Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, I asked my son to spend the day with me at the National Bison Range. Apparently everyone in the region had the same idea. I’ve never seen so many vehicles (and they were mostly full!) at the National Bison Range!

Getting there and back is a bit of a hassle these days as the Highway 93 construction continues. I was surprised to find, upon arriving at Arlee, that Highway 93 does not currently go through Arlee. There is a detour to the west of Arlee. LED signs advertise that Arlee is “Open for Business – next four right turns.” I took one of those rights to buy a few pops. I’ll make a point of patronizing Arlee businesses during this project and hope you will do so as well.

The detour (going north):
IMG_1009 - edit

The state of Arlee, as of May 10, 2009 (looking south just to confuse):
IMG_1007 - edit

Also, I hate to be a whiner, but the rough gravel detours along sections of the highway really need to be wet and graded more. Yes, I know — wet leads to ruts, it’s a vicious cycle but those of us who drive it need to be able to see and not tear our cars apart. They are severely rutted — so much so that if you drive a passenger car (as I did last night) you have to exercise caution to make sure your wheels are on top of the ruts or you’ll bottom out. To make that more difficult, there is so much dust kicked up that visibility is terrible so you can’t see the ruts. I was upset at having bottomed out last night. I hope no real damage was done to my car. I’d hate to see what happens at night with headlight beams bouncing off all the dust in the air!

A beautiful day spent at the Range made it all worth it, however. Arrowleaf balsamroot are blooming in abundance on the meadows of lower elevation and getting ready to turn the upper slopes of Red Sleep Mountain golden. Shooting stars, larkspur and yellow bells decorate the grasslands. Prairie smoke buds promise a soon-to-be-enjoyed bloom of that flower.


Spring Gold

The cinnamon colored black bear that I’ve enjoyed watching grow for the last four summers was in his usual area. Summer of 2006 he was a cub of the year in the company of this black colored mother and black colored sibling. Summer of 2007 he and his black colored sibling were disengaged from their mother but were often seen together. Last summer I saw only the cinnamon (the black could have found new territory or just been unseen by me or could have met his demise). It was good to see him (presumably) again this year. Too far away for photos…

Bison and pronghorns were on the Mission Creek side of the Range. Lots of calves romping about.

Between mile markers 13 and 14 I saw a bird not commonly found in Montana west of the Divide — a loggerhead shrike. It was too distant for good photos but I took a poor photo of record so I could have the identification confirmed by an expert. It has been confirmed. I was tickled to hear from that expert that he’s only see one in Montana west of the Divide once years ago, near Ovando. Yay! A life bird and fun report “to file.”

At the pond across from the fenced pasture the yellow headed blackbirds were singing their sweet spring songs. Well, I’m sure it’s sweet to them!

Sweet Tongued Devil

I capped off the day watching the sweet golden evening light on the Missions and with another life bird, though a common one — a sora. I only got a brief look and was not able to get a photo.

Golden Evening

Bird list for the day:

  • black billed magpie
  • red winged black bird
  • red tailed hawk
  • American kestral
  • osprey
  • tree swallow
  • mountain bluebird
  • Northern harrier
  • Western meadowlark
  • starling
  • American robin
  • Brewer’s blackbird
  • ring necked pheasant
  • loggerhead shrike (lifer)
  • belted kingfisher
  • rough winged swallow
  • white crowned sparrow (foy)
  • Canada goose
  • great blue heron
  • hairy woodpecker
  • sora (lifer)
  • red naped sapsucker
  • wood duck

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