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.

  • Birding

    Meeting the neighbors

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    I am fortunate enough to have some pretty good neighbors. Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Canada Geese drop by for visits almost every day. Recently, a couple of new birds have moved into the neighborhood, American Goldfinch and Red-naped Sapsucker.

  • Birding

    Bitterroot River Merganser, an uncommon experience

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    One of the benefits of living next to the Bitterroot River is the near constant presence of Common Mergansers has they float on past. Dressed in stately garb, the male is strikingly black and white with a bright red bill, whereas the hen possesses a russet head adorned with a ragged crest of feathers. These outfits make the moniker… Read more »

  • Birding

    The Greater of the two Yellowlegs

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    Today, I traveled down to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in search of a Sage Sparrow that I thought I heard yesterday, but I irrationally passed it off (bad birder, bad). I missed the one day wonder, but my consolation prize was a pair of Greater Yellowlegs. Even though the light wasn’t terribly cooperative,… Read more »

  • Photography, Wildlife

    A furry kind of day with Columbian Ground Squirrels

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    Yesterday afternoon, I went out to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge for some birding and, fingers crossed, a little bird photography. Upon arriving at the Refuge, the season’s first Cinnamon Teals were feeding along the margins of the cattails. I waited for them to come within range of the 500mm lens, and they never… Read more »

  • Birding

    Return of the Ospreys – Past and Present

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    Each spring, I await the return of one particular raptor with particular anticipation, the Osprey. Always around the first of April when the ice has disappeared, they re-appear to their platform nests that sit atop numerous snags along the rivers and lakes of western Montana. All at once, there seems to be a pair occupying every available… Read more »

  • Birding

    Sometimes they are not as cooperative

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    Green-winged Teals always seem to be eating, and their heads always are buried in the muck or underwater. At least these guys lined up in a pleasing manner.

  • Birding

    April Fool’s in Avian Form

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    American Coots are just plain goofy. They swim and feed like ducks, and yet, they are a rail (that’s right I said it). Coots, actually, look a lot like a chicken,a frickin’ swimming chicken with a large white bill. They have lobate feet, which means that each toe has lobes of skin surrounding the digit,… Read more »

  • Birding

    Colors come to the Spring

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    Each spring, we fade from the muted tones of late winter into the extravagant colors of life in abundance. Those colors come in no more greater illustration than the drake Wood Duck. These creatures of fantastic dreams have started to populated the sloughs and backwaters of the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers.

  • Herping

    First herp of the 2012: Western Painted Turtle

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    During a quick drive through visit of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, I spied a couple of new brown bumps on a log that I have looked at dozens of times. The brown bumps turned out to be a couple of Western Painted Turtles, my fist herps of 2012. This is the first time that… Read more »

  • Birding

    Despite the gloom, it is Freezeout

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    The fog froze in layers to the antenna and windshield as Freezeout Lake came into view, and a a flock of 200 Snow Geese cross overhead. These were the last Snow Geese that we would see for the next couple of hours. The weather man completely lied. His prediction of mid-50s with sunny skies had… Read more »

  • Wildlife

    Cattail Raccoons

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    Spent some time with a family of 5 Northern Raccoons at Lee Metcalf NWR. They were foraging on newly emergent cattail shoots, and they fed no more than 10 yards from me for the better part of 1/2 an hour. Quite an experience. After they were done feeding, they swam across the pond, and slipped… Read more »

  • Birding

    Garbage Dump Gulls at the Flathead Gullery

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    As I cleaned my over-flowing edited images folder from the past few months, I came across a series of photos from an afternoon spent with the gulls from the lovely Flathead County Sanitary Landfill or as we call it, the Flathead Gullery. Ok, it’s a dump, it stinks, it looks apocalyptic, and the gulls love… Read more »

  • Birding

    The Buteo that hovers – the Rough-legged Hawk

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    As sightings of Rough-legged Hawks become fewer and further between, I have been reviewing this past winter’s images, and I notice a series of images of hawk hovering. Rough-legged Hawks are our only buteo that regularly hovers. In fact, the only other North American raptors that regularly hover are the Osprey and the collective kites. Hovering is… Read more »

  • Birding

    Pygmy Nuthatch Addendum

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    Just when I thought that I had the most photogenic Pygmy Nuthatch, this happens.