Hundreds of Trumpeter Swans are busy cleaning up the grain left standing along the strips of sunflowers that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game left for them last fall in the Deer Parks Wildlife Management Area .

They were also joined by seven sandhill cranes which arrived on the first day of March as the recent heat wave began to attack the snow. Flocks of mallards and Canada geese are also trying to get their share of the grain before thousands of northern pintails appear over the next two weeks.

If that’s not busy enough, a herd of mule deer, male red-winged blackbirds as well as large herds of goldfinches feed on standing sunflowers. Crows, ravens and seven species of raptors are either searching the dead or harvesting rodents exposed to melting snow.

Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

Even as busy as it is, over the next two weeks Deer Parks will become a haven for migrating birds to come and clean the fields. At the start of the waterfowl migration, between 1,000 and 2,000 trumpeters will soon be joined by whistling swans, thousands of northern pintails, whistling ducks, shoveler and several species of teals.

It seems that once the management area becomes the preferred location for migrants, it only takes a few days before it becomes uninhabited. As the snow melts quickly in the Osgood and Market Lake areas, creating large ponds and exposing miles of stubble fields, waterfowl move to these areas and move away from Deer Parks.

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

To enjoy a visit to Deer Parks, several options are available with two parking lots and a series of trails leading through fields and along swamps and the canal. If you cannot hike, parking in the parking areas will allow you to view activities from a distance. The hike gets you closer to the birds, but with the melting snow creating a lot of mud, mud boots are almost a must have in keeping your feet clean and dry.

“We walked to the canal west of the management area,” commented one of the two young men from Fremont County as they finished their hike. “It was very exciting to see all the birds, but the most exciting was watching the kingfishers (belt kingfishers) as they dived to fish in the canal.”

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

“I can’t hike anymore, but I come here almost every night to watch these birds until they disappear,” said an older man from Idaho Falls. “I love watching pairs of swans fly in their synchronized patterns and the herd of deer in the sunflowers is a big plus.”

As the waterfowl migration is in full swing, raptors and scavengers show up for lunches and dinners. This week must have been a time for living and healthy migrants, as the prairie falcons and falcons harvested a few rodents. As soon as the crows and crows noticed them eating, the scavengers harassed the raptors and sometimes stole the meat. As they took to the skies and announced their good fortune, an immature bald eagle would run after it, snatching the piece from the air as it fell. Better to have lost a meal than to lose your skin.

These air battles are always a lot of fun to watch.

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

Male red-winged blackbirds have arrived in large numbers and are beginning to establish their nesting territory. It will take about two weeks for the females to show up and choose the male they believe has found the best neighborhood to raise their children.

Also continue to watch for the owls as they are very loud at the moment. This week I located a pair of Long-eared, a pair of Saw-Whets and six Great Grays on the same day (two of the Great Grays were in the same tree flirting). Turkeys are also starting to travel long distances to find food, as seven have shown up in my yard to clean up spilled bird food.

Be careful driving and also be aware that COVID-19 is rebounding in our region again. We cannot afford to lose nature lovers.

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

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