I assure you, we will put it to good use.

March 2020

Zoe Jorgensen

As the weather warms, the kids are anxious to get outside, and this is a good thing.  There are many studies that say our kids spend to much time indoors and do not experience nature regularly.  Whether it’s in the local park or at the Camas National Wildlife Refuge, nature experiences are a great family activity.  One way to get everyone involved is a scavenger hunt.  The hunt can focus on anything you want: birds, plants wildlife.  This website has four hunts already to use and to strengthen observation skills.

Camas is a refuge for many native, migrating birds and spring is a great time to bird watch.  Starting with birds in your backyard, the city parks or along the river, you can engage in a dialog about how important birds are and how we can take care of their habitats.  One fun way to become even more aware of the birds of the intermountain west is to use an app to help identify the local birds.  The Audubon Bird Guide is a free app that includes descriptions, locations, pictures, and audio files to share information about the north American birds. 

It doesn’t really matter what you choose to do while out-of-doors, it just matters that you make time to take the young people out into nature allowing them to explore, observe and enjoy. 

October 2019

Tim Reynolds

The mission of Friends of Camas NWR is to foster environmental education, conservation, and scientific study at the refuge for the benefit of the resources and enjoyment by the public.  Towards this end we have a host of projects completed, in progress, and still on the drawing board.  Those which are completed include the Nancy Maxwell Conservation and Education Pavilion and the Peregrine Falcon web cam.  Projects underway are the Kent Christopher Sage Grouse Habitat Restoration, the Jon Braastad Pollinator Garden, and the Friend of Camas Environmental Education and Conservation Resources Acquisition.  Future projects include repeating the bird banding effort conducted by the Intermountain Bird Observatory a dozen years ago and, possibly, developing an audio app for the Refuge’s Tour Route.

None of our projects would happen if we did not have the strong support of our Friends membership and the community, as well as the generous funding from granting organizations.

In this View from the Board, I want to identify and thank those who are responsible for our successes towards meeting our mission goal:

Nancy Maxwell Pavilion:  CHC Foundation, Tri-County Builders, JRW & Associates PLLC, Idaho Master Naturalists and Friends of Camas Volunteers.

Peregrine Nest Cam:  Idaho Falconers Association, Mud Lake Telephone, Portneuf Valley Audubon Society, Snake River Audubon Society, private donors, Friends of Camas matching funds, and Friends of Camas Volunteers.

Pollinator Garden:  CHC Foundation, Idaho Native Plant Society, Mountain State Products, Native Roots, Sunnyside Gardens, Eagle Rock Nursery, Rain Makers, M Squared Construction, Portneuf Valley Audubon Society, Scotts Miracle Gro – 1000, Bayer Feed a Bee program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Cedera Native Plants, John Braastad Memorial Fund, private donors, Friends of Camas matching funds, and Idaho Master Naturalists and Friends of Camas Volunteers.

Kent Christopher Habitat Project:  Dubois Grouse Days

Environmental Education and Conservation Resources:  CHC Foundation, Portneuf Valley Audubon Society, Snake River Audubon Society, and Friends of Camas matching funds.

None of these projects would have been possible without the generous support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service SE Idaho Refuge Complex, providing much needed and appreciated matching funds as well as many, many hours of workmen/women, heavy equipment, and expertise in many arenas.

The bottom line is that cooperation and conservation go hand in hand, benefitting the Refuge and the enjoyment by the public.

July 2019

Sue Braastad

When you think of Camas National Wildlife Refuge, you might just associate it with wetlands and ducks, some deer and moose, oh and the eagles!  That is all well and good, but there is more, if you look closer.  For one thing, there are butterflies galore. I just participated in a butterfly survey which was a cooperative effort with Idaho Master Naturalists and the Refuge.  You don’t realize how many there are until you are trying to catch them and identify them.  There are tons of them – and - spoiler alert - all the white ones are not the same species!

