Monday, April 23, 2007

Good News For Silver Creek

A cold mud snail is a dead mud snail.

The 2007 Summer Season at Silver Creek

It is an early spring at the Silver Creek Preserve—the sandhill cranes are coming back a couple at a time and the mayfly hatches have already begun. Rainbow trout are moving upstream to spawn and the snow has long since melted. As the summer approaches, we look forward to another amazing season, full of bird sightings, fish stories and beautiful sunrises. These are some just of the wonders The Nature Conservancy hopes to preserve for future generations. We are grateful to all our partners in conservation, to all of the landowners who have contributed conservation protection agreements, and to everyone who values the natural world and its many wonders. In the seasons and years to come we hope to continue our protection work while building stronger relationships in the community. Feel free to contact us at any time for information about our work, for help with your projects, volunteer information, or any other questions you may have.

We hope to see you this spring and summer!

Update on 2007 Projects:

NEW!!! Real Time Gauge-
You will soon be able to log onto the computer and find out stream flow information for Silver
Creek. We have commissioned the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to install a real-time water gauge at the sportsman’s access that will measure Silver Creek flows and temperatures. This information will be immediately available on line and will be complete early in the summer.
NEW!!! Weather site-
Check the weather before visiting the creek! The Silver Creek weather site is nearly complete. Until then, you can still check www. (site PICI for Picabo) for weather updates every hour!!
Kilpatrick Pond feasibility study-
This winter, The Nature Conservancy initiated an investigation of Kilpatrick Pond and the pond’s temperature and sediment issues. Gillilan & Associates of Bozeman, MT. helped us to develop restoration alternatives focused on enhancing the ecological attributes of the creek. The report is available on or by calling the Silver Creek office.
Macroinvertibrate (bugs) study-
Nick Whitacker of the University of Idaho will be completing his master’s thesis this spring. Nick was looking at insect populations throughout the Silver Creek system and how they were affected by the 2006 flood.
Fish and macroinvertibrate sampling-
The Idaho Department Fish and Game as well as the USGS will be doing fish and macroinvertibrate sampling this year. They are on a three-year rotation and will be shocking fish both during the day and at night to gather population information. Let us know if you want to help.
Upland Restoration-
Several projects will focus on restoring upland areas where weeds have taken over, as well as restoring agricultural lands to native vegetation. The areas will be treated for weeds and then seeded with a mixture of native shrubs, grasses and forbes. We will begin with 25 acres near the office this spring, and the project will continue for several years. We hope to enhance the bird habitat as well as enhance the wildlife corridor between Stalker Creek and the Picabo Hills.
We are continually learning from past projects, practices, and strategies. Monitoring is one of our most important learning tools, so we will be continuing the monitoring of conservation projects, water quality, and wildlife that have been conducted for the past several years. Let us know if you are interested in helping or would like information on how to set up a monitoring protocol for your private lands.
New Zealand Mud Snail Update-
Chris James from the University of Idaho has been working on his master’s thesis for the past two years, investigating the mudnails in Silver Creek, including their populations, distributions, and impacts. For a CD of the completed thesis or a two-page summary, please contact the preserve office.

Opening Day Party- Come join us to celebrate the launch of another fabulous summer season! Open house and barbecue at the visitor center, 3:30 – 7 pm on May 26th
A Day at Silver Creek- The preserve staff will host ”A Day at Silver Creek” on July 28th , an all-day event that will include bird watching, fly tying, a nature walk, and a barbecue.
Weed Night - In collaboration with Blaine County, the preserve staff will host an evening to learn about noxious weeds, invasive species, and different methods of control. Working together, we can develop a plan for invasive species control throughout the valley, June 13th
Natural History Walks - Natural history walks will take place every other Saturday throughout the summer. Please call for a schedule or check on-line at
‘A Watershed Event- the Silver Creek Symposium’- TNC will be holding the second Silver Creek Symposium this fall. Details will be announced. Save the date!! Oct. 27th
Visitor Center- The visitor center will be open daily from 8:30- 1:30, May 26- Sept 28.
Volunteering- We always welcome volunteers, for the day or week or hour. Please contact us if you are interested.
Information- You can always find information about Silver Creek and The Nature Conservancy at In addition,, has a wealth of information about Silver Creek. Compiling historic information about Silver Creek into a useable and accessible format is an ongoing process, so if you have specific questions, feel free to contact the Silver Creek office (788-7910).

