I gave Outdoors readers a bit of bad news last week.

When volunteers Robert Bird and John McManus filled hummingbird feeders at a pair of South Hills feeding stations on June 2, they discovered that something special had vanished. A wooden sign engraved with “Home of the Hummingbirds,” made by a local teen in 2013, no longer hung from the rail fence at the larger station to welcome visitors to the beloved spot.

McManus was particularly disgusted at the sign’s disappearance. So were the commenters in his “Shoshone Basin Hummers” Facebook group.

Now I have good news.

When Bird and McManus made their weekly visit June 9, the sign had reappeared on the fence, just as mysteriously as it left.

“The feeders were mostly empty but we hung more and it took a full 13 gallons to fill them all,” Bird wrote to the Shoshone Basin Hummers group. “We also planted four trumpet vines along the fence. I started these plants last fall from shoots in my yard. Will order more feeders this week.”

Closures on the forest

I bet I’m not the only one having trouble keeping track of road and trail closures this spring as heavy snowmelt causes flooding and erosion.

But now there’s a handy tool to help: an interactive “story map” of this spring’s emergency conditions on the Sawtooth National Forest. You can find it here: http://arcg.is/2pnXRUB

To use the story map, just click on tabs for the Fairfield, Ketchum and Minidoka ranger districts and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. On each district’s map, yellow hazard symbols identify roads closed due to snow cover or flooding; red ones are for roads impassable due to washouts or landslides. Zooming in on the map brings up recreation sites.

Clicking on a hazard symbol brings up a brief explanation of the damage, often with a photo.

For example, here’s one from the Fairfield district: “Featherville Road. There is fill slope removal approximately 1 mile from the end of pavement with some loss of edge of roadway.” Clicking on a nearby hazard symbol brings up an early-May photo of the flooded entrance to Abbot Campground on Forest Road 227.

A Sawtooth forest spokeswoman this week assured me the story map is being updated regularly.

Worth the wait

No, the handicapped-accessible fishing pier at Oster Pond 1 hasn’t reopened yet.

In mid-May, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a partial rebuilding of that particularly popular but dilapidated dock in the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area.

It wasn’t the speedy project they had hoped.

“Just like any plumbing job in an old house, once you start the project it tends to get bigger than intended,” Doug Megargle, Fish and Game’s regional fisheries manager, wrote on Monday. “Staff have encountered more damage than expected and have been working hard to make sure the new dock will be safe, strong, and look better than the previous version.”

The crew has the deck in and is building the steel rails. Megargle’s new prediction: The fishing pier should open by the end of June.

“Other urgent projects have delayed our progress, but we know people want it open ASAP and will be working hard to make that happen,” he wrote. “We ask anglers respect the closed sign and stay off the dock since there are no rails and we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Bluegill are back

Once again, thousands of bluegill swim in Bruneau Dunes State Park’s Big Lake.

In early June, Fish and Game fisheries biologist Scott Stanton restocked Big Lake with about 2,200 pre-spawn bluegill taken from Johnson Reservoir near Preston by trap netting, electrofishing and hook-and-line fishing.

Don’t feel sorry for Johnson Reservoir’s anglers; biologists concluded the bluegill population there was so high that it limited fish size.

The transplant was the latest step in Fish and Game’s effort to restore a bass and bluegill fishery in Bruneau Dunes’ Big Lake after a devastating invasion by common carp.

The agency this spring determined that no carp survived last fall’s rotenone application. To rebuild the fishery, Stanton needs a good forage base (the bluegill) before bringing in the predator (the bass) next year.

Fish and Game isn’t likely to prohibit fishing at Big Lake during the rebuilding, Megargle has said. But it will try to educate anglers on the necessity for productive bluegill spawning — probably through a sign encouraging anglers to release what they catch there or to harvest conservatively.

Virginia Hutchins is enterprise editor of the Times-News and Magicvalley.com; reach her at vhutchins@magicvalley.com or 208-735-3242.


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