Monday, January 31, 2011


Overhead, on the ponds, in every direction: Thousands of ducks and geese, quacking, honking whistling. The mind tries to comprehend the flurry of winged activity.

Scattered amongst the massive flocks are the highly visible tundra swans, as well as stalking herons and and chattering gulls. Raptors--bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, Cooper's hawks--circle overhead, perhaps checking for signs of injury amongs the quacking hordes.

Look more closely and less obvious birds reveal themselves: Resting great-horned owls, flushing quail, flitting flickers. And on the ground, jackrabbits and coyotes maneuver through the bush, in a serious chess match with life-and-death consequences for both.

It's just another winter day at the Ted Trueblood Wildlife Area.

The Trueblood area--320 acres near Grandview, Idaho--is an easy place to zoom by en route to the Owyhees or other "wilder" regions. That would be a shame, though, because this patch of sagebrush and "duck ponds" tucked along the Snake River is an absolute haven for birding and wildlife watching.

At this time of year, the migrating flocks rank as one of Idaho's best wildlife spectacles.

It's a beautiful patch of wildness where you can witness Idaho's spectacular birds. While you cannot walk around on the wildlife area at this time of year--to protect the resting migrants--you can watch them easily from the parking and observation areas.

Alan Sands, now an ecologist for The Nature Conservancy, was the force behind the purchase and protection of the Ted Trueblood Wildlife Area when he worked for the Bureau of Land Management (the agency that still owns the property).

Alan lives the old Edward Abbey motto that "it's not enough to fight for the land; it's even more important to enjoy it." Throughout his career, Alan has been responsible for conserving many great places for people to enjoy and wildlife to thrive, including the Indian Creek Recreation Area and the Conservancy's Hixon Sharptail Project.

Such a place is also a great tribute to outdoor writer and conservationist Ted Trueblood. As a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, one of my very favorite books at the local library was the Ted Trueblood Hunting Treasury. I thrilled to Trueblood's descriptions of Idaho's wildlife and wild places, never imagining that one day I would be able to experience firsthand the places he described.

Trueblood is the kind of outdoor writer that we desperately need: He not only knew hunting and fishing, he also fought for the habitat that wildlife needed to survive. He was a key figure in the creation of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and worked tirelessly on behalf of Idaho's wildlife.

The wildlife area near Grandview is not wilderness, but seeing the tremendous numbers of birds and other wildlife around, I think Trueblood would approve. Stop by there on a winter day, enjoy the wildlife and remember the hard-working conservationists who made places like this possible. --Matt Miller

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