Friday, September 09, 2011

Ten Ways to Enjoy Silver Creek This Fall

Most people associate Silver Creek with the summer time. It's the time of tricos and rising trout, and Silver Creek makes the perfect stop for a weekend getaway or a stop on a cross-country road trip.

But fall is one of the most beautiful times on the preserve. With the days getting cooler and the wildlife getting active, there's a lot happening. Looking for an excuse to visit? Here are ten things to check out over the next two months:

1. Capture the colors. Silver Creek is known for the beautiful morning and evening light. The shifting colors are even more profound in the fall. It's often a kaleidoscope, with yellow aspens, red sunsets, purple hills. It's the perfect spot for photographers--and painters. But sometimes it's nice just to sit and try to take it all in.

2. Volunteer. Thousands of native shrubs will be planted along tributary streams and adjacent private property this fall. This ambitious effort will shade the streams, providing cooler water, less sediment, and better habitat for trout and birds. Want to give back a little to the creek you love? Phone 208-788-7910 to sign up.

3. Spot a moose on the loose. Many first-time visitors remark with some disbelief, "Moose? Here?" At first glance, the high desert around Silver Creek doesn't look like moose country. But the preserve has become one of the best places to see these animals in southern Idaho. Look for them in meadows and in the willows at dusk and dawn. Just give them plenty of space: A moose can run very fast and have a foul temper. Enjoy them, but at a distance!

4. Watch the small stuff. Sure, everyone wants to see a moose. But the conservation efforts at Silver Creek have paid off for a whole host of smaller critters, too. Recently, staff have been noticing a number of kids out with nets on the preserve. Follow their lead. Bushy-tailed wood rats, fence lizards, butterflies, beetles, least chipmunks, warblers and more all await your discovery. Look closely, and you'll be amazed at what you see.
5. Listen to the buglers. It's one of the wildest sounds in nature: the fall bugling of rutting bull elk. And already, it's echoing around the preserve, from the Picabo Hills and in the fields. When several bulls get going, it's guaranteed to send a chill up your spine.

6. Look up. It's a bit smoky at the moment, but later in the fall, the night skies are astounding. You'll be watching the Milky accompanied not only by the bugle corps (see above), but also howling coyotes, hooting owls and a host of other sounds. 7. Catch the evening flight. Flocks of sandhill cranes, ducks and geese circle overhead, pitching into wetlands for food and rest. They create their own chorus of whistling wings and haunting calls. You can often pick out some more unusual species, like canvasbacks and ring-necked ducks. For many of these birds, this is one stop on a very long fall journey. Wish them well along their way.
8. Of course: Go fishing. The tricos have faded away and the brown drakes are a distant memory. So are most of the anglers. Now is the time to have the creek to yourself. The fishing can be much better than you think. Try terrestrials like beetles, ants or damselflies in the afternoon. Look for some of the excellent hatches of baetis or pale morning duns. And if you're not afraid of the dark, try a mouse pattern at night to attract one of those legendary brown trout.
9. Write down your thoughts. For centuries, naturalists have kept field journals, providing important records ranging from bird sightings to climate. That tradition continues with many of today's visitors continuing to log what they see. Have an experience you'd love to share? Email us and we'd love to run it on Idaho Nature Notes in the coming weeks!

10. Follow your fancy. Hike. Canoe. Bird. Photograph. Relax. We're saving a place for you. Get out and enjoy it. The preserve is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We only ask that you respect nature and other people, that you sign in at the visitor center, and if you enjoy the experience, consider a gift to The Nature Conservancy, to ensure we can continue providing these experiences.

Photos: Sunset (Giuseppe Saitta), canoeist by moose (Laura Hubbard), elk (Matt Miller), ducks (TNC archive), angler with trout (Kirk Keogh,, boardwalk (Kirk Keogh,

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