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The rains came down, the floods came up and the birds at Camas surfaced

Living the Wild Life

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“The rains came down and the floods came up” says a child’s song. But most of the flooding was flash flooding and the farmers with hay down had to be a little disappointed. I even had to pull off the road near Terreton on Monday because my wipers were not fast enough to keep my windshield clear enough to see the road.

Wondering how the wildlife were handling this first major rain of the summer, I headed out to some of my favorite haunts – the desert west of Rexburg. At my first stop at a Burrowing owl nest yielded no birds, but the second one had two young ones getting soaked while a gruff-looking mom observed from a mound about 30 yards away.

The rain turned into intermittent showers as I was watching the two soaked babes. Soon another surfaced, dry as a bone but as soon as a shower came by, it quickly popped down the burrow. A Logger-head shrike flew near the nest and both little ones disappeared as the mom gave a warning chirp and gave chase after the songbird-eating songbird.

As I continued toward Camas National Wildlife Refuge, I caught a Swainson’s hawk trying to dry off its wing feathers by spreading them out. Further down the road some invasive Eurasian-collared doves were also trying to get their feathers dry by imitating the hawk. Wet feathers do not allow quick get-aways or attacks.

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At Camas most of the songbirds were still hiding in the thick cover while the young coots were picking off insects as they were trying to hatch on the pond’s surface. A Spotted sandpiper would have made an Olympic beam gymnast jealous as it ran down a stick and ate bugs at the same time.

On the way home, I took enough time to check on the Burrowing owl nest — only one little one was still out, probably hoping for the grasshoppers to dry out enough to become active. The flightless owlets learning to harvest insects can be a hilarious sight.

The rain slowed down the harvest a little but sent a little heavenly help to the firefighters in their attempt to get ahead of some of the wildfires. But by Thursday afternoon, the temperature was back up in the mid-90s with the starlings and robins back raiding my raspberry patch so I did not have to pick them again. The valleys were full of smoke again, but with rain predicted for this weekend, it seemed like every hay-bailer in the valley was in use trying to get the hay put up. Black hay does not make farmers very happy.

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I am sure the wildlife loved the reprieve from this summer’s heat the rain gave them, but even then, too much of a good thing can be “too much.” Most would welcome a little moisture to fall from the sky each week, but the early morning thunder and lightning shows can cause even the wildlife to have heartburn.

It is also time for the early fall migrating birds to start gathering to head south, so watch them start putting on their fall gathering shows.

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On a sad note, Byrle Walker, of whom I wrote about in my bear column two weeks ago, passed away this week. I would like to thank my editor, Nate Sunderland, for giving me a push to write that article because he gave me an excuse to visit with Byrle one last time.

Have a great week and I hope each of you have safe travels and outings – even in the rain.