Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Elk Herd

Today was a day going to the Vet . It is impossible to take 4 dogs on one trip so I made two. This afternoon I spied a herd of Elk. A quick turn down a mud and ice road and there they were a couple of hundred feet away. Yep the big fella in front has horns. Hard to see but I was watching him watch me and ready to jump into my car with in easy reach.  
 These elk will head up into the hills as the snow melts. There is a highway beyond the house in the distance and about a quarter mile south of here there is a wildlife tunnel under the highway for the herd to move . I am every vigilant in case they decide to go straight across. Now that there are longer days it isn't such a terrifying drive home as you can see in the distance. Not so much in the winter dark with snow coming down.

The herd facing East . They are magnificent and I feel lucky to spend a few minutes with them this afternoon.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Black and white

The morning drive started in Black and White and various shades of grey. The valley is known for it's cloud cover in the winter. This has upon occasion driven the local population to late winter insanity. However I am good. No insanity here. I spent 14 years in the Southern Appalachians ( see my earlier blogs) and very interestingly the Smoky Mountains have some same weather features as the Western slopes of the Rockies. In a way I was perfectly preconditioned to live in the "valley of gloom ". Perhaps those are strong words. I actually am grateful for the cloud cover. It insulates us during the winter months so we do not plunge into the single or negative digits. It keeps the Good Earth somewhat moist. Less than the Smokies but more than a desert. So I celebrate our cloud cover.
 Neighboring Black Cows against a beautiful morning in a simple palette of greys.
Jewel Basin
 Driving home in the evening was a different story . Muted blues against the snow cover. Looking south the Swan and Jewel Basin are glowing .
Peter's Ridge
 Above a bit of Alpine glow graces the ridges above my house . I often look up at the tree line and wonder how many mountain lions are contemplating life in their rocky perches.
Eastern Foothills
 Access to the Strawberry Mountain Trail frosted with a few feet of snow . This is a great place to take a walk in the snow shoes.
 Last leg of the journey home . The roads are snow packed but quite passable. The sun is setting and drenching the sky with color. I spy my turnoff  just ahead and smile with satisfaction that I am home again.
Sunset looking towards the valley
 The last few rosy rays of pink light my way as I walk to the house . It has been a good day .
Alpine glow through the trees

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


 Today the yard was graced by some youngins. Youthful deer coming around to graze the patches of melting snow. This one has a sweet face . She is not sure if someone is watching or not.The deer are fat and sassy going into this spring. I think this pair has been nibbling my dormant butterfly bushes. I found lots of little deer feet leading to the bush a couple of days ago. These will need to be moved inside a fenced enclosure. As much as I enjoy looking at the blooms I know the deer relish the tasty buds more. I am glad to see the deer healthy. The winter of 2010/2011 was heavy with snow and spring arrived with some very thin and almost starving deer.

 Pretty Face's companion is hanging back on the edge of the yard . Behind the deer is the pile of snow from plowing . A good sized mound.
The sun came out for a bit and sparkled up the snow . I enjoyed saying hello to the sun.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The consciousness of One

North End Lake Blaine and Swan Mountains
 Out and about on Saturday afternoon after errands. A bit of a drive around the the northern shores of Lake Blaine. The waters have receded for winter but will be brimming come spring melt which is not that far away. Ice fishing is big here and at any time you can see folks out on the lake looking for a good spot . These shallow waters will be a wonderful nursery for the waterfowl during the spring and summer months.
Game Trail
 In the early morning hours these fields host dozens if not hundreds of deer. you can seen a game trail above. These criss cross the fields through out the area .
 Some of the dozens of deer . Just a few feeding this afternoon but in the dawn hours this herd swells to close to a hundred. A nice grassy field several hundred feet from the road. some day I will invest in a telephoto lens . Below a few of the paw prints left by our four legged friends. Of deer one can always count on the entire group running across the road. They are a perfect herd animal . After watching them for a while they truly do not see themselves as separate . If one part of the herd crosses the street you can bet on the rest. Good reason to stop . You can see it in their face . They must go with the rest of the herd regardless of the cars and trucks racing towards them . They have a single consciousness it would seem. We see separate animals however they are connected by something invisible that forces them to move as one. We as humans are part of a larger group but we are more of the individual type of orientation. you can see herd instinct for a bit  in young children who will race blindly after a parent . We also revert to herd mentality in crowds that panic . In calmer situations and as we mature we consider our surrounds more and move as an individual . Not so for the deer. I travel in a patient way toward the cabin in the woods. Looking ever vigilant for the four leggeds at the forest edge.
 The ducks and geese are trickling back to the North Country. A pair of beautifully colored male mallards. A more subtle female is off to the side. Their green heads are iridescent.
 More ducks and Canadian geese strutting around in the field past the lagoon. There is nothing like the return of the water fowl. This year I plan to travel to the Freezeout Lake on the Eastern side Choteau Montana. I want to see the swans and snow geese return . It is a shallow lake with grain fields around . One of the beer companies grow barley and other ingredients for brewing . The water fowl rest and feast on the leavings.  Jason Savage  is a professional photographer with some pretty awesome pictures of birds in general and Freezeout Lake specifically.His pictures are stunning . He captures the birds in flight and split second stillness.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


As a person inclined to choose veggies and beans , I have to wonder long ago before the concept of  "Turkey Dinner" was embedded in our DNA, who looked at these birds and thought "yummy!"?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Traffic Jam

 So it is getting crowded in the yard. take a number ! Bobcat tracks in the foreground curving through 14 inches of snow . This is what is left of the repeated snows over the last 6 weeks. The first night Bob ran across the front porch and jumped down onto the snow berm from the roof. He/She trotted along the top , jumped down by the nice miniature Alberta spruce and headed west into the woods. This time Bob came down by the East side of the house and snaked across the front yard before heading south for the day. Bob was trotting with a 29 inch stride. The paws were circular with less than a 2 inch diameter. Distinct pads were noted. Bobcats are said to be 17 pounds or there about. So I am thinking "not too much to worry about ".  Then my student informed me they were 17 pounds of teeth and claws and I should think " disemboweled " instead. Now that changes everything when considering the run to the garage in the morning.
 Ginormous turkey tracks . That is my boot and basically the turkey track is about as big as half my boot. probably not a good idea to tick off Tom.
 Meanwhile in the drive Bob is on the move and something small is scittering past the cat tracks . not sure what this is and can not find the tracks in the Scat and Tracks book. I will continue to look.
 Close up of Bob's paw. distinct even after a couple of days of thawing and freezing . We also have Canadian Lynx which are in the same weight category but have bigger paws at about 4 inches. They also have fuzzy paws so their prints are more indistinct. So we are voting for the Bobcat this time around. And yes I was running around in the yard this morning with out a coat ( it was a sunny 26 degrees ) with my tape measure checking paw size and stride size . Quite fun.

long view of the tracks snaking across the yard. Perhaps I will see the visitor in person some evening .