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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Henrys Fork Audubon Society Meeting.

We just had our first Henrys Fork Audubon Society Meeting tonight.  It was like many organizational beginnings; small in numbers but large in dreams and enthusiasm.  It may have been the presenter - me - talking about sage and sharp-tailed grouse.  But we are determined to make a go of it.

Our next meeting will be May 26 with a field trip on May 21 at Camas National Wildlife Refuge.

In the meantime, this afternoon I enjoyed a few minutes watching a few birds in the high winds.  First was some Common Loons.  There are 14 on a pond on the Teton River just outside of Rexburg.

Forster's Terns just showed up in the last few days and the wind would carry them right over my hiding place.

 I will keep you posted on the upcoming activities on this blog about the Henrys Fork Audubon Society activities

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sharp-tailed Grouse active on their leks

One of the greatest shows on earth is the dancing of the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse in the Moody Creek area of Madison County.  They will fly or walk into the lek and start putting on a show.  I love to watch their dance.

The males puff up their purple air sacks on their neck and their yellow eye brows stand up while they dance trying to attract a female.

Their dance includes spreading their wings, stomping their feet, rubbing their two main tail feathers together to create a scraping sound, clucking and chirping and moving in circles.

The chief of the lek has to defend his property because most of the females will pick him for mating.  This creates battles between the males that included tearing at each others air sacks, locking beaks, raking the other with their feet and pinning them to the ground.

At times the loser will fly up and land on my truck hood to get away from the violence. They usually do not stay long once they realize I am just three feet away from them.

What an experience to witness these battles over women.  It seems that all species are about the same.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Stunning Ferruginous Hawk

CORRECTION:  I appreciate expert birders when I make mistakes and they help and teach me.  Photos 2 and 5 are not Ferruginous hawks.  Even though the coloring is like them, they are immature Swainson's hawks.  Ferruginous hawks have feathers down their legs to their feet.  Also some of the other markings are not consistant with those of the Ferrugs.   Thanks to those who corrected me.  It is appreciated.

One of the rarest hawks of Madison County is the stunning Ferruginous.  Most nest and live in the desert west of Madison County, but we get visits and and fly overs from them.  They are a large bird, but their coloring of white and rust while flying over you gives them a delicate appearance.

While sitting on a fence post eating a gopher, it coloration is dominated by the rusty back.

They are a dominating figure as they dive toward you if you happen to get too close.  Their wingspan is the largest of the hawks of Madison County at almost five feet.

When leaving their perch on a snag, you can often hear the long wings brushing the branches.

This summer I will be maintaining a raptor observation route.  I will be counting, recording data and observing the habits of nesting pairs of raptors.  Hopefully one of those will be the beautiful Ferruginous hawk.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hooded Mergansers

On the South Fork of the Teton River west of Rexburg in the Hibbard Community two pair of Hooded Mergansers are working hard a finding a place to nest.  Large mature cottonwood trees line the bank of the twisting and turning river, making an ideal place for the Hoodies to set up housekeeping.  Search as hard as I can, I have not found where they have had or will have their nests.

Just east of St. Anthony a few miles northeast of Hibbard, they have successfully raise young before but on private ground in nests build for wood ducks.  I continue to see more each year in these areas.  Eventually I will find one of their nests.

The male is very beautiful with the female almost a dark brown to a gray.  Here crest never gets wet when she dives.  Here she dives while he stands watch over her.

Many times he will watch while she dives.

If another merganser comes close to them as they are feeding, he will hiss and chase them off .  See that story on my  blog.

But at other times he is the perfect gentleman escorting here around his area, making sure she get enough to eat.  That is until she starts nesting.  Then he is off with the other men-folks, sheding his coat of many colors, drinking, eating and doing what most men do when their are off with the fellas - fishing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Winter Hawk - Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-legged hawks that have spent the winter in Madison County and the surrounding areas are now being replaced by the Swainson's Hawk.  The Rough-legged are making their migration above the Artic Circle to raise their young.

They have spent the winter harvesting rodents in fields and area marshes.  They are a God-send to area farmers as they will kill and eat four to five rodents a day.  They can locate their prey under the snow.

I have seen over 20 of these beautiful birds sitting on an irrigation wheel-line waiting for dinner to be delivered or stumbled upon.

Only a few are left as they are replaced by the Red-tailed and Swainson's for the summer.