Publisher, editor, journalist, photographer, and creator. I was born in Idaho and have lived here a majority of my life, as well as living on both the east and west coasts. I love all things Idaho, and would love to share my knowledge with others so they can get out and enjoy the beautiful sights, sounds, and tastes of Idaho!
I have been a writer for years and I am also a musician, artist, cook, photographer, outdoor enthusiast, and Bohemian Hippy.
Terry Welch-Photographer Extraordinaire
If you have never been to Lava Hot Springs in the south-east part of Idaho, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s a cool town with great restaurants, hot pools galore, and in April there is an amazing music festival that breaks out, and it is a festival with a cause. All of the money raised goes toward the Lava Hot Springs Elementary Music School Program to put instruments into the hands of children that couldn’t afford those instruments and education programs otherwise.
This is the fifth annual Lava Hot Springs Folk Festival, and it kicks off on Friday, April 12, 2019, at 2:00 pm and continues through until Saturday, April 13, 2019, at 9:00 pm. There are musicians from all over the United States that perform a wide variety of folk styles, including country folk, Celtic folk, modern folk, as well as some tunes you are sure to recognize from the past. Here is this years line-up:
This is our 3rd year back performing, and we can honestly tell you that we have never had so much fun at any other festival that we perform! There are amazing and talented musicians set up all over Lava Hot Springs at different venues, and the owners have agreed to allow the musicians to graciously share their space for a couple of hours. Each venue, whether it is a restaurant, hotel, retail store, or grocery store, gives each musician a place to play their innovative music, and the sponsors pay for the musicians and their lodgings.
There are two fundraisers in addition to the raffle ticket sales that go on around town all weekend. The major fundraisers are at the Wagon Wheel and one at the brand new art gallery called Dragonfly. Dragonfly has a silent auction where people can bid on unique and original handpainted chairs. There are 5 beautiful chairs that are designed by local artisans.
Music programs are so very important as to how we develop as musicians and adults. When you play in an orchestra or band, you learn about teamwork. It sets the structure and tone for how you are going to develop as an individual when you become an adult. It also teaches you the life skills of communication, cooperation, and artistic creativity surrounded by your peers. I know that for me, music was my savior when I was growing up. It helped me through some of my worst times and has also been some of the most joyous times in my life.
You can buy tickets that are being sold all over Lava Hot Springs for just a few dollars for so many tickets. Each ticket gives you a chance to win wonderful gifts sponsored by each of the many venues in Lava Hot Springs. Admission to all of the events is free, and monetary donations or instruments are gladly accepted.
This great event is hosted by participating downtown merchants, restaurants, and hotels and coordinated with the support of The Greater Lava Hot Springs Prosperity Foundation and the Greater Lava Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce Main Street Businesses. A very special thank you goes out to Gail Palen and Liz Tuttle from Riverside Hot Springs Inn & Spa, the two wonderful Media Contacts that help with hiring and placing the musicians at the different venues!
This year they have had several local residents join The Folk Festival Committee who have greatly contributed to the vision of the event and organization. They are professional musicians and educators. Another big highlight is the instrument drive. They are hoping that some people will donate instruments to the school. There will also be someone there that has donated their time to make minor repairs on any instruments that may need a little help.
I met Barbara Whitbeck about 4 years ago at the Nampa Farmer’s Market when we were playing music there. We had taken a break, and I was walking around checking out all the goodies that the market vendors had to offer when I saw her beautiful gourds with all of these gorgeous designs and rich colors. They were unlike anything I had ever seen before. The quality of the work was immaculate, intricate, and very original.
Each gourd has its own unique characteristic that makes it a one of a kind piece. The images, whether they are of wolves, tribal designs, Celtic knotwork, birds, or dragonflies, are beautifully burned into the gourds by hand. Over the years I have bought a few pieces from Barbara and even had her design one with the dragon from the Welsh flag for me. It represents my family, and where we came from and it’s one of my most cherished pieces and is a family heirloom.
Although I have known Barb for quite a while, I really didn’t know much about her, beyond the fact that I loved her artwork and I adored her. When we sat down and chatted yesterday, I realized how much she and I really have in common. Kindred spirits really do flock together I believe. We are really just a couple of old hippies at heart. When someone says “You’re weird.” we reply “Thank you!”
Barbara has spent her entire life in the arts. Somebody handed her a gourd in the mid-2000s and she thought “Oh, what can I do with this? I love this canvas because it’s not blank.” Some designs don’t work well on a gourd because of the rounded shape and all the different parts to it, so a huge part of the creative process with gourds is knowing which designs will work or not. As with many of her artistic endeavors she doesn’t do things in small quantities. “My nature is not moderate…If I get an idea to make something, then I have to make a bunch of them, and all these different variations on them…Then I started making them, and I thought, ‘I really love doing this, but I can’t have all these gourds around.'”
Her first memories of doing handcrafts was in the fourth grade. She had started making doll clothes and sewed them by hand. That was the first product she remembers making. She said “They were terrible, but they had construction to them. They weren’t just wrap and ties.”
She had always drawn, and by the 6th grade she made pencil portraits of all her classmates. She would use rulers because she didn’t know what a grid process was. So she used this ruler to enlarge from a small picture to a large portrait. In the 8th grade, she made all of her Christmas presents that year. She had made stockings to hang. Like many artists, she has always been doing art or crafting on some level or other.
