I came upon this fellow about ten years ago in Owyhee county. I stopped and at a distance started shooting with my camera from my car. I advanced and periodically stopped for more pictures until I was about 20 feet away. I got out of the car, leaned over the hood and got some good close pictures. The badger seemed to sense my presence but continued to excavate his burrow. This was a very satisfying ten minutes of my trip.
The North American Bluebird Society has an annual meeting every year at various cities in North America. This year, 2014, Boise, ID was chosen for the second time as host city. The first time was in 1994. The meeting was sponsored by Wild Lens Inc. assisted by the Golden Eagle Audubon Society. Matt Podolski, the gentleman at the extreme left, is President of Wild Lens. Sherry Linn, the lady standing fifth from the right, is President of NABS. Others in the photo are bluebirders from many of the states throughout the U.S.
Two of our field trips were to Prairie and the Owyhees. We observed both Mountain and Western bluebirds which were life birds for many of the folks from east coast states. As an added bonus some held the nestlings during banding operations.
The out-of -state people were amazed at the spectacular scenery, canyons and rock formations at Prairie and high desert juniper and mahogany trees in the Owyhee mountains. The above picture was taken at over 6000′ above sea level. The two rounded peaks in the background are Quicksilver Mountain on Cinnabar Ridge. We are about ten miles south of Silver City. If we were to swing our view about 90 degrees to the right we would see the Snake River Plain some 3000′ below stretching from Weiser to Mtn. Home.
This is my favorite nestbox site for photography. I call this nestbox, “A home with a view.”
Northen Flicker (Red-shafted Race)
This guy flew in while I was eating breakfast this morning. He landed in the old weed-covered flower garden above the rock wall just outside the kitchen window. He was looking for breakfast too.
When you find this in the yard you know an elk has paid a visit.
This little locust tree is saying, “Autumn has arrived.”
The site of the old cabin
This scene takes me back 80 years to my early childhood. Left of lower center one can see the skeletons of two dead Lombardi poplar trees. Originaly there were four of these trees set around a spring-fed well. About 30 or 40 feet behind and to the right of these trees stood a small three-room board cabin. A few hundred yards up Cattle Creek to the right were pieces of iron and a chopped up boiler, reminants of an old whiskey still. In later years I refered to the cabin as a “moon-shiner’s cabin.” Norton, an older brother of mine, was living in this cabin when I arrived in May 1934.
My mother died in January ’34 while our home was in Boise, Idaho. My step-father left Boise and placed me in the care of my oldest brother, Stanley, presumably so I could finish out the school year at Park School. My grades in school were always average or above. Soon my grades began to fall and I was behind my classmates in learning. One day a representative from the Welfare Department paid us a visit at home inquiring about my well being. Shortly thereafter I was whisked away from all this to live with Norton in the cabin mentioned above. I never finished the 6th grade. I was just 12 years old.
Summer rolled around and Norton found work during the haying season about three miles away. He would come home from work every night and leave early the next morning. My chore was to milk the old Jersey cow and take care of the calf. What was a poor kid to do that had been brought up in the city with playmates and people around? Here on Cattle Creek the closest neighbor was a mile away and they were elderly with a grown daughter. Our cabin was located a mile off the Pleasant Valley road about 12 miles south of Jordan Valley, Oregon. Teddy, our dog, was my sole companion during most of my waking hours during those hot summer days in 1934. Teddy and I roamed about in this desolate sagebrush landscape with nothing particular in mind. I was lonely.
Mother Nature came to my rescue and introduced me to flowers, birds and other wildlife. I got acquainted with a nest of Brewer’s blackbirds and the Bullock’s Oriole which I called a canary. I recall a group of Sage Grouse, Red-tailed Hawks, ground squirrels and snakes. My first encounter with a rattle-snake was when one entered an open door and rattled a warning when I started through the room. All of these things and many more experiences flashed across my mind when I revisited this scene 80 years later. While I feel sorry for this orphaned waif thrust into early hardships I am grateful for lessons learned as a result.
In mid to late summer when I’m driving along some dry dusty mountain road I keep a sharp eye out for flowers. One of the late bloomers is the Blazing Star a member of the Loasa family. A multitude of fine stamens fill the center of the blossom bordered by five narrow petals. The pale yellow blossoms are set on top of light-green stems that resemble some form of thistle. A person has to stop and wonder how a flower as pretty as this can survive the harsh dry rocky environment found along roadsides and disturbed areas.
Imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I stepped out of the house and found this little frog on the step. The temperature was near freezing. The sun had risen high enough to cast a beam of warm light on the stone step. Cold blooded though it was the frog had crept out of its sleeping quarters to this warm beam of light. It remained there motionless while I passed by several times. At one point I advanced the camera within inches of this cold creature. A short time later the frog moved out of sight.
This encounter made me thankful that I could generate my body heat from within and not depend on an external source.
One comes upon an American Dipper quite often along the fast flowing streams in the mountains. But rarely does one observe their nestlings still in the nest. This trio of young “dippers” will soon leave the nest and beg their parents for food along the streambanks until they can fend for themselves.
After a day checking bluebird nestboxes we came upon this scene. A doe muledeer and her two fawns were at this abandoned saltlick. We slowly brought our car to a stop and watched the deer as they licked the salt saturated soil. They didn’t show any alarm until we started to depart. I imagine that they settled down and satisfied their hunger for salt after we drifted from sight.
The dry deserts in Owyhee county offer scenic vistas and wildlife unique to this area and worth the trip any time of the year.