Who We Are & What We Do
Prairie Falcon Audubon, Inc. was formed for exclusively educational, scientific, and charitable purposes. Specifically, Prairie Falcon Audubon, Inc. (PFA) educates the general public about birds, bird watching, and preservation/improvement of the environment that birds and bird watchers share. Our goals are to 1.) cultivate public awareness of and concern for birds and the natural environment among all age groups and to 2.) provide opportunities for members of our community to enhance their working knowledge of bird biology as well as their birdwatching skills. PFA accomplishes this through regular program meetings, field excursions, bird census and monitoring activities, newsletters, cooperative volunteer projects, and a variety of other means.
Prairie Falcon Audubon, Inc. offers, free of charge to members of our community, about 10 educational programs a year. Over the years we have provided programs on bird anatomy and physiology, study skin preparation, bird feeding, creating back-yard bird habitats, birding equipment, bird identification skills, nest box construction, bird monitoring techniques, and many more. Travel programs are very popular and well attended. Every year Dr. Chuck Trost, ornithologist and photographer from Idaho State University, gives a slide show presentation on his latest birding expedition. He has taken us to Antarctica, China, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Australia and New Zealand, and Madagascar. Idaho State Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) biologists are frequent program presenters. From them we have learned about Greater Sage Grouse, the herpetofauna of Idaho, sage grouse lek monitoring, Idaho’s ‘Important Bird Areas’, and the raptors of Idaho.
The South Hills Crossbill, which may be a unique species to our area, has been the subject of several presentations and field trips. Dr. Craig Benkman and his graduate students from the University of Wyoming continue to update our group on their research in the South Hills on this very interesting species. Conservation issues are also the subject of program presentations. The Idaho Conservation League has informed us about the US Forest Service Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Rule and how it relates to Sawtooth District Travel Plan Revision and a Wilderness Society representative has spoken to us about the Owyhee Initiative. We try to provide varied programs that will be of interest to a wide variety of people.
When the weather warms, or an opportunity presents itself, we head out into the field to watch birds. PFA provides opportunities for about 10 bird-watching field excursions throughout year. Trips are usually led by experienced birders and participants usually car-pool to one of may local ‘Magic Valley Birding Hotspots’. Early March trips to observe owls are perennial favorites that attract large numbers of birders who do not seem to mind the cold or the dark. Occasionally one of our members will lead an outing farther a field. Groups have visited the Idaho Bird Observatory, Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and Bear River National Wildlife Refuge in Utah.
Bird census and monitoring activities are important in helping us achieve our goals. Prairie Falcon Audubon, Inc. works to conserve and monitor birds and bird habitat, with an emphasis on projects that engage volunteers in ‘citizen science’. This past summer PFA sponsored a ‘Big Day’ in the South Hills Important Bird Area (IBA). For 24 hours (dusk to dawn to dusk) 15 volunteers covered 300 miles of roads and trails and observed 142 bird species and 4337 individual birds. This was the first of what we hope will be a great new tradition and method of monitoring breeding birds in the South Hills IBA. In 2009 we plan to purchase and install two interpretive signs that will explain and help promote the South Hills IBA. This project will cost approximately $300 with additional expenses for sign placement.
PFA members actively participate in national programs such as Thanksgiving Bird Count, Project Feeder Watch, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and the Christmas Bird Count. Every year PFA organizes and submits data from six Christmas Bird Count circles – Twin Falls, ID, Buhl, ID, Hagerman, ID, Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID, Jim Sage Mts, ID, and Jarbidge, NV. In addition to gathering data about birds, our conservation committee actively monitors grazing activity and wildlife exclosures (fenced areas that keep cows out of sensitive riparian areas) in the South Hills (Sawtooth National Forest, Minidoka District, Cassia Division). Transgressions are photographed and reported to those able to correct violations.
Cooperative volunteer projects have become extremely important to our group and to the agencies we partner with. PFA has volunteered hundreds of hours to federal, state and local groups. We have worked hand-in-hand with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to keep the Greater Sage Grouse off the Endangered Species list. Last year ten PFA volunteers monitored sage grouse leks (‘parade grounds’ where grouse males attempt to attract mates) in extremely remote sagebrush steppe habitat. The IDFG does not have enough funds to conduct helicopter surveys area-wide, or staff to do all of the necessary work, so they depend on PFA and Fish and Game volunteers to donate their time and expertise. Several PFA members actively participate in Local Sage Grouse Working Groups (LWG).
With IDFG and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we have helped band and tag American White Pelicans and Ring-billed Gulls. We have collected sagebrush seed and planted bitterbrush seedlings for habitat restoration. With the US Forest Service we have built (Electric Springs), helped to maintain, and monitored wildlife exclosures. Several members, who are very good at birding by ear (they can recognize any local bird song) have led ‘Birding for the Blind’ field trips for students from the Idaho State School for the Deaf and Blind in Gooding, ID.
This spring we joined a consortium of Magic Valley area groups (the US Bureau of Land Management, the Northside Canal Company, Idaho Power Co., and the Jerome County Commissioners, etc.) to create an interpretive park on the canyon rim of the Snake River. Since this site is a prime viewing area for soaring raptors, our group will play an important role in providing information about raptors, creating interpretive signs, locating trails and overlooks. Now that we are a federally recognized not-for-profit 501(c)(3)corporation, PFA hopes to be able to obtain grant money to help fund this project. In the past this has limited our ability to apply for grants. Regardless, our group is looking forward to simply volunteering labor to this project. There will be trail creation and maintenance, invasive plant removal and native plant planting opportunities galore.
For the past several years one of Prairie Falcon Audubon, Inc.’s goals has been to build a wildlife viewing blind at the IDFG Wildlife Management Area in Hagerman, ID in memory of Stu Murrell (PFA birder and IDFG hunter educator). PFA recently began working with the Hagerman Chamber of Commerce and Idaho Power Co. to accomplish this goal. We have a great set of ‘blue prints’, a small amount of seed money ($600), and plenty of talented volunteers who will be willing to help with the labor. This year, as in years past, we actively promoted and participated in both the local Earth Day Celebration and International Migratory Bird Day festivities. Members donated time and materials to create a sign, bird feeder stand, bird nesting box kits, recycled plastic bottle bird feeders with seed, posters, and pamphlets to promote birds, birding and our chapter.