When she was in her 20’s she did farmer’s markets. She would go to a thrift shop and buy old clothes that she would redesign into the fashion of the day. She thought “That’s a dream I would love to do, so I started back at the farmer’s market here bringing my gourds. It was really exciting the first day. Someone actually bought something…It cost me $15 to (set up a booth at) the market, I made $16.” It didn’t matter because she was happy.
It wasn’t about the amount she made, it was about the fact that someone would spend money to buy her gourd. One of her favorite things about being at the market is all the people she meets. She loves just hanging out and talking to people, even if she doesn’t make any sales.
We talked about her process with the gourds and I asked her if she had to hollow them out and she said that isn’t an issue because they are like a pumpkin, they are full of seeds in the middle. They are really hollow. She has a farmer that occasionally brings her green ones that she sticks out on her back patio and she lets the sun take care of them. In the spring they are dry, and at this point, she soaks them, scrubs the outside off, and then if she is going to open them up, she decides where she is going to cut them at. At this point, it’s the scraping process.
There are two kinds of gourds. They are much like pumpkins on the inside. There are the fluffy kind, and then there’s the really icky, slimy kind. Gourds are the same way, but they are all dried out. When the fluffy stuff dries, you have to really scrape it out, and it’s a pain. The other stuff gets crispy and you just kind of pick it out. She prefers the slimy part. No one ever said that creating art was going to be easy.
After the gourds are prepped and ready to go, she has what she calls blanks, which are the gourds, prior to any design element being placed on them. She has blanks that will become bells, night lights, and birdhouses. There is a bag here and a bag there. They are everywhere. She then decides what design to put on a particular gourd. Taking graphite paper, she places the design on the gourd, and then burns the design into the surface.
Like many artists, Barbara has evolved and will continue to evolve. The end of the evolution for us comes when we are in the ground. “It’s too ingrained in who you are. There’s no end of the line because the end of the line is when you are gone. The urge to create is what I call a maker. I’m a maker by nature. I’m going to make something, period. It doesn’t matter what it is, I’m going to make something.”
She also makes little felt finger puppets that she sells on Etsy. She has a doorway puppet theater that she puts on a tension curtain rod. You stand behind it and do a puppet show with it. That sells really well on Etsy.
She has been meaning to start weaving on a loom that is in her spare room. She has had it 10 years and has never weaved on that loom yet. Barbara has a friend, Anne Pitcher, who makes goat milk soap and vends at the Nampa Farmer’s Market. Anne raises her goats, milks them, and then uses the milk to make yogurt and lye which is used to make the soap. Anne wanted to get into fur goats that you shave and use the fur like wool, carding it and then spinning it for weaving.
Barbara and Anne were going to use the loom that Barbara has along with Anne’s wool to weave, but neither one of them has ever gotten there yet. They were going to take the loom to Anne’s house where it would be easier to work with, but they have to take the doors off of the room where the loom sits in order to get it out. They decided that the loom would stay where it is. Who knows? That may very well be Barbara’s next artistic evolution.
Recently she has been working with children in the arts. She has been helping them to make designs out of Sculpey clay. The kids make food, flowers, animals, and whatever else their minds can conjure up. The designs are so cute!
“The cool thing about it is that these were all middle school kids, and they came from all over the valley…There was a group of refugees that spoke Swahili, so they were from Africa. We had a group of immigrants from Mexico, we had some Marshallese Islanders, we had caucasian kids. It was this big mix of children. It was absolutely fabulous. One of the groups chose to teach the other groups the clay work.”
Working with children is probably closer to what she will be doing in her futuer endeavors by teaching them art. Barbara is a Baha’i, which is a religion and one of the tenets of this religion is the transformation of the world one heart at a time. One of the best ways to teach this philosophy is to start with the young. Barbara was a middle school teacher that taught math and science which is inately tied to art.
One of the ways they have found efficacious is to work with children, imparticularly with the middle school aged child. The middle school class is called Spiritual Empowerment and through these teachings the children see at a young age that they can make a difference in the world.
They located a group of kids that were wanting to go to children’s classes, and they meet once a week. They have 16-25 children that come and 3 adults that supervise. The group that they work with in the Caldwell area is made up of immigrants, mostly Mexicans. One group is from 5th grade down with the youngest being 2 or 3 years old. They sing with them, they tell stories, they say prayers, they do art, and they play games. It is an amazing program!
When I think of a renaissance woman, I think of Barbara Whitbeck. She is an amazing artisan and craftsperson, and far beyond that, she has the sweetest, most pure heart of anyone I have had the honor to meet in my lifetime. There is only one other woman in my life that has touched my heart the way she does and that was my beautiful grandmother Marion Ward.
I came across JaK*s Place purely by accident, and what a great accident it was! Traffic coming out of the Ford Idaho Center was absolutely insane, so I decided to go the opposite direction. I was looking for somewhere to sit down, relax, and have dinner when I spotted JaK*s Place. From the outside, it looked warm and inviting.
I ordered the Gnocchi Salmon for dinner and looked around the dining room while I waited. The ambiance is warm with all the lovely wood tables, and the light pouring in from the large windows made the room feel inviting. My waitress was very friendly and made sure to check on me to see if I needed anything.
