Sunday, July 17, 2011

Camas National Wildlife Refuge

Driving north in Idaho I-15 towards the refuge, I saw this large six-pack that I could not pass.  Unfortunately they were silos camouflaged as beer cans; a refreshing sight after driving for hours.  This area of Idaho is mostly agricultural and yes, they do grow potatoes there.

Arriving late in the afternoon at the Refuge, it did not look too impressive, and as much of the West bodies of water this spring it was flooded.  It was established in 1937 as a breeding ground for waterfowl and as a resting stop for migrating birds.  My first sighting was the yellow-headed blackbirds, a new species for me.  They were all over the cat tail reeds displaying and raising a cacophony of sounds.  It was the breeding season and the males were trying to impress the girls and defending their territories.  In their behavior, they are very similar to their cousins the red-winged blackbirds.

The waterfowl were courting and some were already building their nests.  Others such as the coots had already hatched their chicks and were actively feeding them.  The cinnamon teals above, were also a new species for me, the males color could have not been better described; just the same color as the condiment.  The females, more practical, had a plumage that help them to blend with the reeds where them nest.

Another surprise for me were the male ruddy ducks, I had never seen them before in their breeding colors with those strong red feathers and the fabulous blue bills.  They are really funny to watch they pump their heads up and down when attracting the females.  Another peculiarity is that they make the water bubble in front of their chests by making a very low frequency sound (I assume since I could not hear any noise).   I have seen the similar bubbling of water done by alligators.  These small ducks are very aggressive and will not permit another male of any species to even look at their partner.   Jealous birds they are, wonder why?  The females are just plain Jane's, but then, I have no ruddy duck eyes.

The long billed wren was also very active settling territorial disputes and chanting to the world "do not trespass.  This bird I photographed earlier in the year in the east coast while involved in the same behavior.  It a fetish little bird.

Harriers were also very active flying over the marshes looking for prey.  These were already nesting among the reeds.  One evening, a male have caught a rodent (above) and flew towards its nest; on approach the female flew up from the nest and let go of the furry creature that was promptly captured in mid-air by the female.
Visiting Camas was very rewarding; at one time it was a farming area.  Some of the ruins of the original settlers are still visible, against the chocolate flood waters and the blue skies make a good departure image.


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