Quick afternoon Blue Mountain Lookout jaunt

For those of us that live in western Montana, we are extremely fortunate to have so many great hiking destinations in such close proximity to our homes. Blue Mountain stands over Missoula, and on top of its forested slopes is a little-used fire lookout. The hike to the summit is a rather quick 1.9 miles… Read more »

Hike to Glen Lake (with extension to No Name Lake)

Through a forest of gray spires, the hike to Glen Lake offered us the immense vistas of the Bitterroot Mountains. I have also enjoyed the Glen Lake hike as it is relatively easy and a cruise. The biggest plus is the short additional hike to No Name Lake, a small, shallow pond that sits in… Read more »

Evening hike along Bass Creek

O! Bass Creek, how I love thee? Is that flowery enough? But seriously, I love hiking the Bass Creek drainage with its proximity to my home and the vistas that abound on this trail. On this evening, I was joined by my two favorite hiking partners, Vida and Jeff. They are my favorites because they graciously… Read more »

Hopping along Big Creek, Bitterroot Mountains

Feeling a little tired and sick, but needing some outside time, Jeff and me decided to hike to pleasantly inclined Big Creek trail. Following the, well, big creek, the sweeps under and through western red cedar, western larch, and ponderosa pine as the stream creates a din of white noise that is occasionally broken by the… Read more »

Scooting up Skookum Butte

It has been 2 years since I have made the short hike to the historic lookout atop Skookum Butte. This time, Vida joined me, well, she rather tolerated me as my hiking speed was limited to a crawl due to a cause of bronchitis and asthma (together in some kind of oxygen-deprived stew of disease)…. Read more »

Camas Lake in the Bitterroots

Hiking into Camas Lake is one of the most enjoyable hikes in the Bitterroot Mountains. The nearly 3 miles to the first lake features some great stream crossings under a dense canopy. The trail switchbacks up a slope that has massive slabs of granite. Reaching the lake, we immediately noticed numerous trout jumping at a… Read more »

Cruising through the Ninemile Valley

Vida and I decided to take a quick cruise through the Ninemile Valley (located west of Missoula) to hike the Grand Menard Discovery Trail (actually more of a stroll) and fly the DJI Phantom 4 over a few of the picturesque meadows of the valley. The meadows were covered with common camas, meadow buttercup, and… Read more »

Chaffin Butte – Is It a Summit???

Chaffin Butte or the “C” Hill stands above Corvallis and is accessed via an easement through private property. The flanks of the hill are covered with big sagebrush and scattered stunted ponderosa pine. The soils are rocky and dry, and the plant life can be likened to those communities found in the Big Hole Valley… Read more »

Awesome Spring Hike – Bear Creek Falls

Taking full advantage of the terrific spring weather on Saturday, we hiked to and beyond Bear Creek Falls on the Bitterroots. Only a short and relatively easy 1.5 miles from the trailhead, Bear Creek Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. I have made the trip to this… Read more »

Spring Arrives in the Rockies

This past weekend was definitely the start of the Montana spring with sun, rain, and snow…you know, spring in the Bitterroot. The Lee Metcalf NWR was alive with Great Horned Owls hooting and Red-winged Blackbirds carrying on.

  • Featured, Herping

    The Scaly Lifer – Western Fence Lizard

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    “There it is!”, I exclaimed as the brakes pounded down against the floorboard. A large lizard basking itself near the top of a lichen-encrusted boulder. Large by lizard standards (~8 inches) and thickly bodied, it was much more so than I had expected. Overjoyed to finally find this reptilian, the Western Fence Lizard, a sense… Read more »

  • Dharma

    Preparing the Garden of 1000 Buddhas

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    This past Saturday, Vida and I joined a group of others to help prepare the Garden of 1000 Buddhas for July Retreat to be led by Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche. This place has a special energy about it, and with each passing day this vibration seems to only increase as the Garden approaches completion. These images hopefully do… Read more »

  • Birding

    Blue no longer, the Dusky Grouse

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    I still have to stop myself from calling them Blue Grouse. The former Blue Grouse was split some time ago into the Sooty Grouse of the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and Pacific Coast, and the Dusky Grouse of the Rocky Mountains. The Dusky Grouse inhabits the dry forests and foothills, and during the spring, male Dusky Grouse… Read more »

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    Rufous, Black-chinned, and Calliope – a hummer of a day

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    There is a few feeders that hang outside of the restaurant at Quinn’s Hot Spring along the Clark Fork River…these feeders are covered with hummingbirds. Calliope, Rufous, and Black-chinned all made their appearances, much to my delight. These tame little critters are more than photogenic as these images can attest.