My dinner came to the table personally delivered by Nate, The Executive Chef, who said he was sorry for the wait. That was a very nice personal touch. The salmon was flaky, moist, and cooked to perfection served over gnocchi and fresh vegetables that had a light pan seared crust. The vegetables were expertly cooked and were just the right tenderness. You could tell that Nate was a fan of the herb by the delicious flavors that evolved in your mouth. I was very impressed with this restaurant, and I never would have known about it had I gone a different direction that day.
I met up with Jeff and Kathy Ussery, the owners of JaK*s Place, to get a sense of who they are and how they got to this point with the restaurant. Prior to moving to the Boise area, they were Verizon Wireless Retailers in Montana and had 7 locations throughout the state of Montana. They had done that for a while and decided it was time to do something different.
They met in California where Jeff was an outside sales rep for a clothing company, and they were transferred to Colorado. They went to Kansas City, to Minnesota, and south to Florida. It got to the point where Jeff wasn’t enjoying that type of business anymore, and they were looking for different opportunities.
When they had the territory in Colorado, they had the opportunity to travel through Western Montana. It was absolutely beautiful to them. At the time his brother-in-law was working with Verizon Wireless, and they decided to start a dealership. They operated 7 locations for 15 years.
They got to a point where they felt like they needed to have their own brand. So, they sold that business and decided to move back to Boise where Jeff had grown up. They were searching for their own business and had an open mind to what they wanted to do. They felt that if you had the right product, and you operated the business properly, it could be successful.
Jeff and Kathy got to experience living and dining their way across the country. This allowed them to acquaint themselves with a huge variety of different local cuisines from all over. It had a huge influence on their cooking style and the restaurant that Jak*s has become. Jeff and Kathy encountered an Italian soda and cookie shop in Meridian and thought the concept would be a good business that they wanted to create. They initially called the business Soda Stop and added sandwiches and wraps to their menu.
They morphed the idea into Jeff and Kathy’s Shop, hence the acronym Jak*s Place. It was an interesting evolution as they built the business and made the business theirs. They got further and further away from Soda Stop. They were trying to think of a name for the newly evolved business, kicking different names around and asking for outside opinions. They wanted the name to be better, something more descriptive. They didn’t want to change it until they had the right name. A moment of inspiration hit and a light came on, and the name JaK*s Place was born. It was perfect!
When they started on this restaurant adventure, neither of them had any professional cooking experience. Jeff had waited tables when he was growing up and in his 20’s, but other than that, it was a whole new ball game for them. A lot of their ideas came from what Kathy calls their “secret kitchen.” They would go home and just create stuff. What I learned about Jeff and Kathy at this point was that no matter what they do, be it clothing or phones, they take whatever they decide to do and make it successful.
They got feedback on developing their menu from David Knickrehm, who is a Culinary Consultant and Chef for Sysco, and who is also a cordon bleu accredited chef. He gave them an outline of what he would do based on the menu that Jeff and Kathy were trying to develop. David came and spent some time with their staff and went through portioning tips and other tricks. Kathy said that Sysco and the chefs are really nice to have as a resource.
Executive Chef Nathan Rosenkoetter
Their Executive Chef, Nate Rosenkoetter, has only been with them since the beginning of this year. He came in to meet with Jeff and Kathy, and Kathy said that “There was just something about it, it just clicked…He really wanted to develop something that he could put his signature on.” They already had the great base of the lunch menu, with the sandwiches and wraps. Nate was anxious to get his hands on the dinner menu and really develop that.
Many restaurants have standard menus that don’t allow their chefs to have as much creative input as Jeff and Kathy do. When Nate came in to JaK*s Place, he had an opportunity to see what they were doing with pesto sauce, with chipotle, and a combination of ingredients that have such incredible flavor profiles when working together.
They aren’t just making a boring ham and cheese sandwich when it comes to their approach to food. When you look at their turkey sandwich, for instance, they have a pesto sauce, along with the green and red peppers, that add to the flavor. They don’t use processed meat, they use the whole muscle meat, which doesn’t have any ingredients that you can’t pronounce. This adds to the incredible flavor and texture of this classic sandwich. Nate stepped in and discussed how creative he likes to be in the kitchen. His attention to detail conveys the importance of putting out a quality product. It is a good fit.
Nate has been cooking professionally around 8 years as far as being a sous-chef. He got most of his training from working at 10-Barrel Brewing in Boise under Chef Cooper, ALAVITA under Chef Wiley, and other fine dining establishments.
When he started out he was a busser at The Blue Sky Cafe in Nampa. And then when he went to work at Papa John’s he fell in love with cooking because he got to hold a knife for the first time and actually got to cut some food. He loved how intricate you have to be and how precise everything has to be. He is now 26 and says that he has learned a lot here in the Treasure Valley.
