Dear Reader:

If you are reading this column today or during the daylight hours Thursday you may still have time to get tickets to see a documentary made by real filmmakers concerning me — and some of you. It will be will shown at the Center for the Arts on Thursday only. The instigators are primarily Jennifer Tennican and her production company, JenTen Productions. Tickets cost $15, and some are still available. Tickets for the dinner-movie combination sold out some time ago. There will be activities before and after the showing.

Jennifer promises a good time for everybody, but then she promised at the outset of the project that it was going to be all fun for me.

Unaccustomed as I am to the red carpet treatment, and while long-disremembered memories keep intruding, I retreated to my book “Valley So Sweet” for some memory brush-up.

Winter on the Wing

Cold, but not yet severely cold. No wind, so the temperature is tolerable. One can deal with cold alone, but wind plus cold becomes threatening in an instant. A light ground fog burnt off early this morning. Some of the moisture refroze into large diamond-shaped flakes which fell in a cheerful slow motion to cluster on limb and branch, and freshened the week-old snow. Sparkly glitters, reflecting a dim sunshine. A kind of crystalline forest and field.

Admiring the frost for as long as it lasts, I am slow to recognize that the river has far more waterfowl — goldeneyes, mergansers, and even mallards — than it has harbored for a couple of months. I’ve been expecting this to happen; when Yellowstone Lake freezes and creeks ice up, waterfowl move to larger rivers or to places where open water is maintained (as by thermal activity).

These birds are still unaccustomed to their new surrounding. They’re restless, forming and reforming little bunches. Not feeding, but investigative. Some will now remain in the Hole for the duration of winter, some will move south. Much depends on the severity of this particular winter, but unless the Snake River freezes entirely over — wow! that must be something to witness — some will remain until mid-spring.

The ice crystals have gone. Sublimed. Leaving no discernible trace. The sky has changed. Ice has appeared in it. Cirrus clouds sweep in a broad band from the southwest, overtaking the sun, chilling me and the works around it. It’s going to snow. Not predicted, but it’s going to snow. A little wind comes along, suggesting I pull down earflaps and put on gloves. I change my route; I like to walk home with wind at my back when the wind is chill.

Crane Fly

One evening in late October. My attention is drawn to a lone crane fly on top of quiet backwater on the Snake River. It’s zipping across the surface so quickly it’s leaving a wake — creating a bow wave, of all things.

Crane flies are big, floppy insects that resemble over-sized mosquitoes. These giants don’t seem to bite humans. Fortunately. They often swarm near incandescent lamps. They’re known to fly slowly and walk more slowly. Admirable traits.

Not this one. It wasn’t being pursued, it wasn’t trapped; it was apparently simply feeding on algae ... algae that wasn’t going anywhere fast. Yet it flew at flank speed from cobble to stick, stick to algae patch, algae patch to open water for at least 10 minutes after I happened by.

One crane fly doing something out of custom. Perhaps someone knows why. I’ve never noticed this before, but I don’t study insects carefully. Maybe crane flies do aerobics all the time, and this guy was just out for an evening jog. Gee. I know people who do that ... and I don’t understand why they do it either.

Field Notes: Halloween, and little snow except in the high country, and that comes and goes. In view of the date — it’s November already — one might reasonably expect to see more elk in bunches as well as groups of pronghorn. But no one has reported gatherings of elk or pronghorn.

Good news from Ruth Shea, the swans wintering southwest of Rexburg, Idaho, and the Swan Safe partners.

The news is that Fall River Electric Cooperative was so committed to this project that the crew raced to put the power underground and tear down the old lines before this week’s predicted storms arrived. No one could stand the thought of another dead swan.

Fall River sped the work and met its commitment, even before the public fundraising goal had been reached.

To learn about the project, see photos of the lines coming down and some memorable videos — don’t miss “Fallen Angels No More” — visit and

Bert Raynes writes weekly about whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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