A Bander's Lament

Juvenile Merlin
All who missed my Yellowstone elk and wolves presentation to the Idaho Master Naturalists will be given another chance (it may be your last!).  I will be presenting for the Snake River Audubon Society at the Idaho Falls Public Library this Thursday (Sept. 16) at 7:30pm in the basement conference rooms.  Here's what its all about, as I stated in the Audubon newsletter:

"Last winter, I had the opportunity to spend five months in Yellowstone National Park researching predator-prey dynamics between two of the Park's most famous and controversial large mammals--the wolves and the elk.  While tracking the wolves and elk with radio telemetry and performing necropsies on kills, I attempted to photograph all that I observed during the winter (often with frozen fingers).  This presentation will feature some of my most interesting observations (which goes beyond just the elk and wolves), as well as provide a summary of the past 20 years of research from this project."


It was terribly sad to depart from Lucky Peak...my final day was last Friday.  I'm pretty sure I just about cried as I released the very last bird of the day, a female Western tanager.  The folks I worked with were simply awesome, and I learned a massive amount regarding birds, migration, molting, research techniques, handling skills, etc.  Lucky Peak is a very unique place, and I continue to urge everyone to make a trip up there (enduring the steep and bumpy 4-wheel drive road) during the fall migration period to see and hold birds up close.  Don't live near Lucky Peak?  Search for other bird observatories near where you live; there are many across the country.

The day before I left, a very good article in the Idaho Statesman about the Idaho Bird Observatory's banding operation on Lucky Peak was printed....check it out!  I was lucky (no pun intended) to have the reporter randomly choose me to follow during a net run...!  A neat thing to remember my season there anyway.

Some final photos:

We caught a flammulated owl!!  The only one during my time there.  The owl crew ran around and woke everyone up at midnight to come see their first of the year (besides a common poorwill and flying squirrel)

A very small bird, as you can see.  Actually, the flammulated owl is the second smallest in North America (second to the elf owl) 

And some crew shots:

Jack and Heidi enjoying a red-breasted nuthatch

Heidi blowing feathers aside to assess belly fat on a yellow-breasted chat

Me blowing to assess fat on an adult white-crowned sparrow.  Photo by Paul Plante.
Jay with his first Swainson's hawk

Rob with the rare catch of a Swainson's hawk

Sean removing a sharp-shinned hawk from a can.  (Can? Used for weighing purposes)

Sean with the sharp-shinned hawk

Ian with red-tailed hawk

Garrott with red-tailed hawk

Ian with red-tail

Sara with red-tail

Garrott with Swainson's

Sara with Swainson's

Ian with merlin


  1. Chalk up another life experience! I was a hippie at your age.

  2. Very beautiful animals! I wish I could make it to your lecture!

  3. The lecture was really excellent. Fantastic photo documentary of winter wildlife ecology in Yellowstone. Thought provoking and well illustrated analysis of predator-prey dynamics from a serious researcher with a wonderfully conscious appreciation of beauty, terror and humor in the harsh winter landscape. Who left not wanting to be Jesse DeVoe??

    Enjoyed the parting shots from Lucky Peak. Best luck in your new adventure!


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