Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At Fred and Melly's Cabin

It's just after dawn, and the rising sun hits our outside sleeping deck. We're in the mountains of central Idaho at the home of our long-time friends, Fred and Melly Zeillemaker. Fred retired from the US Fish and Wildlife Service after a career of managing national wildlife refuges from Oregon to Hawaii to Nebraska to Alaska. He and Melly retain an undiminished enthusiasm for all things wild.

The cabin is situated next to a small stream, lush with hawthorn and cottonwood, alive with hummingbirds and quail. Volcanic rock underlying this region is fractured and jointed, and springs rise to the surface along those joints. These springs support riverine trees and shrubs like Bitter Cherry, Chokecherry, Blue Elderberry, Saskatoon Serviceberry and Mallow Ninebark. The berries in turn feed birds, Red Squirrels and Black Bears. (No more sleeping outside when the bears return to the valley!)

Central Idaho (Photo by Narca)

Away from the streams, Great Basin sage and grassland reach into stands of Douglas-fir, Ponderosa Pine and White Pine, which grow mainly on the cooler, moister north slopes of the hills. Fall has touched the land with the reds of chokecherry and the golds of bitter cherry and ninebark.

Alan & Fred check the moths (Photo by Narca)

Our first night we set up a black light over a sheet and draw in moths. Under the UV light, gray moths are transformed into shimmering silver, or gray with exquisite silvery highlights, edgings and curliques. As I study them, a bat swoops over my head, feasting on the bounty.

Wilson's Snipe (Photo by Narca)

This morning's field trip takes us up Dodson Pass and down Sheep Creek Road. American Goldfinches forage on patches of sunflowers. A Wilson's Snipe feeds at the edge of a small creek. We wind through ranch land and sage to Crane Creek Reservoir, where a few lingering Baird's Sandpipers and American Pipits work the exposed mudflats. Where cracks lace the drying mud, tiger beetles scurry.

Are we mouse-proof yet? (Photo by Narca)


  1. FYI Wilson's Snipe is now Common Snipe :)

  2. No worries--the taxonomists are just testing our sense of humor. (Think Common Moorhen!) Seriously, though, has there been a recent vote by AOU re-lumping them?