  • Birding

    Another rainy morning spent with swallows and Bobolinks

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    I awoke this morning to the soft drumroll of the drizzle outside. The drizzle ever ease or increased – just a drizzle. So, I did what I always do I went birding. This time I birded the Sweeney and Bass Creek Roads. Which yielded Swainson’s Thrush, a variety of swallows, and a plethora of Boblinks.

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    Bobolink and Barn Swallow Morning

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    This was rather gloomy, so dark that taking any images was difficult. Luckily, I stumbled upon a cooperative Barn Swallow and Bobolink along the Bass Creek Road. The Barn Swallow was just one of fifty or so that were feeding over the fields of timothy, which were also full of singing male Bobolinks.

  • Birding

    There’s nothing Country about the Nashville Warbler

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    Since back to northwest Montana, I have once again been treated the to presence of the Nashville Warbler. They are an explosion of color and voice. The gray head with its brilliant white eye-ring contrasts the olive back and yellow throat, chest, and belly. Its song always starts with a series of double notes. The Nashville Warbler… Read more »

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    The continuation of the Wilson’s Phalarope

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    …When those marvelous sandpipers come around here, the little ones. While they’re in the air flying, they have one mind, they move all together. When they alight on the mud, they become individuals and they go pecking around for worms or whatever. But one click of the fingers and all those things go up into… Read more »

  • Birding, Owling

    My little secret Short-eared Owl spot

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    We all have our own secret little birding spots, those nooks of habitats that we find so magically. One of my spots is a little dirt road on the north side of the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. So many times I have crept along this road as the dust settles from one of the occasional… Read more »

  • Herping

    First Gophersnake of 2012

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    This past Saturday the US Fish and Wildlife Service had opened the Red Sheep Mountain Road within the National Bison Range. We went with the intentions of seeing the unbelievable scenery and, of course, birds. The pleasant surprise of the road was a Gophersnake along side of the gravel road. When I was a child,… Read more »

  • Birding

    Black-backed Woodpecker – sense a theme here?

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    Some creatures hold a mystic grasp on my birding imagination. They are rare, elusive, or just plain odd. The Black-backed Woodpecker may just possess all three of those attributes in a single animal. Incredibly patchy in distribution due to their requirement of recently burnt forests for both nesting and feeding, Black-backed Woodpeckers are scattered widely… Read more »

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    California Quail of the Bitterroot Valley

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    I have not seen a California Quail since moving back into western Montana, and I decided to take a break and find a few of the little buggers. And boy, did I find a whole mess of California Quail. I even managed a couple of images. California Quail is Montana’s introduced species problem. They have… Read more »

  • Birding, Photography

    Cassin’s Vireo from Mount Sentinel

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    Harsh questions and answers resonate through the Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. The first note is always an upward, plaintive infliction, and the following an answering second, upward note. This questioning is relentless as if I am being grilled in a Turkish prison. The Cassin’s Vireo is one of three members of the former Solitary Vireo, which was split into… Read more »

  • Herping

    Western Skink…well worth the wait

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    So many posts left un-writtened…I will attempt to catch up on this blog and my photography-centric blog, http://www.raddphotography.com. I have always wanted to observe a Western Skink, but alas, the little buggers always eluded me. I remember seeing a lizard on a fencepost when I was a kid, but nothing since. That was true until… Read more »

  • Birding

    4 First of the Years today

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    Just a quick note about today’s birding. I managed four FOYs today; Cassin’s Vireo, Ruddy Duck, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Hermit Thrush. The Hermit Thrush posed up for one quick image.