We discussed his signature dishes and talked about the Gnocchi Salmon that I had eaten on my first visit. He said he can’t take full credit for that dish, but if he had to say what his signature dish is now, he would say the Chicken Picatta. “The Picatta is not art by any means, it’s one of those basic simple recipes that any good cook should be able to do, but they can’t. Of course, any good chef is going to be like steak, steak, steak, steak, steak…If you make chicken that tastes better than steak, which I believe our Picatta would (compared) to anywhere in Nampa, period. And that’s why I love it. It’s simple, but if you do it right, it’s one of the best dishes out there”
He is definitely a fan of the herb. He has over 50 dry spices and herbs at home, and he puts fresh rosemary and thyme in almost everything that he cooks. He also uses bacon grease for cooking everything because of the flavor richness. Anytime he cooks a food item pan seared, it is seared in bacon grease instead of oil, it just makes everything better, the flash point is better, and the flavor is better.
Nate puts up a quote of the day and yesterday he put up a quote by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. It is one of his favorites, and it said: “Perfection is not a destination, it’s a continuous journey.” Nate said, “The word perfect kind of sucks because you can never be perfect, and when you are, there’s still more. Especially for food.
Eventually, Nate wants to own his own restaurant where he has almost complete control and he’s doing something no one else is doing. What he has found is that finding people with the same goal is difficult at best. Cooks are a dime a dozen but finding someone who is a good cook, that shows up, that isn’t scared of hours, has consistently great food, and has team morale is difficult to find.
For his future goals, “I love working for JaKs. I love these people, the owners are great, Hailey is amazing. We’re doing amazing things right now, unfortunately, our only challenge is getting butts into the seats. We need to be busier. I wish I was slammed right now and I didn’t have time for an interview during the night time dinner phase…We’ll get there.”
“But, my future goal is to either end up with these guys or have my own place. To build a culture where people are excited about food again. Going out to eat is just crap. I mean even the places that are filled up every single night aren’t doing it from scratch anymore…Many of the restaurants that are slammed every night, they are not local and they aren’t doing it from scratch.”
Nate is definitely a very passionate cook. People that don’t cook for a living or even treat their home cooking as a culinary experience don’t really understand that it is a very high art form that involves flavors, blending and articulating flavors and tastes in new and creative ways that wrap around your palate and make your mouth go wow! It’s also about aesthetics and having that ability to present food in a balanced and beautiful display on your plate or in a bowl like a fine art painting. Nate definitely has it!
It’s Not Just The Food It’s Also The Wood
On one wall of the restaurant, there’s a historical description of where the wood came from that makes up the table tops in the dining room. It’s a fascinating story! When Jeff was looking for different options for tables, believe it or not, he was on craigslist one day and thought maybe he could find some old table tops that he could do something fun with. He came across this tongue and groove larch.
The gentleman that was selling it is a professor at U of I. He was one of the divers that were on the team that recovered and reclaimed the wood off the bottom of Flathead Lake in Montana. Larch and some of the pine weighs quite a bit and sunk to the bottom of the lake. The wood then soaked up the sediments and minerals giving it a unique verigated look.
During the early 1900’s they processed the lumber that they cut down by rolling it to the edge of the river and staging the logs there through the winter. In the spring, during spring runoff, they would kick the logs into the river and float them down into Flathead Lake and move the logs to the south where Somers Lumber Company was located on the west corner of the lake.
There was a holding area at the mill for the logs, and the logs would sit in the lake until they pulled them off to be processed. Some of the heavier woods, such as the larch and some of the pine, sunk to the bottom of the lake. Each log was branded, similar to the branding process for cattle. If you look at the picture below, you can see the number 25 stamped into the log as well as 2 circles with a capital N in the center.
The gentleman that helped recover the wood gave Jeff and Kathy all sorts of information on the logging camps. There were several different logging camps in the area at the time. Now here’s an interesting fact that ties into their restaurant and food. It was very competitive to find these strong, able-bodied loggers, it wasn’t just about the pay. Inevitably the camps that had the best chefs seemed to attract the best workers.
At JaK*s they are devoting time to developing their catering business. They make a lot of box lunches. Today, for instance, they have 140 box lunches to deliver for West Ada County School District. They also have a teaching clinic in a doctor’s office that they cater to that has lunches almost every day of the week.
Jeff and Kathy Ussery definitely have their finger on the pulse of excellent quality food and customer service. Their staff is warm and friendly and the menu is diverse, filled with delicious items that are sure to please any palate. For more information on the restaurant please go to their web site at http://jaksplace.rocks.
I came across Jill Choate Basketry when I was doing research on willows for my Idaho wildflowers book. I was curious to know how many basket weavers we have in Idaho. I found her while doing my research and her baskets are amazing! They are vibrant, colorful, and fun, and I knew I had to learn more about this basket weaver.
She makes her baskets from rattan reeds and dyes them herself. Many of her clients and customers have commented on the unique colors of her baskets. They are unlike anything else out on the market. She incorporates antlers and driftwood into many of her baskets which I find very cool!
The story of how Jill got into basket weaving is interesting. When her family was living in Heron, MT they had a farm and did all of the logging and farming with draft horses. They used to do the local farmer’s market. At the farmer’s market one day she met a woman named Rane who turned her on to basket weaving. Rane was kind of a wild hippy chick who would do crazy things like float down the river, whack down some willows, and make a basket. She didn’t have a lot of technical basketry skills, but it caught Jill’s attention, and from then on she was hooked. She is a self-described renaissance woman, and basket weaving is an age-old craft that she wanted to learn.
