Monday, June 29, 2015

Quail

After yesterday's post I decided to take a better look at some of the places I usually see only pairs this time of the year. Yes, the little ones were there and a lot bigger than I figured they'd be. I guess I've been figuring that since I only a saw pairs off the road in the past that there were no little ones. I now believe those little ones were just ducking in the higher brush as I drove or walked by.

There were at least a dozen small birds with this hen and I encountered another covey with an equal amount of young ones.
I'm sure I'll find the chukar numbers are good also as soon as this heat wave passes.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bad news good news

About 3 this afternoon, Barb pointed out a smoke cloud coming from the highway side of the mountain behind our house. I grabbed my shovel and headed that way. Not only is there some good game habitat, a friend of mine lives there.

There were a couple of guys fighting the fire along the road but no one was on the driveway leading to Steve's ranch and there was plenty of heavy brush to burn there. Steve, the rancher, was ten miles away with his cat putting a line around an eleven thousand acre fire that had burned a couple of days ago. His house was never in danger but a lot of sage and bitter brush went up in flame. I just mopped up along the quarter mile drive way making sure the fire didn't jump across until the first fire truck showed up.

While all this was going on, Barb was home taking pictures of the fire as it came over the hill.
Luckily, there is lot's of green between our place and the dry hills, so we didn't worry about the fire getting close to our place.
Almost as bad news as the fire is how bad of shape I realized I was in. Throwing dirt on the fire as I stood on the drive way wasn't too bad but once the first fire truck showed up I thought I could go back to my BLM days and hustle up the hill pulling a fire hose and was soon sucking for oxygen. I tried to impress those young punks but readily gave up the nozzle when help arrived. All those yellow shirts were a welcomed sight.

And when the air troops showed up I ducked into my truck and weaseled towards home like a whipped kid.
They put on quite a show on both sides of the mountain and Barb and Jake took plenty of pictures.
They even used the pond to fill up the buckets.
I wonder if any of the fire fighters will find some cooked fish as they mop up.
As I said, there is bad and good news. The bad news is the country that burnt and me realizing how big of a puss I'm becoming. The good news is I saw some quail crossing the dirt drive way for the green fields. There were two different groups of 15 or so little ones with mom and dad. They were very little but I saw one of the groups take to the air as a smoke jumper landed in the field near to them. I have never seen baby quail around here until mid July in the past but am becoming aware that maybe I haven't looked hard enough. I also watched 6 or so young huns or chukars fly through the smoke as I was putting out flames. They were very young and I didn't see any adults. The heavy brush they flew into was engulfed with flames only seconds behind them. One of the fire fighters said he saw a decent size group of chukars fly out in front of the fire also.

Today the temperatures reached 110 degrees in the valley. The highest ever in June and the second highest temperature ever. So we're in for a long hot summer. The next ten days are supposed to be above 100. It is 11:30 right now and the temperature is still 92 degrees. My brief time fighting fires today showed me more young birds than I have been able to find while scouting. I came home with confidence that it looks like we have had a decent hatch. Now, if we can only keep the land from burning up.

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hot and Dry

With the Idaho chukar opener 90 days away I've been searching for good news. I've already seen a picture of some young chukars in Nevada that were big enough to have hatched in May, but not seeing or hearing anything exciting in Oregon or Idaho. Jake and I continue to search for good news but so far have come up empty handed. We've seen about the same thing every trip. We bump three or four singles that usually fly pretty far. I'm theorizing that the single is flying away from it's partner sitting on the nest. I've only seen one pair in the last ten days. We've also seen at least one blue grouse on each trip.

We try to get up on the mountain early to beat the heat but it's getting tougher each week.
About two hours of hiking and we're out of water so we keep our trips shorter. As dry as it is, there are plenty of seeps and hidden springs for the birds and other wildlife. The birds aren't in danger of lack of water and if grass hoppers are any sign of how the other insects are doing they won't starve to death either. Still, I'm excited to see some young ones. 

Jake gives me a point every now and than, but most of the time it's a false point.
Sometimes it leads me to some promising sign.
These small chukar tracks will just have to keep me positive for a while. 90 days is a lot of time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bummer 2

Just yesterday I posted about eliminating some of the predators to chukars. Today, on our hike, Jake and I spotted these two fox pups by a dirt hill. They obliged me for a few pictures before retreating into their hole.
Even knowing how many upland eggs they can eat there is no way I could ever hurt one of those faces.
But it wasn't difficult at all to eliminate this big guy from the mountain.
I kept a trophy.
For those interested, there is a snake avoidance class this Saturday the 6th and Sunday the 14th in Boise. I highly recommend taking your dog to one of them if you haven't before.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Bummer

Until today, I thought I knew a lot about chukar. I always thought that the spring weather conditions were the major factor for having good or bad chukar season's.

I've been watching the turkey nest that I found earlier in order to document the hatch date of the eggs. I was disappointed to find the the eggs gone today. Not only were the eggs gone, there was a trail of feathers leaving the nest site telling me there was probably some type of encounter between the hen and something else.
With my discovery I decided to do more research into mortality rates of chukar and turkey. I kept coming up with studies done in Utah and some other foreign country that pretty much mirrored each other.

Harsh winters are the most devastating factor on chukar survival and have been known to knock out 90% or more of the chukar population. Predation is number two, taking 35% of the year's birds. Ground mammals do the most damage during the nesting season and the air predators take over once the eggs are hatched. The human predation (hunting) takes 8%.

The good news with chukar numbers is that when weather conditions are favorable in the spring, chukars lay large numbers of eggs. I've seen as many as 18, but have heard of even higher numbers. Even with  a 35% predation factor, those large number of eggs in most nests can produce a good year. If we could eliminate 1/2 half of the predators preying on the eggs, our year suddenly becomes great. If we could eliminate some of the predators from the air the upland numbers would jump to record numbers. Eliminating predators from the air is not possible but controlling some of the ground predators can be done.