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28 October, 2011

Another Great Day in Yellowstone National Park

As you can see by the first photograph, there was snow in the mountains in Yellowstone. It was also cold. The lower elevations showed just a trace of snow but the upper elevations had plenty of snow. We were hopeful we would spot some bears before we left but they must have been testing their winter habitat or were there til spring.
Before we even entered the park outside of Gardiner we spotted the first male elk. He and one we found in Mammoth Hot Springs appeared to be either enjoying the sun, were tired from perhaps breeding activity, were resting for more vigorous activity, or were just plain lazy. This one was obvious asleep and it was early in the morning.
We traveled east to Cooke City where the town had already prepared for the snow and winter. A number of the shops were closed but there was not enough snow to attract the snow mobilers. We returned thru Mammoth to see this guy had joined the girls in the city. He like the first one was in a very relaxed position. Could it be that these 2 guys lost the battle for breeding rights and are waiting for next year.
Oh yes, the big horn sheep were in the hills between Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs. This gentleman was sporting quite a herd of ladies. He could have claimed, "king of the hill", based on his position in the landscape.Did we see any bison? You know you can count on that. I wanted to comment on the bison, but not this one. As we were heading west past the Tower Falls junction we happened upon a herd of bison on the road. What made this spectacular was the fact that we had our 2 great danes on their second trip with us to Yellowstone and they were enthralled with the bison. These 2 young danes were out of control and I didn't dare open the window to the car or step outside. Although it would have been a great photograph to see how the herd had traffic backed up on both sides but safety was our first concern, so you'll just have to imagine the image.Were there any canines? On a previous trip through the park this year we had the opportunity to see 5 of the young wolves that are now resident in the Lamar Valley. We are always hopeful that we'll see them again. However the first sighting of canines was this young coyote that drifted across the road in front of us.and then it happened on our return from Cooke City. In the Lamar Valley there were a number of cars and people with spotting scopes looking to the south. I was hopeful that it might be a bear so I stopped and asked what they were looking at. They said, it was the Lamar wolves on a carcass. I looked through their scopes and could barely see the wolves as they were so far away. Similar to what I have done in the past, I said to my wife, "let's go, we're not going to get close enough to take a good photograph". These people have been here for several hours and the wolves are not near as close as they were earlier in the year.
We had hardly started down the road when guess what walked out on the road in front of us. We followed it until I could get out of the car and start taking pictures. Yes, it was the closest that I had been to a Lamar wolf since I found Casanova, #302, in a very similar situation almost 4 years ago. This is my favorite image of those that I captured.
When I got home and started reviewing the images from our trip, I realized that this wolf had been with the others feasting on the carcass when we passed through that area 2 hours before. It must have gotten it's fill and perhaps was heading back to the hillside to feed the younger wolves.
I hope we don't have to wait another 4 years to get this close to another wolf.

11 October, 2011

It's been a long dry spell

On May 25th we showed you photographs of a very wet spring at the Circle B Bar T and until just a week ago, we had no precipitation. However, the Davidson River is still flowing thru our property, I have had to rebuild 3 fences that were destroyed, and the water level in our well is the highest it's been since the well was dug in 1992. Another proof of the benefits of all of the rain in the spring is the fact that after we baled the hay for our horses, 35 tons, there was still 100 tons left which the neighbors took for their cattle. The photograph below shows just a few of the 200 large bales as they were being removed from one of our fields. You may also note the three rail fence in the foreground. This is just 4 sections of over 100 that Clint added to the fence on the ranch.
Well it's October and we finally got rain. Look what it did in the Beartooth Mountains. Yes, they are white again and there was enough that the Beartooth highway has been closed until next spring.
There are other sign's of fall besides the view of the snow in the mountains. Some of our wild life is returning south as a result of the longer days and colder weather. Others have started to return. We didn't see Magpies this summer but they are back.another bird has returned. Not sure if the availability of food was lacking, whether our neighbor has started feeding them again, or they just like it here at this time of the year. This is just one of 15 that are now grazing in the pasture next to the Grove Creek.Speaking of birds, you are probably aware that one of my favorite birds is the "bluebird". Although in the past we were aware of the Moutain Bluebirds arrival, building nests and hatching a new family. This year was even more special than the past as the young bluebirds left their nest, they have spent the summer in the trees around our home. The next photograph has two of them sitting in a tree just off our deck. They could barely fly but they did make it to the tree and most likely back to their nest.and just last week, I found one of them in another tree. They are growing up fast. We are hopeful that they will return here with their parents next year and bless us with their family.
We plan to be in Yellowstone National Park in 3 weeks and hopefully we will have an update on the wildlife there to share with you.