From there she went to a class in Missoula, Montana and was taught by a woman named Bobbi Marshall Harris in antler basketry. Jill fell in love with antler basketry and began making her own designs. They left Montana and they soon moved to Alaska. They were dog mushers and had come to the south side of Denali, Alaska in the remote area of the Petersville area. They lived off the grid with 60 dogs at one time, but they did have an outhouse and sauna for some luxuries.
When they were living in Alaska, she was approached by a sales rep that wanted to sell her baskets. Her baskets ended up being sold all over the state of Alaska. Jill decided that she didn’t want to spend every moment of her waking life making baskets. It was at this point that she decided to teach basket weaving.
After that, she toured the lower 48 teaching from coast to coast with the entire family in tow. Her daughter Jennah was homeschooled, so, wherever Jill thought that Jennah needed to have an experience they booked classes. When Jennah went to college Jill had gotten tired of being on the road and teaching.
Years later she was doing a farmer’s market in Sandpoint, Idaho selling bike baskets for her daughter. This woman came up to her and said, “These are really cool baskets! My name is Rane.” and Jill said, “Well, yes it is. You are the woman that sent me down this path.” What a small world it is indeed.
Jill Choate on Basket Weaving and Retreats
“There are a lot of different methods and techniques, and really one thing leads to another. I’ll get an idea of something (that) I’d like to create… I have to think about it to figure out if it’s actually possible to construct. If it’s a twill or design element, I have to get the paper and pencil out and graph it to see how it will work in the round.”
“I think that the intriguing thing about basketry is the math that’s involved in it. It’s sort of like solving a puzzle, and then you can take that puzzle and simplify it to teach it to others. That’s magic! So, basically I inspire people to push past their comfort zones at the retreats and try something daring. After 30 years, I don’t want to make your basket over and under baskets anymore.”
“People come to the retreat for different reasons. Some are dedicated basketmakers that are there to soak up every bit of information that I can offer. Others are there to enjoy the ambiance of the mountains, take a trail ride, hike, and maybe make a basket. Either way, it’s all good.”
“I have students that come from Alaska to Maine to attend the retreat, and it’s always a great time, with a great group. Women bring their husbands, and the husbands go fishing. I’ve got a couple of guys that attend regularly that weave.
“When you get to the Guest Ranch, it’s like you’ve just been incorporated into their family for a couple of days. Maybe a colt is being born, or something is up, and they just want to welcome you into the process. Dogs are in and out of the lodge. One of the reasons I decided to do it there was because of the accommodations and the food. Both are top notch.”
She made bike baskets at one point, but eventually gave that business to her daughter Jennah. Jennah’s business is called Cool Bike Basket and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/coolbikebaskets/. There’s a very cool video showing Jennah making a bike basket with a friend.
Beyond that, Jill also makes brooms. Her latest endeavor is making mittens out of recycled sweaters that she gets from thrift stores. The mitten company is called Mad Mitt Co. and can be reached here https://www.facebook.com/madmittco/. She’s quite an amazing renaissance woman and an incredibly talented artist! For more information about the retreat, to purchase a basket, or to get a pattern for a basket please go to her website at https://www.jchoatebasketry.com/.
If you have been following the articles in this magazine, you already know that we support everything Idaho. Now, I have decided to create a new feature just for Idaho artisans and craftspersons.
Are you someone, or do you know of someone, who creates something beautiful and unique with their hands? Do they make pottery, jewelry, blow glass, or have a unique item that they create? We want to hear about it and see the pieces!
Submission guidlines are as follows: Please submit 3 or 4 photos of your best pieces, your name, email address, and a phone number to email@example.com and put CTAAC in the subject line so that I can weed out junk mail.
Featured artisans and craftspersons will be chosen based upon quality, aesthetics, and uniqueness. If your pieces get chosen we will get back to you and set up an interview and photo session.
Terry and I spent a great deal of time with Mike Garets. His knowledge of raptors and falconry is extensive. We could not believe how much he had to share. He took us all over The World Center for Birds of Prey and was never short on the knowledge he had to share regarding all of the many raptors that we were fortunate to come into contact with.
We also met up with Doctor Dave Anderson (Doctor Dave) that runs the Gyrfalcon (pronounced jeerfalcon) Project in Alaska and in Panama. He goes all over the world in different climates and environments. He also is the Director of The Gyrfalcon Conservation project at The World Center for Birds of Prey. His focus is on biodiversity of animals reacting with their plant environments. The Gyrfalcon is one of the largest falcon species by the way.
David holds degrees in Wildlife Management (B.S., Humboldt State University), Raptor Biology (M.S., Boise State University), and Biology (Ph.D., Louisiana State University). He worked many years in Central America, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and later as a research biologist on birds and conservation of protected areas in developing countries. Some of his more exciting work has been done in the canopy of the tropical rainforest, where he climbed to heights of over 150 feet to study raptors and other birds. His expertise is in the structure and function of ecological communities and avian assemblages (put another way, why certain species of plants and animals live in some places and not in others, how they interact, and what factors of the climate and environment determine these relationships). (https://www.peregrinefund.org/people/anderson-david)
While we were headed over to the Herrick Collections Building that is a research facility which holds all of the archives, we ran into Tate Mason He is the Director of The World Center for Birds of Prey. He has a Master’s Degree in raptor biology from B.S.U. His primary subjects were owls and songbirds as an Ornithologist. He has a very innate understanding of the need to have public encouragement in bird populations. He also has a passion for preserving the biodiversity in Boise and around the world. He serves on the board of directors for the Idaho Environmental Education Association and is the president-elect of the Boise Museum Association.