The Upper Snake Chapter of Idaho Master Naturalists has been working with Camas NWR on a lot of projects.  The IMN participates in reptile and amphibian surveys, water quality monitoring, vegetation plot monitoring and more.  Here is my shameless plug for joining Idaho Master Naturalists.  If you like getting outdoors and helping agencies such as Camas NWR and Idaho Fish and Game to name two agencies, then IMN may be for you!  You learn lots of interesting stuff in the classes and you get to help nature in our corner of the world.

My big project that marries IMN and Camas NWR is the Pollinator Garden at the Headquarters.  This is multi-year project is coming into its own.  Over 150 forbs and bushes were planted this year to add to the plants already there. Informational signs were installed this year.  Insects and birds are enjoying the fruits of our labors!  Check out the Pollinator Garden and the Refuge!

June 2019

View from the Board

By Terry Thomas

May through July may be the best months at Camas National Refuge. As spring and summer assert their authority, the activity at the Refuge seems endless. This is the time for babies, seasonal visitors and for a general greening of the world, a greening that doesn’t last forever.

This is also a great time to get out and sharpen your photography skills. There is so much happening that you may just get a blister on your shutter finger! And while you are at it, you can enter your best shots in the annual Friends of Camas photo contest. This contest has been growing over the past several years and last year’s winning images were pretty awesome. You can check them out under the activities tab on this website. We expect even more entries this year, so why not be one of them?

You can check out the complete set of rules by looking under the Activities tab for Photo Contest, but here are the basics. You can submit up to five images so choose carefully among your best. Images don’t have to be taken on Camas National Wildlife Refuge but they do have to be taken from one of seven locations: Camas NWR, Mud Lake WMA, Gray’s Lake NWR, Market Lake WMA, Bear Lake NWR, Deer Parks WMU or Oxford Slough WPA. Images must be submitted electronically along with the appropriate form and not exceed 10 MB each.

As for subject matter, virtually anything goes. Wildlife is an obvious choice, but don’t forget to look for scenics, sunsets, insects and other macro subjects.

To improve your chances of a winning photo, strive to remember these guidelines:

  • Pay attention to the rules of composition such as a level frame and rule of thirds.
  • Animals facing into a photograph look better than those looking out.
  • Interaction between animals adds drama and/or tenderness to a scene.
  • Wildlife in a scenic image adds place, drama and interest.
  • Always ensure that the eye of a wildlife subject is in focus. Even if the rest of the photo is sharp, but the eye is slightly out of focus, it just looks wrong.
  • Try not to place horizon lines in the middle of an image unless it is a mirror reflection.
  • Watch for opportunities to include leading lines such as roads, tree branches, shrub rows or anything else that can enter the scene from a bottom corner and move diagonally through the image.
  • You will often find the best images early and late in the day. Wildlife is more active during these hours, the light has a warmer and softer quality and shadows add dimension and depth to a photograph.

The most important “rule” though is to be there. Get out, get out a lot, and enjoy. 

May 2019

Opportunities for family outings at Camas National Wildlife Refuge

By Pam Johnson

Friends of Camas offers several organized activities at Camas NWR to enjoy all the Refuge has to offer.  These activities give the visitor a chance to view a variety of wildlife during different times of the year.

In February, the group offers a ‘Come to Roost’ viewing.  This event is centered on bald eagles, which use the Refuge every winter as a roosting area. Visitors are invited to gather at the Refuge in the evening to watch the eagles come in from all directions to roost in a shelterbelt near the headquarters. The number of bald eagles can vary from 10 to 60, with the birds calling to each other as they come in.  Spotting scopes are set up for people to use in order to get a closer look at the birds, hot drinks are supplied as well.

The month of May brings ‘World Migratory Bird Day’.  This activity is sponsored by a variety of agencies and groups and is held at Camas NWR or Market Lake WMA, alternating years.  There is a large variety of activities; from guided bird walks, building bird houses, as well as to a Birds of Prey demonstration. The month of May also brings a Birdathon, sponsored by Friends of Camas and Snake River Audubon.  This gives families a chance to go out and challenge their bird identification skills.  A potluck at the Refuge, follows in June for all participants.

