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Big birds moving through southeastern Idaho

Living the Wild Life

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Wednesday afternoon I watched as seven large flocks of Sandhill cranes dropped from high altitude to the agriculture fields at Camas National Wildlife Refuge. Three of the flocks had landed and were getting acquainted with the swans, Canada geese and the dabbling ducks already there when all heck broke loose.

With thousands of wings beating and every bird shouting the alarm as they flew off, I saw the cause – the local pair of Bald eagles were out for a joy flight. They were playing tag and only had eyes for each other. Their flight path just happened to be over the feeding birds and arrival of big birds from northern Canada and Montana.

Between stormy days this past week, the big birds took advantage of the northern breezes to head south to warmer climes. Since most of our local sandhill cranes have already left, the northern flocks are just arriving at Camas NWR with large flocks of Canada geese, Trumpeter swans and mostly Mallard ducks.

Most of the Tundra swans and Snow geese are not stopping but each day we have observed or heard large flocks of them flying south. A few snows and Tundras have been seen on ponds near Rexburg, Camas and Mud Lake.

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“Last weekend one of our workers observed a couple of Snow geese with some Canadas on the refuge,” Brian Wehausen, manager of the wildlife refuge told me on Tuesday. “This morning just as the sun was rising, the birds were very noisy as it sounded like a bunch of new birds had arrived.”

Tuesday morning, I got out to Camas a little too late as most of the birds had left the ponds and the ag fields – and it was snowing and raining. Even the White-tailed deer had brushed up so I decided to hit it on Wednesday which was a great choice.

Not only did I see the eagles working on their relationship; yes, they are like a happy human couple, they work on their relationship year around; I experienced the beauty of a sunset as a background for migrating big birds. The setting sun painted the western sky a beautiful orange as I shot pictures of silhouettes of the thousands of birds coming in for a restful night.

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As the refuge closed for human activity a half hour after sunset, I moved just off the refuge, east of the ag fields. I watched as 37 White-tailed does and fawns moved out into the fields as birds continued to drop out of the sky. Only one buck showed up and he was only interested in filling his belly as the rut for the white-tails is still a week or two away.

After it got too dark to take pictures, I listened as a flock of Tundra swans dropped onto the Big Pond and a flock of Snow geese landed in the standing grain field to get an evening snack.

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We are entering into one of my favorite times to visit Camas, with the waterfowl and pheasant hunting seasons open at Mud and Market lakes, migrating big birds will mostly use Camas as a resting and feeding area. Also, Camas is closed for the hunting of deer, so during the up-coming rut, the bucks will be chasing the does for the next month. When the rut starts, I will let you know and I will spend as much time out there that I can.

Also, a few people have been seeing a few Blue jays in the area. Seems like the most popular place is the western side of Idaho Falls. If you see any different or exciting things let me know at: bschiessphoto@gmail.com.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors safely.

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