Message from the Board

Times and Seasons – Change at Camas (again)

Dave Stricklan | February 2024

I wrote last February in this column that it looked like we would get a good water runoff year, and we did! This year, not so much. Summer water resources at Camas National Refuge, like everywhere in the Mountain West, are tied to winter snowpack. This year the precipitation in the Centennial Mountains and the Camas Creek drainage are currently about ¾ of normal. That isn’t good, but it isn’t earth-shattering either because unlike Lake Wobegon where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average, on average the precipitation for a relatively “normal” year is below average.

How can the precipitation for a normal year be below average? Well it seems that those few years that have above-average winter snowfall often have snowfall way above average and the precipitation total for that one year bumps up the overall average – so the precipitation for a “normal” year is a little below the yearly average precipitation value. During the lower runoff and precipitation years, birds adjust, the vegetation adjusts, farmers try to adjust, and everything and everyone prepares for better times. Birds generally raise fewer fledglings and sometimes the fledglings that they raise are less successful. It is the same with some insects and arthropods and with mammalian wildlife, too. It is also true that with precipitation and a lot of other things, timing is important. Spring rains at just the right time can provide enough precipitation for newly growing vegetation. Heavy spring rains or ice and sleet storms can lead to higher death loss of nestling birds. A shift of just a week for a bad storm could lead to very different nest success.

Who knows? There may be great late winter and spring precipitation this year, or maybe not. But each year is a chance to live and enjoy the outdoors. If you are reading this, it is my guess that you have in the past enjoyed a trip to Camas. Don’t let this year pass you by without another visit. Come see the bald eagles at the “Come to Roost” activity and come on out during the spring and see the new improvements to the water system, because a visit to Camas is always an above-average day!

Refuge Manager's Notes

Brian Wehausen

Camas National Wildlife Refuge

November 17, 2023

The construction projects are getting very near their end and the Refuge staff is excited to see the finishing touches that will be put on in 2024. The ditch lining was completed in October and we are now ready for water that will come this spring. With the weather still holding, we anticipate some more work could be completed before  snow stops construction. The main disturbance on the auto tour route for visitors is over, although some minor closures could occur from time to time. One item I am sure folks would really like to see completed is the observation tower and vault restroom on the south end to the tour route.We are currently completing some design changes and looking for final construction to take place in the summer of 2024.

Hopefully many of our visitors had a chance to meet our songbird banding crew and watch them capture and mark birds. The crew we had this year was wonderful at interacting with the public and give folks and up-close view of birds and discuss why we are doing this type of work. This study is a two-year study, and we will have a crew back in April to start the second season. Please plan to come out to see and interact with the crew again in 2024!

The waterfowl migration this year has been very spread out and the timing seems to be later than most years. The weather has been for the most part warmer this fall, seems to reason for this difference. As an example, we typically see Sandhill cranes show up in big numbers in September. This year we did not have big groups of them show up at once, but smaller groups were seen in October and we still have some around this late in November. A good numbers of Swans are in the area and we have seen more ducks lately, however the recent temperatures are causing water to freeze on the smaller bodies of water and these birds will be looking for larger lakes and rivers soon.

Roosting bald eagles is the next event that many visitors come out to enjoy. The weather has not been cold enough for the eagles to start using the trees just yet. If we see some regular overnight temperatures in the teens or below we could see the amazing birds start to roost on Refuge for the winter.

Winter can be a great time to visit so come on out and enjoy the area if you need a break!




Friends of Camas NWR Inc. 
2150 E 2350 N
Hamer, ID 83425