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

    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 »

  • Birding

    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 »

  • Birding

    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 »

  • Birding

    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 »

  • Dharma, Thoughts

    What is the Noble Eightfold Path

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    Most simply put the Noble Eightfold Path is the course of actions as prescribed by the Buddha that leads to cessation of suffering and the achievement of liberation. Divisions and Factors of the Noble Eightfold Path Before we tackled the particulars of the Noble Eightfold Path, we need to have a basic understanding of the… Read more »

  • Birding

    The warm weather continues

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    45 degrees in january…January! That’s how warm it has been in northwestern Montana lately. The birds were appropriately enjoying the sun. All 3 species of nuthatch were actively calling and feeding in the ponderosa pines and cottonwoods as Northern Flickers both called and drummed. Common Goldeneye and Hooded Merganser were all displaying as well. Everything must have… Read more »

  • Birding

    Chasing Ghosts

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    I heard the Pileated Woodpecker vocalizing with its fast series of “wuk” notes. Went to that location, and he (I’m assuming a male here) was nowhere to be found. Then, I would hear the bird farther down, some 200 meters or so. This pattern repeat several times, and I decided that Pileateds are nothing more than malevolent ghosts…they do… Read more »

  • Birding, Photography

    Can you believe it, another afternoon at Lee Metcalf

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    Spent yesterday afternoon at Lee Metcalf NWR, and as always it was a spectacular time to be there. I was able to spot the female Greater Scaup again, and again without an image. Along the Kenai trail, Northern Shrike and American Tree Sparrow were among the visitors from the north. The surprise of the day… Read more »

  • Photography, Thoughts

    Thoughts about our existence at Lee Metcalf.

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    Today, I read in an otherwise mundane news article that an old acquaintance of mine was killed in an avalanche near Cooke City. I have read many articles like this, but most of the time the names are not familiar, and I end up reading the news with very little care. The horrific details are all too soon… Read more »

  • Birding, Christmas Bird Count

    CBC on the last day of 2011

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    I was incredibly fortunate to spend the last morning of 2011 birding on the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge for the Christmas Bird Count. This section of the count was led by Bob Danley, who was incredibly generous with his time and laughter. We had a great time. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 500 Trumpeter Swan… Read more »