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.

First Wildflower of 2017 – Sagebrush Buttercup

Woke up this morning with a vision of a buttercup in the snow. I rushed out to Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, and intensely survey the areas under ponderosa pine. And what did I find? That’s right a Sagebrush Buttercup, and as one of our earliest bloomers, it is generally my first wildflower of the… Read more »

My First Isolation Float Tank Experience

Well, I went for my first float in a float pod at Enlyten Lab in Missoula on the Hip Strip. The experience generated a slew of experiences from boredom to self-realizing exhalation. The float tank itself is a sensory deprivation environment where you receive no input from sight, smell, sound, or sensation. Floating in a… Read more »

Bass Creek Falls Hike – Winter Edition

We did this hike last year, but with considerably less snow. It has really dumped this year in the Bitterroot Mountains, and the Bass Creek drainage is under a blanket of the white stuff. Were we deterred? Oh hell no, Jeff and I made relatively good time to the old log dam where I flew… Read more »

The Trump Control-Alt-Delete on Climate Change

President Trump hit the reset button on government dissemination of climate change information and further research into the issue. The Climate Change page was stripped from whitehouse.gov and the EPA has been ordered to removed all references to global climate change. The government is actually denying science from its own agencies. There has been a… Read more »

Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge – Christmas Bird Count 2016

It was that season again…not the holidays, but the Christmas Bird Count season. Joined by Tom Forwood and Bob Danley at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. We explored the back areas of the Refuge that are typically closed to the public, and we turned up 56 species through a long day. the highlights included… Read more »

Sweathouse Falls Hike – Winter Edition

Sweathouse Falls has always been my favorite water in the Bitterroot Mountains with its stream falls off a sheer face. Another reason that this hike is among my favorites is its relatively little use (i.e. no people). This time around, Jeff and I hiked to the falls with a fresh layer of powder snow. As… Read more »

Rock Creek and the Welcome Creek Suspension Bridge

The other day, I was wanting to fly the DJI Phantom 4 drone at a new location, so decided on driving 14 miles up Rock Creek (east of Missoula, Montana) to video the Welcome Creek Suspension Bridge. The bridge crosses Rock Creek as a major access to the tiny Welcome Creek Wilderness Area. In fact,… Read more »

1st Day of Winter at Glade Creek, Lolo Pass

The first day of winter and the sunset suggests a slightly longer day than the one before. I flew the DJI Phantom 4 over Glade Creek at Lolo Pass to capture the Seussian play of pillows of deep powder snow and low angle light. Grab the image below to view a 360-degree immersive images.

Wallman Trail – Rattlesnake Recreation Area

Winter hiking offers the bundled hiker the opportunity for solitude and challenge. The solitude comes from the lack of other intrepid souls and the snow dampening any ambient sound. The depth of the snow and unsure footing creates a scenario that can be challenging, especially when breaking trail on a steep slope. So, we took… Read more »

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    Rusty Blackbird at Lee Metcalf NWR

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    Today as a storm rapidly descended out of the Bitterroot Mountains, I spied a blackbird milling around on a small mud flat along Francois Slough. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be a Rusty Blackbird with that unique facial pattern, eye color, and overall coloration.

  • Poop

    Know your poop #1

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    For the first installment of “Know Your Poop”, I offer up this rather attractive piece of scat found along the Kenai Trail in the Lee Metcalf NWR in Montana. The big hint is that the trail is along side wetland and open water.

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    Hot to Trot Hooded Mergansers

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    Hooded Mergansers have descended on the Bitterroot Valley with the warming, or dare I say Spring, weather. With the warmer temperatures, multitudes of dabber little ducks can be found at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. The numerous  male Hoodies can be seen in full display for the few females that have joined them on… Read more »

  • Birding

    Lewis’s Woodpecker in a great light

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    With a near perfect day, I ventured into the Tower Street Natural Conservation Area. It was my first visit to the area, and I think I have new place to add to my local favorites. When I arrived at the parking lot, I saw a larger-than a starling and flying like a buoyant crow…a Lewis’s… Read more »

  • Birding

    Pileated Dreams

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      Of the Montana woodpeckers, I have to say that the Pileated Woodpecker is by far my fave. Since moving to the Missoula area, I have only caught fleeting glimpses of these impressive ghosts. But that all change this past Friday. Walking around Greenough Park, the Pileated Woodpeckers were calling loudly, and following the sound… Read more »

  • Birding

    Leucistic American Coot

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    At Polson Bay, a massive raft of American Coots were being harass by two Bald Eagles, when Terry found a surprise lurking in the sea of slate gray, a single leucistic American Coot was swimming. The bird was ~90% white with some dark speckling.

  • Birding

    The Time of the Gathering

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    As we enter into the season that has the most death and the emergence of life, a gathering takes place in the valleys of western Montana. Multitudes of Bald Eagles descend to watch over the birthing of calves, the last failings of winter, and the first ground squirrels as they race atop the snow. I see them… Read more »

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    The Amazing Black-billed Magpie

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    How can any not like the Black-billed Magpie. They are remarkably intelligent and savvy. If you just watch these guys for a while, you will find yourself in awe.

  • Birding

    Cackling Goose at Lee Metcalf

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    During an afternoon visit, I observed a single Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) in with the Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) on the ice at the north end of the pond nearest to the Visitor’s Center. The goose in question was apparently half the size of the surrounding Moffitt’s Canada Geese (B.c. moffitti). The bird possessed a… Read more »

  • Birding

    Above the surface of the heavier music of the water

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    The Ouzel never sings in chorus with other birds, nor with his kind, but only with the streams. And like flowers that bloom beneath the surface of the ground, some of our favorite’s best song-blossoms never rise above the surface of the heavier music of the water. – John Muir from The Mountains of California… Read more »

  • Birding, ID tips

    Waxwing ID Workshop

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    Fruits were ripped from their stems as the ravenous flock worked to clean this tree. Sharp, hooked bills spear the red flesh as more waxwings pile into the tangle of branches. The composite flock of ~300 birds was predominately (95%) Bohemian Waxwings and the reminder were Cedar Waxwings. The game was to pick out the occasional Cedar… Read more »

  • Review

    Review: Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America

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    Here in Montana, petrels and albatrosses are not usually on the birding radar. Their foreignness and distance have only served to intrigue me. I imagine a giant albatross dynamically soaring amongst of crowns and troughs of mid-ocean swells. I can almost feel the salt-laden mist needling at my face. Heck, I might even be a… Read more »

  • Review

    Review: The Atlas of Birds

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    I rushed into the Lolo post office to receive a parcel from Princeton University Press. It was my review copy of The Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior, and Conservation. I raced home and tore open the box, and fished the text from a sea of packing peanuts. The first thing that leapt out at me… Read more »

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    2012: The Year of the Invasion

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    2012 has been the year of the invasion. An invasion of normally arctic-dwelling bird species has descended upon the northern tier of the United States. There have been upwards of 50-60 separate Snowy Owl observations in the state of Montana. The causes for the invasion are, most likely, due to a couple of synergistic factors: the… Read more »

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    Mission for Snowy Owls

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    Before I could bear to watch the Green Bay Packers lose to the Giants, Tom and I went up into the Mission Valley on a Snowy Owl mission. We initially checked around the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding agricultural lands, and we turned up nada. No Snowy Owls or much else, other than… Read more »