Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rocky, the Flying Squirrel

During our weekly check of bluebird houses in the park, we found our old friend the squirrel in house number 48, where she'd (we think) been for the past few weeks.  As I approached the house she scampered out onto the pole, and we were thrilled to see that it was a Northern Flying Squirrel.
Northern Flying Squirrel
We had heard that there were flying squirrels in the park, but we've never seen one before so this was a treat.
Northern Flying Squirrel
They don't really fly, but with their "wings" stretched they can glide from tree to tree, or down to the ground. Since this squirrel has had a nest in the box for the past couple of weeks, we assume that she is raising a batch of youngsters.
Northern Flying Squirrel
The nest boxes in the park are going great guns right now, with the majority of them having nests, eggs, and/or hatchlings in them this week.  And one Flying Squirrel!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Mark Is In Jail!

What do you do with 65 2nd graders?  You take ‘em to the brig!

We had our first school group this past week.  We were asked to take these two classes of 2nd graders through the Brig Museum.  About 10 adults (parents and teachers) showed up too. 

They were a very active group of kids.

That's Mark in jail.
It took him quite a while to get out of there!
 After the Brig tour we took them on a short hike along Lake Pend Oreille.

They had a sack lunch in the park then headed back to school.
We’ve got 6 more school groups scheduled this month.  Those groups are scheduled for a hike and short program on furs and skulls.  We’ll be getting our exercise!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Damn The Torpedoes

Have you ever heard the saying “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”?

I always thought it was just a line from a movie. 

This summer we are volunteering at Farragut State Park in northern Idaho. 

The park is named after the first full Admiral of the U.S. Navy, Civil War hero Admiral David G. Farragut (1801-1870).  It was Admiral Farragut who said during the raid of Mobile Bay, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, aerial military reconnaissance flights were looking for a large piece of land situated near an ample body of water to build a Naval training station.

The Farragut Naval Training Station, located near Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, was only operational between 1942 and 1946, but during that time it was the largest city in Idaho, the largest business in Idaho, and the second-largest U.S. naval training station.  After its decommissioning, it served as the Farragut College and Technical Institute. Today it is the site of Farragut State Park and a small U.S. Navy acoustic research detachment.

By September 15, 1942, after five months of construction, the first of six recruit camps opened for training.  Almost 300,000 sailors were trained in 15 months.

With World War II over and the United States in the process of recovering from the war effort, the federal government ordered the removal of the remains of the Farragut Naval Training Station in total.  Sold as surplus, you could buy a building for as little as 50 cents...but, you had to move it!  About 680 buildings were removed.

The only building that is left standing is the Brig (jail), which is now a museum.  It will open for the season on Memorial Day but we were recently given a tour.  
There are some very interesting displays throughout the building.

One of the jail cells with information about “Navel Justice”, which was basically busting big rocks into small rocks:

Life in the barracks:
My favorite - a huge display of knots:
This area is not open to the public:
Solitary confinement
There is a lot more interesting history of the training station that I will save for other blogs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Weekly Bluebird Count

This week's Bluebird count netted us an amazing 71 Bluebird eggs and 6 Mountain Chickadee eggs.
Mountain Bluebird eggs
Mountain Chickadee eggs
The Chickadee nests are made up of mostly moss and fur while the Bluebird nests are all dried grass.

In addition to 77 eggs, we also found 2 new moms with a total of 10 hatchlings.
Western Bluebirds a few hours old
Unknown if these are Western or Mountain Bluebirds - 1 day old
It's hard to believe these little guys will fledge in about 15 days.

Although our main focus is the two species of Bluebirds in this area, we monitor all nest activity (even the squirrel that scared Mark half to death when he opened up a house!) 

Monday, May 12, 2014

First Idaho Geocache

After raining most of the night it turned into a cool, sunny morning.  We decided to get on our bikes and hit the trails.  There are miles and miles of trails here in the park and all of them allow bicycles.  It's a great way to explore the park and get some much needed exercise.

Mark had downloaded the closest 200 geocaches so we took the GPS along with us along with a Trackable and a couple of fun things to leave.

Here is our first Idaho Geocache:
Mark holding our first Idaho geocache
The first container wasn’t large enough to leave anything so we headed on to the next geocache.  It was larger so we left a Travel Bug that we had picked up in Texas at Longhorn Cavern State Park.  It will be fun to keep track of its journey. 
Travel Bug found at Longhon Cavern State Park (Texas).  
Traveled 1600 miles to Farragut State Park (Idaho)
I'm always surprised when someone leaves money in the cache.
There's our little jeep.

We found 5 geocaches today and ended up riding 6 1/2 miles.  There are a lot more geocaches and many more trails to explore in the park but we’ll save those for another day.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Farragut State Park (Idaho) is a beautiful 4,000 acre park with 223 individual camping sites, 7 group camps, and 10 camping cabins.

The individual camping sites are located in 4 separate campgrounds.  Two of the campgrounds are open for the season and the other two will open before Memorial Day weekend. 

We were asked if we would like to help clean up one of the closed campgrounds.  We jumped at the chance to get out on a rare sunny day.

