March marks the beginning of the large spring migrations - East Idaho News
Living the Wild Life

March marks the beginning of the large spring migrations

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This week reminds us that Old Man Winter is hard to put to bed, or he is dreaming about catching some birds unaware of how dangerous he can be.

The red-winged blackbirds may have jumped the gun by a few days. Last Tuesday, I watched as thousands of them descended on the dried sunflowers at Deer Parks Wildlife Management Area, west of Rexburg. With them were Brewer and Yellow-headed blackbirds, a couple of Western meadowlarks and about a hundred American goldfinch.

I have not seen any snow geese yet, but I have had two reports of people seeing them west of Idaho Falls to Market Lake. If they are there, they are about two to three weeks early, but let the spring migration show to begin. This will offer us opportunities to see birds that we have not seen since last fall.

Sandhill cranes
Sandhill cranes should show up in the next week if they remain on schedule.

By the middle of March, we should also see Sandhill cranes and Tundra swans as they head to their nesting grounds in Canada and, for some of them, above the Arctic Circle.

If you are an owl watcher and lover, you have already noticed that the Mrs. of the pairs has already begun sitting on her nest while her hubby brings her daily rations. Most of all, their hooting has stopped, allowing some homeowners a little better night’s rest. Spring snowstorms do not deter them from their reproductive duties.

On their schedule for birds to show up, the Friends of Camas has listed March 1 as the day male red-winged blackbirds start to establish their territories. On Feb. 21, I watched two male red-wingeds fighting over territory near the Henrys Fork of the Snake River. The females usually follow a week or two later, but the large flocks I saw on Tuesday also had some females in them. Everything is getting mixed up in this Modern Era!

Red-winged Blackbirds
The hordes of blackbirds filled their bellies full of sunflower seeds planted by the Idaho Fish and Game for migrating birds.

The resident Trumpeter swans have stayed the winter in the Upper Snake River Valley, but due to the warm weather and lack of snow, most are scattered in agriculture fields. On Feb. 23, I watched two large flocks fly north as I headed to Howe to check out the birds there.

On Tuesday, I only saw 12 at Deer Parks, but over 600 in area potato fields east and north of the R-Mountain. I guess they prefer rotten potatoes over corn and wheat.

Traditionally, March 10 is when the large migration of Tundra swans, a smaller cousin to the Trumpeter, comes through eastern Idaho. They usually don’t stay more than a week to 10 days, but they are exciting to watch and listen to. They will most likely be at Market Lake, Mud Lake, Camas National Wildlife Refuge or the Osgood area west of Idaho Falls. I like to find some that have numbered neck collars and then find out their individual history.

Around the middle of March, the Snow and Ross’s geese will come through in large numbers, and the Sage grouse will start dancing on their leks. A few days later, the Long-billed curlews will arrive, and the Sharp-tailed grouse will be visible on their leks. By the end of the month, most ducks will be migrating through, and the swallows will show up to try to eat all the flying insects that try to feed on us.

Trumpeter swans
Hundreds of Trumpeter swans are now feeding on rotten potatoes in fields within two miles of Deer Parks WMA. Notice swans have totally white wings.

It will be fun to see how many of the little songbirds and the shorebirds will also jump the gun and get here in March instead of April.

March will be a very exciting time for me as I try to keep up with all the spring happenings, and I will try to keep you informed what comes and where you might catch a glimpse of these wonders of nature. If the snow leaves and the mud dries up, I will have to do it between hunting rocks and fishing!

Have a great week, and be safe in your travels and outdoor activities.

Tundra1 23
Tundra swans are smaller than the Trumpeters and have small yellow patches between their bills and their eyes. They should be migrating through in the next two weeks.
Snows10 23
Snow geese have black tips on their wings and are much smaller than the swans. They usually migrate through our area from March 15 to April 30 in large flocks. | Bill Schiess,

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