Anyone in the Missoula, Bitterroot and Mission Valley areas knows what one word can be used to summarize my afternoon at the National Bison Range yesterday:  wind!  (it’s even the front page story in the Missoulian today).  Oh, wait.  There is a second word:  dust.  Oh, and a third:  tumbleweeds.  But, it call comes back to wind.

Despite the wind, I enjoyed the afternoon and evening.

What a difference a week makes! Last week the Range was carpeted by yellow bells. Yesterday only a few remained. Last week the trees were just barely starting to leaf out. By yesterday all of the trees were fully leaved. Lastly, thanks to a stretch of warm days, the water level in Mission Creek has risen by several feet.

I enjoyed picking up three more FOY (first of year) bird species: Lewis’s woodpecker, spotted towhee and western kingbird. I enjoyed watching an adult Clark’s nutcracker feeding a vocally demanding young ‘un.

I enjoyed watching pronghorn antelope as they enjoyed arrowleaf balsamroot flowers.
Munchin' on the Posies

Proud Papa

But the highlight of the evening was watching a mama mule deer doe go berserk on a red fox that tried to sneak into her nursery. I was taking photos of her twin fawns who were cautious yet a bit curious about the four wheeled critter (I didn’t exit the car which would have likely upset the mama).

(the whitish aberration in the lower right is from a tall stem of grass being whipped in the wind)

Shy & Yet Curious

Suddendly mama let out a huff and the fawns went instantly to ground and disappeared in the vegetation. I swung my head to see what all the commotion was just in time to see her chase the fox into the thicket, fast as lightening. She emerged a few moments later, checked on the fawns without getting so close as to give away their location (I knew where they were), then kept herself between where the fox had disappeared and the fawns. She’d patrol the borders of her nursery, occasionally huffing and spitting in the direction of the fox.

I wouldn’t mess with a mama wearing that expression — nostrils flared, ears alert, steely eyes… Mess with her at your peril!
Don't Mess With Mama!

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