12 July, 2011

Another bear story from Yellowstone

Reading the paper or watching the news on TV recently, you have become aware of several bear stories from Yellowstone National Park. One was tragic with a man losing his life to a female grizzly with cubs. Another was a reporter wanting to do a story with one of the Yellowstone staff to inform the public about bears. Although the reporter got an article and pictures, the employee was not anticipating the bear to be so close and ended up swimming across a pond to avoid the bear. For the full story, go to:
Yellowstone National Park can be exciting with the wild life and at the same time can be very dangerous at times. The following are pictures and a personal experience I had on my most recent trip to Yellowstone. As we traveled toward Cooke City having just left the Lamar Valley, we noticed a crowd along the road and stopped to see what had their attention. Sure enough, it was a bear, a black bear. Before you start worrying about me and the crowd and our safety, let me assure you that these photographs would not have been possible without a 400mm lens and some significant enlarging of the digital image. Many of the crowd had either spotting scopes or binoculars. So here is the bear, standing beside a large tree, and it appears it was sniffing a flower in the field.
The next photograph was a surprise. Many of us thought it was a wolf but when I enlarged the image I knew it was a coyote. So you ask, was this at the same time you were watching the bear. The answer is yes. Well, where is the bear? If you look at some of the branches and the tree you will see that it was the same place, the same tree, and you'll have to accept the fact that it was the same time.

So I started looking around, Where did the bear go.

At this very moment, there was no coyote and there was no bear. The next photograph tells the rest of the story. Look carefully at the tree. Start at the ground and look up the trunk.

Yes, that is the bear. While we were watching the bear, we saw it run to the tree and climbed to a spot where we could not see it initially. Then the coyote appeared, and it was obvious that the bear did not want to share the space with the coyote and moved to higher grounds. At times the coyote was in the brush and at other times it was under the tree. The bear was content to stay in the tree and ultimately started moving around to a spot where I could get this photograph.

Having been to Yellowstone many times, having watched video's of bears in the wilderness and in Yellowstone, having observed their aggressive behavior, it was difficult for me to believe that the coyote chased the bear up the tree. However, in there we no other predators to be seen and no other reason for the bear to climb the tree.

Add this to your bear stories.

25 May, 2011

Rain, rain, we've had enough

If you have been to our place or spoke with Marty and I about our weather, you probably know this. The Grove Creek flows through the southern end of our property. Most of the time it is difficult to see it, yet the name of the road we live on is Grove Creek. You've also heard us say that including the snow fall, our annual precipitation is around 15 inches. Something you probably don't know is that the Davidson Creek enters our property near our mail box and there has never been any sign of water in it. Well . . . . . . that has all changed in 2011. The first picture you will see is the Davidson Creek. It flows from the neighbor that borders us on the north west and from Diane's property on the west.
You probably are asking, where did all this water come from. It is not yet the end of May and we have already had our annual amount of precipitation. In the last 10 days we have had over 7 inches of rain. In fact, a lot of Montana has had a lot of rain and there has been a lot of flooding. The flooding has had it's impact on the gravel roads. You can see in the above picture, the water is crossing the road into our field and has washed a significant amount of gravel off the road and onto our property. Less than a mile down the road, the water has washed out the Grove Creek road. We cannot drive into Absarokee as a result. This sign tells it all.

