Photo of the Month: Bycatch

Showing posts with label Birding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birding. Show all posts

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Glacier Day Seven: Late Day Bonus

After completing a 14.5 mile hike, you might assume we would be tired and done for the day. Part of that assumption is correct: we were tired. However, we were not so tired that the day was over. The big hike to Gunsight Lake and Florence Falls had been a lot of fun, but we finished early enough in the afternoon that we still had many hours of daylight left. Before any further adventuring though, we wanted to eat some more. Lunch had been completed on the return hike from Gunsight Lake, and we were starting to get hungry again. 

Relaxing in Camp and Eating Yet Again

The drive back to camp was completed as quickly as one can under the conditions, and we were soon devouring another delicious meal featuring burritos. This had become a big favorite for us on this trip. We eat a lot of them anyway, but they had turned into a quick and easy but delicious meal with good nutrition after the big hikes we had been doing. An ample amount of black beans, lettuce, tomato, a little shredded cheese, avocado, and either salsa or Taco Bell sauce provided plenty of calories.

While we were relaxing in camp, I decided to try and get some pictures of the wildlife around camp. I was particularly interested in a little oven bird that had been hanging around. While I got a picture or two, they didn't turn out nearly as well as that of a robin that was hanging around. Here is what that one looked like.

American robin at Glacier Campground
American Robin ©2020 David Knapp

Late Day Drive to Polebridge

After lunch and a little time to sit and enjoy the birds, we started thinking about an evening adventure. With nothing better to do, we headed back up to Polebridge. We drove up there far more than was probably necessary, but we enjoyed the late day drives and the scenery was beautiful. The first trip had produced some good fishing, but in subsequent trips I simply enjoyed the drive.

On this evening, we again struck out on wildlife. This trip produced less wildlife encounters than we had hoped, but the scenery more than made up for that. Being there in the middle of the heat of summer probably didn't help. Without any wildlife to keep us occupied, the highlight of the evening ended up being the sunset. 

Sunset at Polebridge

The evening was beautiful even before the sunset. We drove south along Inside North Fork road, hoping for some critters. The one bit of excitement happened when the road passed Winona Lake. We thought for sure a moose had to be feeding there, but it wasn't our day apparently. The waterfowl there were interesting, though, and kept us occupied for a bit. With darkness approaching, we didn't really want to drive all the way back in the dark. After turning around at the Quartz Creek Campground, we were soon back to the bridge over the North Fork of the Flathead. Looking upstream and downstream, we saw one of the best sunsets we enjoyed on this trip. The camera didn't come close to capturing the beauty of the moment, but we and some others on the bridge tried anyway. Distant thunderstorms up over Canada were on the horizon to the north, while the moon was coming up over the river to the south.

Sunset on North Fork Flathead River at Polebridge looking north
North Fork Flathead River at Sunset ©2020 David Knapp

Looking south at moonrise over North Fork Flathead River at Polebridge
Moonrise and Sunset on North Fork Flathead River ©2020 David Knapp

After enjoying this beautiful scenery, we turned towards camp. We had one full day left and wanted to get well-rested so we could make the most of it. The next day would be tied for my favorite hike in Glacier National Park with the Sperry Glacier day we had already completed. 

Friday, December 04, 2020

Nature Awareness: Bird Language and a Cooper's Hawk in Glacier National Park

As I was going through pictures from this summer's trip to Glacier National Park, a series of shots of a Cooper's hawk reminded me of our last day in Glacier. I'll share more about the trip later, including lots of fishing stories, but the bird pictures reminded me of the importance of nature awareness. While this is a story about birds, it could apply to fishing quite easily. In fact, a great fishing tip is to simply slow down and let the fish tell you what to do. I know that's easier said than done, but you won't ever know if you don't slow down and pay attention to the details. 

This story about bird language goes back a few years to when I was working on a Master's in Outdoor Education from SAU. One of the required classes was "Nature Study Skills." A major focus of one semester of nature study was on bird language. One of our main texts was a book called "What the Robin Knows" which walks the reader through the process of learning bird language. The basic premise is that birds are the sentinels of the forest, and by paying attention to what the birds are doing and saying, we can know what is going on in the woods around us. For birds, the things happening around them are generally a matter of life or death. As you can imagine, they generally pay better attention to their surroundings than we do.

My first time noticing a pair of Cooper's hawks in the woods that really registered happened during this class. We were required to do sit spots (I had to get a total of 90 hours of nature observation over the course of the semester) as part of the process of learning bird language. One day, while I was hanging out at the edge of a small clearing near the house, a flock of robins flew up and landed in the grass close by. I was sitting stock still and they continued feeding closer and closer. Some came within 6 or 7 feet as they hopped this way and that, looking for worms or other goodies. Suddenly, I realized that all the birds had frozen in place and were making a high pitched call unlike anything I had ever heard before from a robin. I later found the same call labeled as the hawk alarm call or some such thing on my bird app. There is a good version of this under the "alarm" call on this page

Suddenly, a pair of Cooper's hawks burst out of the woods from my left (south) at what looked like great speed heading generally north. They zoomed quickly out of the woods before turning west and back into the woods on the other side of the clearing. Moments later, all the robins started moving again and going about feeding like nothing ever happened. How did they know the hawks were coming? Clearly, something further back in the woods had given the alarm and while I had missed it, the robins didn't. This life or death communication happens constantly all day for the wild birds and other critters.

