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BLOG: This Boy Just Wants to Talk about Birds

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Joseph DeTemple

Burley High School student Joseph DeTemple looks for birds in Idaho’s Island Park area in spring 2015.

Joseph DeTemple just wants someone he can talk with about birds.

The 17-year-old Burley High School senior has tried to get some of his buddies interested in birding.

“I haven’t had any luck with that at all,” DeTemple told me.

That explains the element of recruitment in his senior project.

Its goal: Learn to teach others about birds, then hold a birding class in Burley next spring — perhaps on Earth Day in April.

DeTemple’s project mentor is Wallace Keck, who manages City of Rocks National Reserve and the nearby Castle Rocks State Park, leads birding events at the parks and shares a steady stream of his own bird photos on social media. DeTemple intends to go birding with Keck during the Christmas break, and Keck offered some resources he can look through to help him create his presentation.

DeTemple’s big interest in birds is just over a year old, spurred by a nature merit badge at Scout camp that required him to identify eight birds. He has been largely on his own in the pursuit of birds — watching along the Snake River in Burley, sitting in fields, visiting Lake Walcott — though for his sake his family stopped at a bird refuge along Utah’s Bear River while on vacation.

Already, DeTemple has a life list of 131 species spotted and identified. With a note of admiration in his voice, Keck told me he didn’t get anywhere near that number until his senior year of college.

As a beginner, DeTemple spent a long time looking at a swallow to make sure he had the right one before adding barn swallow to the life list. In the fall of 2014, he saw a bird among the American robins that looked different. Good reason: It was a varied thrush.

“That was one my favorite birds I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Keck hopes to help DeTemple lengthen his life list to 150 or 200 by the spring migration, the teen said.

DeTemple hasn’t yet been able to distinguish between the Cooper’s hawk and sharp-shinned hawk.

“That’s two that I really want to get.”

• • •

Want to spend Friday outdoors? Consider joining Kimberly cyclist Jim Brennan for his 4th Annual New Year’s Day Ride at Auger Falls Heritage Park in Twin Falls.

Mountain bikers will meet at noon Friday, Jan. 1, in the Auger Falls parking lot, and anybody is welcome.

“Gives us something to start off the new year right. It may be cold, it may be snowy, but you know …,” Brennan said, his sentence trailing off. He’ll cancel if it’s muddy, however, because he doesn’t want to damage the park’s bike trails.

“Last year it was 12 degrees,” he said. “You just got to dress for it.”

The riders usually start off together, then split off and go their own ways.

The year-ago group ride had about 20 people, Brennan said. “And then people show up all day long.”

• • •

There’s no excuse for sitting around the rest of this weekend, either.

In recent weeks I’ve told you about three events set for Saturday, Jan. 2:

• The annual Free Ski Day at Magic Mountain Resort, where members of the High Desert Nordic Association give free instruction to people of all ages and loan them skis, boots and poles. The club will hand out loaner equipment from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but you’ll have until about 3 p.m. to return it.

• The free Jim Sage Christmas Bird Count at City of Rocks National Reserve. Meet at the City of Rocks visitor center at 7 a.m. Participants will carpool and caravan to hot spots along the 50-mile driving route, and the program and survey will conclude by 5 p.m. Preregister or get more information at 208-824-5911 or Bring a lunch, and dress warmly.

• A huge 6:30 p.m. bonfire, fueled by wood waste and Christmas trees, at scenic Massacre Rocks State Park. Show up early to start loading up on free hot dogs, chili and hot chocolate.

• • •

Plan to spend New Year’s Day fishing? You might be interested in a regional roundup of fishing conditions that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Jerome office posted on Facebook Monday morning:

“Officer Shackelford, Dec. 28:

“Nobody on Little Wood Reservoir. It is filling and the edges are soft with wet snow and ice.

“Officer Masin, Dec. 28:

“There was no ice on Dog Creek a few days ago, but these cold temperatures may have put a thin film of ice out there. Regardless, the hatchery guys just dumped 135 fish in there weighing an average of 6 lbs each.

“Malad River has been quiet, but as always, there is a good fly fishing opportunity there if you are interested in reeling in 6-14 inch rainbows.

“I haven’t seen anyone fishing the Snake River near me. The constant gunshots and cold weather may be keeping people away from those shores.

“Crystal Lake continues to be stocked with little fishing pressure. With patience, people have been taking a few fish out of there with worms and power bait.

“Fishery biologist Scott Stanton, Dec. 25:

“Fished 4.5 hrs midday. Ice was 12 inches. Drilled about 20 holes due east of West Magic from 10 to 40 foot a water. Caught 3 trout all of which were 14 inches. Didn’t find a perch. Tried all my secret east coast boy perch techniques. Could very well have been operator error.”


Virginia Hutchins is the enterprise editor of the Times-News and Reach her at



or 208-735-3242.



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