The cleanup was mostly raking each individual campsite of pine needles that had accumulated for the last 6 months.
Mark raking pine needles.
I can’t imagine how many pounds (tons?) of needles we raked up!  The local court-appointed community service teenagers where there to help also. 
The front-end loader would come by to pick up our piles of needles and take them to the waiting dump truck who would then take them to the burn pile.
These are before and after pictures of one of the sites we raked:
 Before - lots of twigs and pine needles
After - raked clean
The cleanup was a lot of work but the results were worth it.  I'm sure the campers will appreciate all our hard work.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge - Part II

After visiting the waterfall and dodging that pesky hare, we headed back down the trail. At sunny openings we noticed dozens of tiny blue butterflies flying about. They were difficult to get pictures of, but we managed a few. I decided that they were Spring Azure butterflies, part of a complex group. These tiny guys are no larger than a dime, but pretty when you see them flying.
Spring Azure - male
Spring Azure - male
The males are totally blue on top, while the females have darker borders on their wings.
Spring Azure - female
After the trail we drove the refuge's Auto Tour Loop. It followed Myrtle Creek and the Kootenai River, and passed numerous small ponds and wet meadows.
As cool as it has been here, it is hard to believe that Canada Geese already have young, but we saw a couple of families.
Canada Goose family
We saw several beautiful Wood Duck drakes and a few pair.
Wood Duck - drake
Wood Duck - pair
An Osprey fished over head, but for a change we didn't see it catch a fish.
We enjoyed seeing this lone Northern Painted Turtle sunning itself on a log.
Northern Painted Turtle
And a Western Meadowlark sang us his song.
Western Meadowlark
All-in-all, a very nice day in a special place.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

Teri and I headed north to visit the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge.  The refuge is on the Kootenai River, which begins in British Columbia, Canada, flows into Montana and then Idaho, and ultimately returns to Canada before draining into the Columbia River.

As refuges go it is on the small side at 2774 acres. In addition to the riparian habitat along the river, there are large areas of ponds and wet meadows, and some forested slopes of the Selkirk mountains.

We started with a hike up the Myrtle Falls Trail which leads up to a small waterfall system. We crossed below the falls on a long pedestrian bridge.  Teri looked down at the stream and said that it looked like a good place for a Dipper.
Bridge to Myrtle Falls
Myrtle Creek
 About ten seconds later we spotted this American Dipper on a log in the middle of the rushing water.
American Dipper
After a steep 1/4 mile hike, we were treated to a view of Myrtle Falls, which drop about 100 feet in three different steps. Is was beautiful.
Teri at Myrtle Falls
We came across a funny little Snowshoe Hare while we were on the trail.  It wanted so badly to get past us, and wanted to be on the trail.  It hopped and scampered around like a little kid, on and then off the trail. 
Snowshoe Hare
Snowshoe Hare - Big Feet!!
He finally decided to come on ahead, and nearly stepped on my foot. Teri took this picture of the hare next to my pants leg. We wondered how he got that hole in his ear. 
Coming on Through...
We also saw several White-tailed Deer in the woods. 
Stay tuned for pictures of birds and butterflies.

The End...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lots of Freebies

Usually, when our volunteer assignment is finished, we are taken to lunch or given an appreciation party.  And, we are given some nice parting gifts.

Imagine our surprise when Errin, the ranger we are working with, came by with a bag full of goodies at the very beginning of our stay!
This is an impressive list of stuff:

1.  Tote bag.  I love tote bags!  I have lots of them.  They are great for grocery shopping, hiding yarn (I mean stowing yarn), or just about anything.

2.  Pocket knife.  Always handy to have.

3.  Squeeze-Generator flashlight.  You squeeze a lever to charge it up. Lots of fun to play with.

4.  10’ tape measure.  You never know when you need to measure something.

5.  Small fanny pack.  I still use them even if they are out of style.

6.  Pedometer.  This should be interesting.

7.  2 very nice leather bound note pads, with pens.  I almost always have one in my purse and they really come in handy.

8.  Volunteer pins.  Every year (this is the 13th year) a pin is issued portraying an area or historical event in Idaho.  We each got one of these.

9.  Very large metal cup.  Good for hot chocolate or soup.

10.  Insulated travel mug.  We don’t drink coffee so I’m not sure if we’ll use this.  We’ll see if the any of the other volunteers want to trade.  Travel mugs are usually very popular with coffee drinkers.

11.  4 bandanas/scarf’s.  Birds of Prey, Trout, Fishing Lures, and Songbirds of North America.  We might just lay these out on a table when we’re doing programs.  Although, they would make really cute throw pillow covers.

We will also be getting an Idaho State Park Pass!  This will get us into all the state parks for free and a discount if we decided to camp. 

We’ve gotten our volunteer hats and name tags.  Instead of t-shirts, we were given vests with an Idaho State Parks and Recreation patch on the front.  I always like to get the free t-shirt but, good grief, we’ve got a closet full of them!

Lots of fun stuff we can really use.