Thursday, March 7, 2013

Guest Post: Birding with Teenagers

Ernie Allison is a bird geek who loves the outdoors. He spends most of the spring and summer outside, and most of the fall and winter writing about being outside. This year, he's doing what he can to track hummingbird migration, so he'll be staring at his feeder even more than usual. 

I love watching birds year round, but in the winter it is a bit harder to get the motivation to go out and spend any extended amount of time in nature. But here in Idaho, February has offered some therapeutic sunshine after a very cold, very gloomy January. It’s still not particularly warm, but it’s nice enough that my cabin fever has started burning full heat.

Seeing how pretty it was outside made me really want to go on a hike. So I bundled up, pulled my 14 year-old granddaughter out of bed (she was staying with me for the weekend), and headed up to Stanley Lake.

I have a lot of memories of the Stanley area. We’ve been sending the grandkids there for summer camp since they could stand to be away from home for a week. There is an abundance of lakes and hiking trails, and many of them are open year-round.

I knew there probably wouldn’t be a lot of activity as of yet, since it is still quite brisk. But the ice is melting, so I figured we’d at least get to see some ducks and other waterfowl exploring their newly restored haunts. 

My granddaughter loves the outdoors like me, but she does not love mornings and she does not love being cold. So she slept on the drive up and only endeavored to growl in response to my pointing out squirrels and gulls on the side of the road. She did manage to open her eyes for the llama herds we passed though.

Once we got to the trailhead for the day, she had started to wake up. I had armed myself with coffee and her with hot chocolate, and both of us were bundled up quite nicely.
Stanley Lake  - photo by Jason Talbot
My plan was to walk along the Stanley Lake Creek Trail until we got to the overlook. It is an easy hike, only a few miles, and the overlook is a great place to stop and enjoy a packed lunch. So we set out. The trek toward the overlook was pretty quiet. Danielle and I have always been able to spend time together without needing to fill the space with a bunch of words. This is why she’s the grandchild I take hiking and fishing most often; she doesn’t scare away the wildlife with her chatter.

About half way to the overlook, Danielle started spotting things.

“Oooh, look at that patch of grass, it’s greener than most of the area.”

“Did you hear that? I think it’s a chipmunk!”
Chipmunk by Robert Mortensen
“Grandpa, there’s a bird with brown on its chest!”

By this time we were both awake and open to the very beginnings of spring that were starting to appear. We chatted about our sightings and I tried to lecture Danielle with interesting facts about plants and animals. “Grandpa, everyone knows that!” Apparently you can’t teach a teenager anything.

When we got to the creek overlook, we were not disappointed. There were a few mallards and green-winged teals trying to find their lunches. I’m pretty sure I saw a Wilson’s Snipe in the brush. We ate our sandwiches and watched the ducks muck about.

Like I predicted, the trip wasn't super eventful, but we had a great time watching the wilderness start to wake up. In a few weeks, there will be even more activity, and by April I’ll be going on weekly hikes. I think it would be cool to go back to the same trail and see how quickly spring progresses, but at the same time, I like variety. Would hiking in the same place too often ruin the magic of the area?

Do you have regular hiking places? How often do you walk the same trails? Have you spotted any exciting early-season birds yet? Share in the comments below. – E.A

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kathie,
    I feel like this post and your guest post below was a gift for me. I grew up in Emmett, Idaho. After high school I moved to NJ, married an sweetheart from there and convinced him to let us move back to Idaho until work brought us where we are now, in NC. Those four years in Idaho left a huge impression on our oldest son (now 12) - and his favorite place in the world is the Sawtooth Mtn range, Redfish Lake, and Stanley. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos with us.