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See the circle of life in real time at Market Lake

Living the Wild Life

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Photos courtesy Bill Schiess |

It started two weeks ago. A pair of Canada geese had “multiplied and replenished” themselves as they swam across the canal at Market Lake bookending three newly hatched goslings. This week, an adult pair was babysitting 37 yellow balls as they pecked at the newly emerging grass spears.

The explosion of baby geese on the north end of the road running through the wildlife management area is producing a one-item smorgasbord for the predators, especially the predatory birds. Eagles, Northern Harriers, herons, bitterns and even ospreys have been observed flying off with a newly hatched gosling. I even interrupted a coyote sneaking up on a goose family hiding along the edge of the canal, causing him to high-tail it through the tall grass.

Want to see some real life action? It is time to take a drive. A very slow one, through Market Lake. It will thrill your kids as they watch hundreds of newly hatched goslings diving for minnows, coots chasing coots and the life cycle happening in real time. One of my favorites is watching the Marsh Wrens gathering old cattail down for their nests.

On Saturday, May 18 at Market Lake, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is hosting the World Migratory Bird Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Most of the activities, bird walks, educational booths and displays, raptor demonstrations by the Teton Raptor Center, kid’s activities and a free lunch will be held on the hill overlooking the first pond.

“At noon we will have the grand opening of the new bird viewing blind building,” Brett Gullett, the wildlife biologist in charge of the celebration, said. “We just got it built and will be building a fence and planting willows at the pond’s edge before the opening.”

The viewing blind is on the former Western Wings Pond on 800 North near the overpass that crosses Interstate 15 two miles north of Roberts. It has wheelchair access and openings of different sizes and heights to accommodate all ages of observers.

This year’s theme for the World Migratory Bird Day is “Protect birds: Be the solution to Plastic Pollution.” There has been an estimated 8.3 billion pounds of plastic produced since the 1950s and about 91 percent of plastic is not recycled but discarded as waste.

Locally, one of the most visible discarding of plastics is plastic baling twine. Many ospreys use it as nest building material. Several years ago, I got pictures of an osprey near the headquarters of Market Lake that got tangled in the twine and died before I saw it. Each year, the power companies are called on to rescue birds that become entrapped in the twine so the birding industry is asking users of this type of plastic to dispose of it properly.

Market Lake can become very busy on the weekends and evenings as people look for a place to enjoy the wildlife. I find the best time to enjoy the wildlife management area to be the early morning when I can leisurely stop and study the wildlife around me.

Driving slow allows the geese to move off the road and begin feeding for you to study their habits and take pictures. It is also the time of day when you will see the more timid birds, like the herons and bitterns, as they stalk their prey for breakfast.