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

    Pig Nuts – when you are just too lazy to say the whole name

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    I have always been fascinated by Pygmy Nuthatches. When I was living in the Bozeman area, I rarely got to see the,, and as soon as I moved to Missoula, I have been seeing unreal numbers. They seems to be in each and every ponderosa pine, picking at the branch-tip cones. Like a circus act,… Read more »

  • Birding

    Americans Dippers gathering nest material

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    Short film and images of American Dippers gathering moss for their nest, which is located underneath a bridge that spans rattlesnake Creek in Greenough Park. Notice that the birds are consistently dunking the nesting material, namely moss. The wetting is thought to keep the moss alive and, therefore, more pliable. The American Dipper nest is… Read more »

  • Conservation, Photography

    Sciuridae Thursday

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    As the temperatures continue to climb towards comfortable levels, the squirrels are starting to emerge. The first Columbian Ground Squirrel of 2012 Last, but not least, the ubiquitous Red Squirrel. The only squirrel is a reliably seem throughout the winter months. The Great Horned Owl – terror of squirrels

  • Birding

    Really these are the last Snowy Owls for winter 2011-2012

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    I promise, I promise these are the last Snowy Owl images for this winter (probably). I feel incredibly fortunate have spent so much time in the company of these wonderful creatures. I wish that they remain safe as they begin their northward journey to the Arctic.

  • Birding

    I see why they are called Red Crossbills

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    Of course, this title is presented with tongue firmly planted in cheek. They, or at least the males, are red, and the bills are crossed. These little finches (both Red and White-winged Crossbills) have evolved the only crossed bills of any North American bird. This arrangement of the mandibles is highly suited to prying open pine cone… Read more »

  • Birding

    Harris’s Sparrow – another rare visitor

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    This past Friday, I was privileged enough to get the opportunity to visit a local backyard and get some half decent images of a Harris’s Sparrow. The sparrow was very retiring and it took roughly one and half hours to locate the bird in a yard side hedge. But once I found it, the show was on…. Read more »

  • Poop

    Know Your Poop #2

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    In this installment of Know Your Poop, we look at a pile of scat from the Blue Mountain National Recreation Area. This collection of pellets was found in the duff of a rather open ponderosa pine stand. They are about 1/3 of inch in length, and very uniform in oval shape.

  • Birding

    Last Snowy Owls for 2012?

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    All of this winter, those of in Montana have been treated to an amazing display of Snowy Owls, especially in the Mission Valley. The owls have remained readily visible in a subdivision that sits above Polson and adjacent to agricultural towards Pablo. I have been able to visit on 7 different occasions, and I have… Read more »

  • Birding

    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.

  • Birding

    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 »

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    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.