The artifacts, or archive wing, was funded by a member of the board, Bob Berry. He is a founding member of the board from 1970 to the present. He is also the owner and operator of Wolf Creek Ranch in Wyoming. His mentor was James Nelson Rice. The World Center for Birds of Prey has the largest collection of English language Falconry books in the world thanks to Bob Berry. There are 1,800 or 2,000 books, and the collection is constantly growing.
A member of the board, Kent Carnie, who was a falconer and active in The Peregrine Fund for years, became concerned because their family members didn’t know what to do with materials left behind by falconers that had passed. The families didn’t know the value of their notes, medallions, pictures, bells, hoods, and all of the things that go along with falconry. So he, along with The Peregrine Fund, created this branch of The Peregrine Fund Archives to preserve valuable Falconry items.
The bells that the falconers use to keep track of their birds are slowly being replaced by GPS units. GPS units are very expensive. One big advantage of GPS is that you can track your bird with your phone if you are in an area that receives a signal. Bells were necessary early on. It helped you to find your bird. If a bell is on their talon and there is not a lot of wind, you can sometimes hear the bell up to a 1/4 of a mile away. Starting in the 1960’s small radio transmitters were used that allowed you to track your bird using receivers. Over the past 4 years GPS is replacing these receivers. Radio telemetry was a big step forward in falconry, although, a number of falconers still use bells.
Radio telemetry has its limitations because if you don’t have a good line of site you can’t find your bird. Mike’s bird got loose and it took him 5 hours to find her because she had flown off on the other side of Pleasant Valley Road in Boise.
Hoods are a specialty item. John Moran is considered to be one of the elite masterhood makers, although he doesn’t make hoods anymore, his hoods are very, very valuable and collectible. The small hoods or micro hoods for smaller raptors run about $100-125 and are not cheap.
The paintings that are inside of the Herrick Center are original paintings. No prints or proofs are hanging on the walls there. Many of the paintings are from England and the United States. There is a tea earn that was made for Colonel Thomas Thornton. He was responsible for introducing falconry to Britain and eventually to the United States. Until the advent of gun powder and guns, Falconry was the sport of Kings. Thornton was a sportsman in the 18th century. When his father died he was quite young. He was willed a lot of money and had an estate called Thornhill in Britain. He bought his title of Colonel and dabbled in all kinds of sports, but he decided to become a Falconer.
Falconry was not practiced much during the 1700s and 1800s in Britain. Tom Thornton started a club called The Confederate Hawks of Great Britain. He was their President for about 10 years and was highly regarded for reintroducing Falconry to Britain and is considered an important person in Western Falconry. In 1781 he was given the silver-gilt tea urn by The Confederate Haws of Great Britain, however, he was very flamboyant and a heavy drinker. He died penniless and with no property to speak of other than this tea urn shown on the bottom right in the photo.
The tea urn was purchased in the 1880s by heirs of The Earl of Warford who was one of the founders of the club. It stayed in their family until they sold it at auction in New York in the year 2000. Bob Berry purchased the tea urn and he donated it to The Peregrine Fund. He also funded the Herrick Wing of The World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, as mentioned earlier and the tea urn sits in a glass case there.
How Falconry Came About In The United States
Falconry was introduced by the returning Crusaders during the medieval period from 1049 to about 1492. The Holy War was church sanctioned and crusaders were sent over by Christians to recover the Holy Land from Muslims. Ironically enough the Christian’s brought back falconry, which they probably learned while on bloody crusades in the Middle East.
Falconry was practiced until the Puritan age around the 17th century or the 1600s. Puritans thought falconry was a frivolous sport, and the advent of gunpowder and guns did away with the need for falconry, not to mention the fact that it was only a sport for royalty and elitist factions. When guns came about you could simply shoot your prey and you didn’t need to go to the extent of training a falcon, not to mention that no one other than royalty or rich elitists could afford it.
Falconry is doing very well today, but it is a small sport in the United States. There are less than 5,000 Falconers and in Idaho there about 130 Falconers. Idaho has more Falconers per capita than in any other state in the United States. There are about 80 in the Boise area.
There are strict regulations by The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Idaho Fish and Game as to how many birds you can have, what kind of birds you can own, and how many you can take out of the wild. It’s a highly regulated sport, more so than any other sport. They will come and examine your mews when you start raising birds. An eyrie is a nest location of raptors. A mews is what a Falconer sets up to raise his raptors with separate raising areas.
They have a program which is called GRIN (Global Raptor Information Network). They have published studies from people all over the world. It is all climate controlled inside of The World Center for Birds of Prey in the Herrick Building. The Arabic wing was dedicated to Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who said that “Falconry is a constant reminder to us of the forces of nature, of the interrelationships between living things and the land they share, and of our own dependence on nature.”
We moved into the Sheik’s room. Kent Carnie, who was a curator and is retired, was offered a huge goat haired tent which is from Syria. It was brought to the U.S. for a Falconry Meet in Texas. He was given the tent because they didn’t want to ship it back to the Middle East. It’s worth about $30,000. It is now set up in Boise at The World Center for Birds of Prey in the Arabic Wing.
