Spring (officially) arrives today! Migratory birds apparently do not keep track of the spring equinox very closely, as many have been here for a few weeks. Then again, the term "spring migration" is a generalized and approximated statement.
Tundra swans seem to be dabbling in every wetland in northern Idaho. They will eventually continue northward to nesting grounds in Canada.
Brilliantly colored wood ducks are here and paired up, paddling around in every wetland that has trees nearby with cavities they can nest in. Drake (male) wood ducks in spring plumage sport spectacular coloration. The more subtly colored hen wood ducks have a striking ring around each eye and are also beautiful and fun to watch.
When driving these days, watch out for geese standing right on the edge of the road. They are on the lookout for any potential danger to their nearby nests. Early nesters, they will soon have little yellow and brown baby goslings hatching and running along behind them very soon. One more thing to watch out for.
Songbirds are also showing up. Although not very melodious, the song of the varied thrush is something I always listen for as a sure sign of the coming of spring. I first heard them on March 6 this year.
Hummingbirds do not arrive in the area until very late April or early May. At my house, the first show up within one day either side of May 3Éevery year.
After a long winter of gray skies, drizzle, and snow, it is no wonder people are ready for spring and all it brings. For wildlife enthusiasts, spring is one of the best times of year to see migratory birds, deer fawns, elk calves, and butterflies.
The IDFG manages thirty-two Wildlife Management Areas around the state that have been established to protect wildlife habitat. Varying from 275 to 85,000 acres, each area is managed to provide quality habitat for waterfowl, songbirds, big game, and upland game. They also are available for hunting, fishing and other public enjoyment of wildlife. Now is a great time to head to a WMA to see wildlife of all types.
There are seven WMA's in the Idaho Panhandle and they are some of the best places to enjoy wildlife.
The Coeur d'Alene River WMA is just east of Harrison and south of Coeur d'Alene, about one hour on Highway 97. This area encompasses most of the lateral chain lakes of the Coeur d'Alene River and is a haven for nesting birds and other wildlife. Look for all species of ducks and geese, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, rails, kingfishers, snipe, mourning doves and wild turkeys. Over 50 pairs of osprey nest on the lower Coeur d'Alene River, and an additional 30 pairs near the mouth of the St Joe.
McArthur Lake WMA is adjacent to Hwy 95 18 miles north of Sandpoint and 13 miles south of Bonners Ferry. McArthur Lake WMA provides excellent goose nesting habitat and large numbers of pintails have been there for the last several weeks.
Boundary-Smith Creek WMA is, as the name implies, on the US-Canada border near Port Hill. Many of the wetland cells are now full, providing great opportunities to view migrating waterfowl. Large numbers of pintails are also currently at Boundary-Smith Creek WMA. There are also numerous beaver, muskrat, otter, mink, raccoons and moose. Watch for turtles laying eggs in the gravel along the roads; be careful to not run over them. After all, as you would expectÉthey "move like, wellÉturtles." Grizzly bears do occasionally appear the meadows of the WMA in the spring, so watch for them and observe from a distance.
The Pend Oreille WMA is best reached by taking US 95 to Sandpoint. The various parcels are found off Highway 200 or Highway 2. Western grebes are abundant in the Denton Slough segment and you can check out the Clark Fork delta segment where you may see common loons. Diving ducks are common here with the close proximity to Lake Pend Oreille.
The St Maries WMA is in Benewah County about 5 miles south of St. Maries. This WMA is managed primarily for big game habitat and hunting, fishing access, and wildlife viewing.
Farragut WMA is adjacent to the town of Bayview, Farragut State Park and Lake Pend Oreille. White-tailed deer are common with 5-10 deer per square mile. Turkeys are common as are many species of small mammals.
The Snow Peak WMA is 25 miles southwest of St Regis. It is home to mountain goats, elk andÉlots of snow. Wait until July!
For complete details on the WMA's managed by fish and game, check out our website fishandgame.idaho.gov. If you go to the Wildlife tab, you will see a sub-tab for Wildlife Management areas. Included are directions on how to get there and what you may see!