So you ask, where does the Davidson Creek flow to. It flows through our property across several fields going east. If you have driven down the Grove Creek road toward Fishtail, you probably have never seen water in the field north of the house and barn.

this is looking west toward the road to our home. The next picture is looking east toward the other end of our property. You can tell by the grass that it's growing and as soon as we get a couple sunshiny warm days, it will really grow. The good news is we should have a bumper hay crop. The bad news is I haven't been able to mow the lawn. In addition, the water has washed debris into our fences, the force knocking them over and I will have a lot of repairing to do, eventually.

and now to the other end of the property. The Grove Creek. It is usually hard to see from the house and at it's peak has been 2 to 3 feet wide and maybe a couple feet deep. Not so today. The creek runs from the higher elevations on our neighbors property. We noticed the neighbors horses have been in the pasture just south of ours. They normally have access to the field to our west, but not for the last couple days. I know why now. The Grove Creek is so flooded they cannot get back to their barn and other pasture. Our horses have been on the north side of the Grove Creek and the south side of the Davidson, enjoying the fresh green grass.

Summer will be next and this part of Montana should be green, longer than normal.

19 April, 2011

Easter Bunny, Lookout

The first sight was Papa Mountain Bluebird, perched in the a nearby tree, his lady on a nearby branch, and I am sure they were wondering what led them back here for the summer to have their next brood. They were shivering, the bugs that they have been feasting on since their return were hibernating somewhere else. We'll keep our fingers crossed that you have put enough twigs in your bird box that you can tolerate the next few days.

and then as we looked out the back door toward the driveway, all I could think of was how is the Easter Bunny going to make the rounds in Montana. And if this didn't give you concerns, then look at the weather forecast for the rest of the week. Can you image the bunny trying to make the rounds with all of this snow.

After you got past the driveway and looked to the west, it was just more snow.

and then I looked to the pasture where we had just fed the horses. They have not had hay for the last 2 weeks as the pastures have been producing wonderful new grass. Although they had no choice of diet as the new grass was covered with lots of snow. Poor Easter bunny.

These pictures remind you of what the Circle B Bar T looks like in the middle of the winter, not like a spring day in April. This is certainly not the latest spring snow that we have had in Montana but we're ready like most of you for spring to come and stay.

27 March, 2011

Snowy Days in Yellowstone

2 days in Yellowstone National Park in the winter is always interesting. the evening before we ventured into the park we had a snow storm in Yellowstone as well as Fishtail. There was from 15 to 25 inches of snow across the region. The road crews had been busy but there was no problem getting to the park and then driving through it. The bison that were moving found it easier on the road than in the meadows. As the sun started to shine through there were some spectacular views on Yellowstone. Entering the Lamar Valley we saw shadows of the landscape and in this photograph the trees. With this much snow, everything was pristine and there had not been time for the wildlife to put tracks in most of the snow. I stopped to take a photograph of one of the peaks which is very ordinary most of the year. But this was different. What you will observe is the crest and only the crest of a mountain that is at least 9000 feet high.
We decided to drive the entire 50 miles across the northern route to Cooke City in hopes of seeing something other than bison. In case you want to see Bison, go to the blog of our January trip. We hoped to see a moose, but all we saw was snow and it Cooke City it was pilled at least 10 feet high or higher. On our return we spotted some elk. This young lady was sneaking some food from under this bush when I snapped the picture. She was one of at least 50 who had found a place near the river that didn't have much snow.

The second day as we entered the park, I said to Marty, I hope we get to see a coyote or fox before the day is over. Of course there were a lot of bison and we also saw some big horn sheep and a couple elk with huge racks. We were in the Lamar Valley, just before the Soda Butte when we saw several cars and people with spotting scopes looking up the mountain to the north. As we slowed down we spotted 5 wolves, the Lamar pack, running toward the road.

We had never seen wolves running so fast and howling so loud. It wasn't until later that we discovered what had happened earlier in the day. As they approached the road they suddenly turned in an eastern direction. I soon had to drive the car toward them as they became out of range of the camera. We also observed that they were having fun. These two were wrestling.
They were having a ball. Running, jumping, chasing each other. The howling was loud and these 2 were sparring.

They soon turned around and I had to move the car again. They returned to the spot at the bottom of the mountain where we first saw them and started back up from where they came. What was going on? Earlier in the day, they had attached and killed an elk. They then had breakfast and took a nap. I can only assume with all that nutrition they were full of vim and vigor and decided to have some fun. Yes, lets run down the mountain and when they saw the crowd with the spotting scopes they turned to the east and when they got tired and the fun was over, they returned to the spot up the mountain.