Kent didn’t have a place to put the tent. The individual that gave it to the archives, Doctor Ken Riddle, who spent quite a bit of time in Abu Dhabi from 1995-1998 working for the Sheik, helped with establishing 2 Falcon hospitals there that are free for Falconers, as well as many other great advances in Falconry, donated the tent. Here it sits with its Bedouin manakins and comfy couches.
Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was responsible for convincing the 7 Arabic tribes into uniting into what is called the United Arab Emirates, consisting of Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain. He was considered to be a great diplomat and funded several schools and hospitals in the Emirates.
His son Mohammed funded the Arabic wing in the Herrick Building at The World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise and dedicated it to every falconer and to his father that had passed away in 2004 at the age of 86. The wing opened in 2006 and has the large Bedouin tent on display.
The sport of falconry is an ancient sport that is about 4,000 years old, if not older. Some think it may be as old as 10,000 years old. It was probably started in what is now Northern Iran (Persia), or possibly started in Mongolia. It was begun by organized societies, not by people roaming around like the nomadic tribes of the middle east. The Persian dynasties, going back to 10,000 B.C., practiced falconry. It was a sport that was reserved for Kings and members of royalty.
At any rate, this is a long-winded article that contains a lot of information. Thank you for taking the time to read this article! If you have a chance, go to The Velma Morrison Interpretive center at The World Center for Birds of Prey. It is a great place to learn about raptors! For more information go to http://www.peregrinefund.org/visit
I have a tendency to run into articles purely by accident or by my own volition. I had wanted to do an article on The World Center Birds for Birds of Prey and The Peregrine Fund for purely selfish reasons. As most of you that have been following the magazine know, I am pretty diverse with my subject matter. When I was in elementary school we were told to write a paper on an animal of our choice. I chose to write a paper on the Osprey, which is a world wide raptor that is also found in Idaho. I wrote about how they are getting electrocuted by their wings touching on the hotwires of utility poles.
Later in life I went to work as a volunteer for Idaho Fish and Game and we were building boxes for the Osprey to nest in. These boxes were set up in marshes and on the edges of lakes. They are a pain in the butt to build, however, the end result is amazing! When you see a mating pair of Osprey and you know that you were responsible for setting up that nest it sends a chill down your spine and love in your heart, it’s an added bonus when they have babies in the nest!.
Terry and I met up with Raptor Specialist Mike Garets at The World Center for Birds of Prey and he was amazing with his knowledge! He has been the Raptor Specialist at World Center for Birds of Prey for 6 years. His degree is in biology, but as far as birds of prey go he is pretty much self-taught. He is also a falconer and owns a raptor that he uses for hunting. It’s a fascinating story.
The Peregrine Fund was started in 1970 by Doctor Tom Cade, who passed away about a month ago. He was a falconer, conservationist, and a scientist. He, and a number of other falconers and biologists, were alarmed at the decline of the Peregrine Falcon, the source being DDT. DDT is a pesticide that was touted as the wonder pesticide, but it had long-lasting effects, beyond what anyone could imagine. Rachel Carson took DDT to task and is very responsible for getting DDT banned in the United States. In her book, Silent Spring that was published in 1962, she spoke of the disastrous consequences of using DDT, and the decline of the Peregrine Falcon is just one example of what she was referring to.
The Peregrine Falcon was listed as endangered in 1999. Tom Cade started breeding Peregrines at Cornell University in New York using birds that were given to him by falconers. By 1974 they were able to release the birds into the wild in New Jersey. They successfully bred there and that started the recovery. They opened a western branch in 1974 in Fort Collins, Colorado. Their goal was to repopulate the Anatum Falcon, which is a sub-species of Peregrine. It had completely disappeared east of the Mississippi River. West of the Mississippi there were only 40 breeding pairs that they were aware of and only one breeding pair in California.
When they realized they were going to be successful, they opened a breeding facility in Fort Collins. That breeding facility was there until 1984. In the early 80s, The Peregrine Fund decided to consolidate the facilities that existed at Cornell and in Fort Collins. At that time, Morley Nelson, who was on the board of The Peregrine Fund stepped in. He was a long-time friend of The Peregrine Fund and Tom Cade going back many years. He convinced them that Boise was the best place for the peregrines and other birds to be preserved. Many entaties including Boise City and Idaho Power decided to jump in and help with it. They helped to procure the property where the World Center for Birds of Prey is situated in Boise. The rest of the property was donated by BLM (Bureau of Land Management). They relocated to Boise in 1984.
The Morely Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, located just outside of Melba, ID, has one of the highest concentrations of nesting raptors in North America, perhaps even the world. There is a lot to be proud of here in Idaho when it comes to raptors. There are 14 or 15 breeding pairs of Peregrine Falcons, as well as other raptors in this conservation area.
On any given year, depending on conditions, Peregrine Falcons may or may not breed in conservation areas. During the recovery of the Peregrine biologists tried cross-fostering where they have an adult Prarie Falcon raise the young Peregrine Falcon as if they were their own. However, they were never able to get the Peregrines to come back and nest in the Snake River National Conservation Area.
