Deer Park is very busy right now, with lots to see
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Hundreds of Trumpeter swans are busy cleaning up the grain left standing along the edge of the strips of sunflowers that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game left for them last fall at Deer Parks Wildlife Management Area.
They were also joined by seven Sandhill cranes that arrived the first day of March as the recent warm spell started attacking the snow. Flocks of mallards and Canada geese are also trying to get their share of the grain before thousands of Northern pintails show up in the next two weeks.
If that isn’t busy enough a herd of mule deer, male Red-winged blackbirds along with large flocks of American goldfinch are feeding on the standing sunflowers. Crows, ravens and seven species of raptors are either scavenging on the dead or harvesting rodents that the melting snow is exposing.
Even as busy as it is, within the next two weeks Deer Parks will become a haven for migrating birds as they come to clean up the fields. In the early waterfowl migration between 1,000 to 2,000 Trumpeters will soon be joined by Tundra swans, thousands of pintails, American widgeon, Northern shovelers and several species of teal.
It seems that as quickly as the management area becomes the go-to place for the migrants, it takes only a couple of days before it becomes unpopulated. As the snow melts quickly in the Osgood and Market Lake areas, creating large ponds and exposing miles of stubble fields, the waterfowl move to those areas and away from Deer Parks.
To enjoy a visit to Deer Parks, several options are available with two parking lots and a series of trails leading through the fields and along the sloughs and canal. If you cannot hike, parking in the parking areas will allow you to view the activities from a distance. Hiking gets you up close and personal with the birds but with the melting snow creating a lot of mud, muck boots are almost a must to keep your feet clean and dry.
“We hiked all the way to the canal on the west of the management area,” commented one of two young men from Fremont County as they finished their hike. “It was very exciting to see all the birds but the most exciting was watching the kingfishers (Belted kingfishers) as they dove for fish in the canal.”
“I cannot hike anymore, but I come here almost every evening to watch these birds until they disappear,” said an older man from Idaho Falls. “I love to watch pairs of swans fly in their synchronized patterns and the herd of deer in the sunflowers is a big plus.”
As the waterfowl migration gets in full swing raptors and scavengers show up to pick up some lunches and dinners. This week must have been a time for the alive and healthy migrants as hawks and Prairie falcons were harvesting a few rodents. As soon as the crows and ravens noticed them eating, the scavengers would harass the raptors and occasionally steal the meat. As they would fly away and announce their good fortune, an immature Bald eagle would give chase, plucking the morsel from the air as it was dropped. Better to have lost a meal than to loose your hide.
These aerial battles are always a lot of fun to watch.
The male Red-wing blackbirds have shown up in good numbers and are starting to establish their nesting territory. It will be about two weeks before the females show up and pick the male that they think has found the best neighborhood to raise their kids.
Also keep watching for owls as they are very vocal right now. This week I located a pair of Long-eared, a pair of Saw-whets and six Great grays on the same day (two of the Great grays were in the same tree flirting). Turkeys are also starting to travel long distances to find food as seven have showed up in my yard to clean up the spilled bird feed.
Be safe out there as you drive around and also be aware that COVID-19 is rebounding in our area again. We cannot afford to lose any nature lovers.