Idaho: Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge
|White pelicans on the hunt.|
Early in the morning Traveler Thirteen and I parted ways in West Yellowstone, Montana and I headed southwest into Idaho. On the way out of town I had close encounters with mule deer and a misguided yellow-bellied marmot who couldn't decide which direction it wanted to go once it hit the middle of the road. Luckily all mammals involved were unharmed.
I headed down Route 20 to Route 15 to Route 86 to exit 15 (Raft River exit). My destination: Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge where white pelicans nest in their hundreds on the islands in the Snake River and Lake Walcott. I was on a white pelican quest. Why? I had no idea until about two years ago that there were freshwater pelicans in the US. I have no idea how I missed this in all my research into birds and bird behavior over the years. I can't explain this gap in my knowledge at all.
|Pelicans are magnificent in the air.|
Once off the exit I traveled up Old Route 30. This was a fascinating drive through farmland where water from irrigation machines threw rainbows by their hundreds into the air. I had to dodge gopher snakes sunning themselves on the road. I must have passed at least fifteen. I lost count at some point. Then you have to take a right onto 400 E and then find 300 N and you will eventually find the refuge. There are signs. Be warned that your phone or GPS will get you hopelessly lost on all the small numbered roads in this area if you let them. Eventually, I did find the Minidoka Dam, which was fairly interesting, and the refuge.
|Overview of the pelicans on the river with swallows zooming around.|
I also found hundreds of white pelicans. In one area of the river they were bobbing down the rapids like little boats and then congregating just off the rapids and paddling back up toward them, probably herding the fish, and then dramatically diving their beaks and heads into the water and violently scooping up rather large fish up. Then they'd fly back up the river and bob down the rapids again to repeat the whole process. Joining them on the hunt were double crested cormorants while in the air all around them hundreds upon hundreds of swallows swooped after insects.
|Flying and fishing.|
|Working together to herd fish into the shallows.|
|Coming in for a water landing.|
|Nailing the landing.|
|Fishing on the edge of the rapids.|
|Fish jumping just in front of a pelican landing in the water.|