Right now they are breeding Caliofornia Condors at The Worl Center for Birds of Prey. They have around 60 Condors in their facility and they have 130 eggs that are viable. The Peregrine breeding stopped in 1999 but they started breeding Aplomado Falcons in the late 90’s. That continued until about 5 years ago. They still monitor populations in Texas, although they remain an endangered species.
Condors are still listed as critically endangered. There were approximately 22 Condors when conservationists took them out of the wild and put them into conservation captive breeding programs at the LA Zoo and San Diego Wildlife Park. In the 90’s some Condors were brought to Boise and they started breeding them in Idaho.
This may seem like the most unattractive bird to you, but in all reality they are amazing raptors. They clean up roadkill, dead animals, and they are incredibly smart. They have an amazing wing span of up to 10 feet! When you see a Condor in the air you know it. They are huge! Condors remain endangered because they are exposed to lead poisoning from spent ammunition. The lead exposure happens when the condors eat lead fragments found in carcasses and gut piles left in the field.
In Boise they have more Condors than any other facility in the U.S. They are also being bred at The Oregon Zoo. Some of the Condors that they breed in Boise get released into the Grand Canyon in Arizona, which is a big deal and is open to the public. The birds that hatch this year typically go into the wild at 18 months of age. They are very slow to mature, they stay with their parents for over a year. They fledge at 6 monthsof age, which means that they are developing wings that are large enough for flight.
Where they release the Condors is also home to wild Peregrine Falcons. West of the Mississippi there were only 39 known pairs in the United States when the Peregrine Fund started. The density now in the Grand Canyon is that they nest about every 3 miles. In Idaho they have documented between 55 and 60 nesting pairs of Peregrine Falcons. The nests are called eyries. There are undoubtedly more than 100 nesting sites or eyries in Idaho but Peregrines are very secretive. There are 200 nest sites documented in Montana along the Montana-Idaho border. Peregrines try to find a deep cavity where they are not exposed to weather conditions. To find them is very, very difficult. Researchers don’t have the manpower to go out and find every single eyrie so they don’t know how many nesting pairs we have in Idaho.
There are several eyries in the Treasure Valley. There is one in downtown Boise on the Century Link Building. There is eyrie that has been situated at The Sugar Beet Factory in Nampa for 25 years. There is a pair nesting on a tower that is located on private property in Meridian. So there are 3 pairs documented in the Treasure Valley, which if you think about it, that’s really not many.
There are probably some down in the Bruneau canyons. There’s four documented in Twin Falls and one in the Malad Gorge south of the I-84 bridge. They are around. The people from The Peregrine Fund see them all the time, but for a novice such as myself, you have to know what you are looking for. Most people that see one have no idea what they are looking at. The wings are very tapered with a wing span of 2.5 to 3.9 feet depending on the size of the bird. Females are typically 1/3 larger than the males. When they did a presentation at the shopping center on Garrity in Nampa, Mike said that on one of the towers there was a large female sitting on top. She probably nests at the Sugar Beet Factory.
The Aplomado (leaden in Spanish) Falcon, shown below, is no longer being bred at The World Center for Birds of Prey. They do, however, monitor their populations in the wild. There are about 38 pairs nesting along the Texas coast. When they are in the wild they are more white in their chest as opposed to the tawny color you see in the photo due to her being raised in captivity. It bleaches out after the first molt when they are in the wild. She’s a beautiful bird! While we were standing there watching her she danced up and down on her perch like a beautiful ballerina with wings.
The color pattern on “Schmidt”, a Peregrine Falcon, is very noticeable when you get up close with him. He has these very dark tapered wings and beautiful variegated colors on his back. On his wings he has a white stripe almost like a racing stripe on a car. His tail feathers are so pretty! This particular color phase is only found in Patagonia, Argentina. He is one of the birds that can tolerate cold weather like we had in Boise on the day we did the photoshoot. He is captive bred and very glove friendly, so friendly that even the volunteers at The World Center for Birds of Prey can handle him. Photo of Schmidt is shown below.
Terry took photographs of some of the other species of birds that they have at The World Center for Birds of Prey, such as the male Eurasian Eagle-Owl which looks mostly like an owl to me. When I first saw it I thought it was a Great-Horned Owl, but that just shows what I don’t know. Mike Garets informed me that they are cousins, closely related. We also got a great shot of the Harpy Eagle, which has a wing span of about 5 feet. They hunt sloths and monkeys and have very thick legs and talons. They have a greater grip force than any other raptor, about a thousand pounds per square inch. The photo below is a male that they bred, and at one time they bred them at The World Center for Birds of Prey, however, the program was moved to Panama in 1999 and captive breeding ended in 2007. The Harpy Eagle inhabits the tropical rainforests and is one of the most powerful raptors in the world. The Harpy Eagle photographed below was captive bred almost 17 years ago.
We spent over an hour with Mike Garets and there was so much information. Too much to write about in one article, so please look for the next article which will discuss Falconry. In this article, I mainly tried to cover the conservation aspects and the different breeds of raptors that are housed at The World Center for Birds of Prey. Falconry and its history is a huge subject in and of itself so I made a command decision to write a separate article on that.
Thank you very much to Mike Garets, Tate Mason, and of course Schmidt for allowing us to take up your time and energy discussing all of the wonderful things about The World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise! You are all very amazing! Please go to their website for ticket prices and special events information at http://www.peregrinefund.org/visit