Thursday, April 03, 2014

A Cure For Spring Fever

By Art Talsma, restoration manager

“One swallow does not make the summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw is the spring.”  - Aldo Leopold
Nature is calling us outdoors these first sunny days of spring. The snow geese are now fewer in numbers as they move north. I am excited to hear the call of the sandhill cranes circling high over Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge as I head out to do sage grouse conservation work in Idaho. I am thinking about photos of the grandkids that we just received and the inherent need in us to experience nature.
“Robin” was one of my granddaughter Neelah’s first words! “Let’s go for a hike” are favorite words of my grandsons, Andrew and Ethan. Kids love the outdoors and there are so many wonderful things to discover right out the back door with the world of birds.     

Photo ©Art Talsma
Spring time is great time to teach kids about the needs of wildlife, and birds are especially easy and interesting to observe in your yard, nearby park or nature area.  Birds are interesting to all ages, from little ones to teens to adults. One of the questions I ask kids is, “what is your favorite bird?” I follow with, “what materials do you see that you could use to build a nest?” What kind of birds build nest in trees and what birds nest on the ground?  Ah—and if you look around where would you hide that nest from predators? Perhaps this year you might hide the Easter eggs with a deeper message than, “Where is the candy?”

Photo ©Art Talsma
Okay, I am a wildlife biologist working on sage grouse conservation and I must admit I have a desire to share an adult message in this story too. Throughout sage brush country sage grouse are now gathering on dancing grounds called leks.   
The birds are telling us where they want to be and where safe haven is found year after year for the mating dance. Leks are where they will begin their annual reproductive cycle. Hens nest nearby in the best available habitat to be successful. Like most ground nesting birds they seek a nest site secure from predators and cover from spring storms. Specifically for sage grouse this almost always means a canopy of tall sage and plenty of residual cover. Residual cover usually consists of native bluebunch wheatgrass with tall stems left from last year. Yes- residual cover is commonly used as hiding and nest building material for many species of birds. So ask yourself next time you are out birding-- what habitat and nest building materials are available for birds?  

Photo ©Ken Miracle
If it is your own backyard you can create and enhance bird habitat at little cost. And if you want to see and experience wildlife habitat on your next hike with the kids join a conservation organization like the Nature Conservancy that works with many partners to conserve and protect wildlife habitat at a landscape scale. 

1 comment:

Ken said...

Great article Art. Thanks for all that you do for Idaho wildlife habitat. Sage Grouse Rock ��