In September, Friends of Camas hosts ‘Birds, Bugles & Brunch’.  The main activity of this event is a hay ride through part of the Refuge to listen for elk bugling.  Bird walks, learning about invertebrates, bird house building and a variety of other activities are also offered, climaxing with a brunch for all. 

Times vary for these activities, so be sure to check the website often for exact dates and times.

April 2019

Idaho Gives and 4th Annual Bucks for Birds Birdathon

By Karl Bohan

As you may already know, Friends of Camas NWR Inc. operates 100% on volunteer labor and donations. With those contributions of time, energy, supplies and money, we accomplish a lot.  In just the last few years we have built a solar powered outdoor classroom, landscaped and planted a lovely pollinator garden, with a gazebo for bird watching, and installed a live peregrine camera, with audio, that streams sights and sounds of our nesting peregrines 24/7 on YouTube.  We also host a number of public events and field trips for adults, students and scouts throughout the year. All of this takes money. Two of the biggest fundraising events we depend on, Idaho Gives and our annual Bucks for Birds Birdathon, are just around the corner.

Idaho Gives occurs all day May 2nd.  Run by the Idaho Nonprofit Center, it is designed to bring the state together, raising money and awareness for Idaho nonprofits. provides an easy-to-use platform for donors around Idaho to support the Idaho non-profit of their choice. Would you be kind enough to go online with Idaho Gives May 2nd and choose to support Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge? If so, here is the link:

The Fourth Annual Bucks for Birds Birdathon1 coming up May 20th -May 27th will be a LOT of Fun! If you yourself are a birder, what you do is share your enthusiasm for birds with people you know, and/or  strangers, and ask them to pledge an amount of money per bird species you are able to identify within a single 24 hour period between May 20th and May 27th.  If your supporters would rather just pledge a fixed amount for your days’ worth of birding, that’s great too. If you are NOT a birder, please select a birder or team of your choosing and make a pledge to them. Checks to settle up pledges should be made out to Friends of Camas NWR2. Proceeds will be shared 50/50 between Friends of Camas NWR and Snake River Audubon Society.

 Last year was my first Birdathon; I went out at 4:00 am and started by listening for owls. Hilary Turner sighted 127 different species last year, followed by the team of Kit Struthers, Carolyn Bishop and Teresa Meachum with 99 species, and Barb North with 74. I only counted 63 species by the time it got dark and I decided to call it a day, but I had a fantastic time!  It doesn’t matter how many you see or how much you pledge, just don’t miss out on the fun!

1You are encouraged to do your birding at any or all of the National Wildlife Refuges or State Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in eastern Idaho. Species spotted on your way to, from, or between these areas will also be accepted.

Follow this link to for detailed instructions and a downloadable pledge sheet”?

2 Please make checks out to Friends of Camas NWR but mail them to Snake River Audubon Society at the address below.

Snake River Audubon Society 

P. O. Box 2922

Idaho Falls ID 83403-2922

March 2019

Zoe Jorgensen

Whether you see a robin on your lawn or a flock of geese winging northward, birds are a sure sign of spring.  The best things about bird watching with your family are that it’s easy, doesn’t take a lot of training and you can do it just about anywhere.  Engaging you children in the process of observation can be done through a simple bird behavior scavenger hunt.  With your older children they can classify the birds by beaks and feet.  The classification and identification process can be enhanced with phone apps such as Smart Bird ID and Bird Songs ID USA

There are many birds that can be observed in our own yards, city parks and along the river. But for a different perspective take the time to come to the Camas National Wildlife Refuge. There are many different birds using the refuge which can open rich dialogs between you and your family. 

Scavenger Hunt   Create a simple chart for each child to record the following behaviors:

  •  Singing or calling
  • Preening (looks as if it is nibbling, tugging, or combing feathers with its beak)
  • Bathing in water
  • Taking a dust bath
  • Flying
  • Perched on a branch
  • Perched on a wire, or fence post
  • Walking or hopping on the ground
  • Standing on the ground
  • Feeding
  • Flying with a worm or insect in its mouth
  • A group of birds perching together on a wire
  • A flock of small birds chasing a large bird
  • A group of birds flocking together

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