Moving forward, I've had a lot of intriguing bird language moments, but I often find myself too busy with the hustle and bustle of life and have to purposefully slow down and listen when I'm in the woods. One of the best places to see things is while out on the water. People ask me all the time if I see bears while fishing. In general, the answer is actually no. The reason? Because I'm too focused on the water. That isn't all bad, of course, but it does leave me missing out on some neat interactions. Occasionally, however, the birds are so insistent that I have to take notice. 

One such interaction happened a few months ago while on the Clinch River on a wade trip. I was guiding my friends Roger and Brady and was working with Brady while Roger fished just above us. As we were working some fish, I noticed the birds on the far bank were making a fit. Casually, almost offhand in fact, I said half jokingly to Brady that there must be a snake or maybe even a cat over there. Then I forgot all about it. I was focused on putting him on fish after all! Moments later, Brady said, "There it is!" I almost stupidly asked what he was talking about, but quickly remembered my comment based on the birds talking. When I looked up, I couldn't believe it. A large bobcat was working along the far bank, hunting slowly along the shoreline. This is the third or fourth time I've seen a bobcat hunting along the river. On this occasion, I probably would have missed it if it wasn't for the birds telling us about it and Brady looking around to see if he could spot what was bothering the birds. In other words, paying attention to bird language can add tremendous value to your time in nature.

The next memorable bird language moment brings us back to my story from Glacier National Park. My wife and I took a big vacation this summer to Glacier National Park and also into northern Idaho to do some fishing and camping and of course lots of hiking. It was a much different vacation from what we had originally planned. Due to COVID, many of our plans had to change including where we camped. We ended up staying most of the time in a private campground outside the west entrance called Glacier Campground. Our original plan had included Many Glacier, but the National Park Service cancelled our reservations when it was determined that the Park wasn't opening access to the east side of Glacier for 2020. We were originally quite disappointed as you can imagine, but with everything going on, we just felt fortunate to be able to travel at all. Glacier Campground ended up being a fantastic place to camp and we even had huckleberries in the woods around our campsite. 

On our final day in Glacier, we were taking down camp and preparing for the move over to Idaho for the rest of our trip. I was excited to get more serious about fishing, having done a little in Glacier but the Idaho part of the trip was all about fishing. We were nearly packed when I noticed the birds around camp making an absolute fit. When I finally noticed, they had actually been complaining for a few minutes, but I had been too busy to pay attention. It finally clicked, though, and I remembered that this had actually happened a few days prior and turned out to be due to some hawks back in the woods. Once I looked at the closest robin that was complaining, I could tell exactly where to look for the hawks. The robin was staring intently at something back in the woods, and I just had to look where the robin was looking. Sure enough, there was a Cooper's hawk with another one lurking further back in the woods. 

This time, instead of getting caught up in watching the birds, I quickly grabbed my camera which thankfully had the zoom lens already attached. Creeping back in the woods, I played a game with the hawks of how close I could get before they got uncomfortable. These were the pictures I just came across while editing pictures from our trip. I was happy with how they came out. I've been wanting to get a good picture of some Cooper's hawks and this one will probably be about as good as I can get. They tend to be shy I've noticed.

Cooper's hawk in Glacier campground near Glacier National Park


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Water for California

Things have been awful quiet around here. No, I haven't given up on blogging although I understand how that could appear to be the case. Instead, things have been busy and not on the fishing front either. I've been blessed to have some good family time lately. A trip to California to see family allowed me some time to enjoy spring like we will have here in a few more weeks.

Fruit trees were loaded down with oranges, tangerines, lemons, kiwis and grapefruits that I enjoyed immensely at meal times. Just run outside, grab whatever fruit sounded good straight off the tree, and go back in to eat!

Tangerines on the tree in California

I also looked over some local water and stopped in at a local fly shop, Fly Fishing Specialities. This was a nice shop with a superb fly tying department. Stop in and check it out if you are in the area. It is well worth your time. I didn't take any fishing gear with me on this trip but fully intend to return on a longer trip some time in the future to fish a little.

One thing I did confirm was that the snowpack up in the Sierra Nevada mountains is at an acceptable level, something that is a rarity as of the last few years. In fact, this should at least be a normal year in terms of runoff. Both the trout and people of California should be glad for that.

Sierra Nevada Mountains snowbank in California

Lake Tahoe snow

Finally, I always have my camera with me and this trip was no different. Here are a few shots I got while out in California.

Abandoned rock quarry water reflection

California coastal redwood

Sunset in California

Yolo Bypass Great Egret

Yolo Bypass white faced ibis