The preserve is fully staffed this year. Come by to meet the staff any time or give us a call if you are interested in joining the team!

● Trish Klahr, Watershed Manager
● Dayna Gross, Preserve Manager
● Keri York, Preserve Assistant
● Andy Pelsma, Intern
● Avery McKenzie, Intern
● Ruth Douglas, Frank Hayes, Jerry and Cheryl Jeffery—our full-time volunteers.

We look forward to seeing you out here this year!!!
Contact information:
P.O. Box 624
Picabo, Idaho 83348
(208) 788-7910

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crooked Creek: A Sage Grouse Spectacle

Steve Grourke from The Nature Conservancy's Inland Northwest Office files this report of his recent trip to The Nature Conservancy's Crooked Creek Ranch, located in eastern Idaho 20 miles northwest of Dubois:

My recent journey from the forests of northern Idaho to the sagebrushcountry to the south was an epic adventure - measured in miles behind the wheel (almost 1000 miles round trip) and strutting sage grouse (50 plus!). Joined by my colleague, Jeanne Liston, and nine Nature Conservancy members over the course of two evenings, we were captivated by the sounds and sights of Idaho's most charismatic upland game bird.

Nature Conservancy ecologist Alan Sands led our group, which was participating in the first of six Explore Idaho field trips being held throughout the summer. Prior to our pre-dawn exodus to the blinds, spread out across the lekking area, Sands gave us an overview of the natural history of sage grouse and the habitat in which they exist. He also went over our plan of action, much like a coach would prepare his team before a big game. Alan told us that we might spook the grouse and they would leave the lek when we walked into the blinds at 5:30 a.m., but they would soon return and resume their springtime mating display. He was right. Before we even zipped up the sides of our blind, the birds were back - surrounding us on all sides.

Before our eyes had a chance to focus in on the birds, our ears were in tune with the plopping sounds of the birds deflating their air sacs in hopes of attracting a female. As the sun rose behind us, we could see males strutting in front of us with fanned tails. When a male stepped too close to a more dominant bird, the subordinate was chased away by a series of rapid and aggressive wing movements.

The scene was dramatic and inspiring for all of us. After more than two hours of glassing across the landscape with our binoculars and snapping pictures with our telephoto lenses, we counted more than 50 birds from distances ranging from 200 yards to 20 feet from our blind. Despite the strong winds and temperatures in low 20s, I've got my calendar marked already for a return next year.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Moose at Silver Creek

There's still a chill in the air, but spring has definitely arrived at Silver Creek, with all sorts of wildlife showing up on the creek and wetlands. Last week, these two moose made an appearance right in front of the Silver Creek office.

Join Nature Conservancy staff for a variety of spring and summer activities at the preserve.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

North Idaho tree planting

On March 30, the Ecology and Conservation Biology Club from the University of Idaho came to The Nature Conservancy's Ball Creek Ranch, located in the Kootenai River Valley north of Bonners Ferry, for another volunteer work weekend.

This time I took them to assist local residents Mark and Delia Owens, authors of the bestselling African wildlife books Cry of the Kalahari and Secrets of the Savanna. The Owens now live in northern Idaho and are attempting to restore wetlands on their property in the Curley Creek
Valley. They Owens have an NRCS Wetland Reserve Program conservation easement, as well as a Nature Conservancy-owned conservation easement on their property.

The students spent the day planting willow, and other native shrub and tree species, in and around the wetlands. The students from the Ecology and Conservation Biology Club have assisted the Nature Conservancy's staff in planting thousands of trees over the past several seasons, and their volunteer efforts are greatly appreciated.

Justin Petty
Inland Northwest Land Steward, The Nature Conservancy