This was a rare occassion. We have not seen wolves in Yellowstone for a least a couple years. We have never seem them this active. The hour we spent watching them made our trip. We ventured on to Cooke City in hopes of seeing a moose. Not this time.

By the way, we didn't see any grizzlys either. If I was one of them and saw all the snow, I would have crawled back in my den until it got warmer and the snow had melted. We have plans to return in May and June. By then there should be some youngsters running around and the snow will be off the roads so we can see the entire park.

17 March, 2011

What the ranchers see on the Grove Creek Rd.

Ranch life in Montana. Driving down the Grove Creek Road is always special. Will it be a cattle drive, horses in pastures, wild life, a pickup truck with a load of hay, or perhaps what I saw on this day. This is an outlyer as far as the sheep go. Most of the males are bigger than this one and most of them do not have horns. This guy was standing by the side of the road along with his girl friend. it's too early for the lambs. These 2 are fortunate that the shearers have not been to their pasture as they still have their wool to keep them warm. A significant number of the pastures you will see the sheep already shorn. These 2 may have too much wool because the shorn ones are surviving the current cold weather and snow. It will not be long before we have lambs. I did hear from one rancher that their ram (male sheep) had escaped his holding pen several months ago and that they are having a very early crop of babies.
When you see one of these, you can figure that the owner has a warm spot in their heart for animals like this. They are too small to do any kind of chores unless the rancher has put them with the sheep to either be a leader or a protector. Llama's are better protectors. Most people passing them say they are cute.
Almost very field you got by these days has lots of these. Calving season started in January. Some of the ranchers are done and others are just starting. If I had been about 30 minutes earlier I would have been able to show you a calf being born. Mother still has the afterbirth and this little guy got enough milk that it had to take a rest. I tried to get a picture of the nursing but mama was very protective and as I circled her hoping to get a picture with the sun on the calf, she would turn to protect her calf from me and my camera.
This young calf came to the fence to check me out. He's probably a week or so old. Old enough that the rancher has identified him with his own tag and he's independent enough that his mama has let him wander off on his own. He was not the 5th born, the number is the same as his mothers so the rancher can tell who belongs to whom.
Yellowstone is next week, come back soon and see if we were lucky enough to get a picture of a grizzly. They are out of hibernation.

09 March, 2011

We didn't have to go to Yellowstone

Either on our property on within a mile I have found these creatures in the last 2 weeks. As I leave the ranch I always have my camera sitting next to me on the front seat. I have my favorite routes to take either to Absarokee or Fishtail or returning. This picture was taken on the return trip on the Johnson Place, the Lower Grove Creek Rd. This time I was leaning on the open window pane to get this shot.
A few days later on my way to Fishtail, I spotted this Red Tail hawk in the middle of a pasture. Not sure if it was full and resting or awaiting something to aware in the field. Not as big as some but it posed nicely.
I was looking out the living room window and saw something unusally large along the fence near the shed, just north of the Grove Creek. I grabbed my spotting scope to get a closer look and guess what I saw, a porcupine. I was too far away even with my zoom lens so I jumped in the truck and drove down to the creek, expecting to take the picture from the truck. I didn't want to be picking quills from my body. This is the first picture, I framed it for a post card, liked the finished product, so you get a fancier image.
I was having trouble finding it's face, so I decided to be brave. I got out of the truck, crossed the fence and approached the critter. It didn't seem to act like I was even in the vicinity so I got closer and closer. Got this picture, no quills in my leg and returned to the truck.
Just 2 days later I was near the spot where I photographed the eagle you saw above and spotted another porcupine. I had good pictures already, so I just watched for a few minutes and was on my way home.
Another eagle. Not a day goes by that we don't see an eagle either flying over the property, in a tree, or enjoying a feast on a carcass. This one was content sitting here as I manuvered around to get it's picture.
I guess I am bored with all of the deer I see on a daily basis so today they are only memories. If we had traveled the 160 miles to Yellowstone I would have had some bison and elk, perhaps a coyote or wolf, and I just read in the paper that the grizzlies are out of hibernation. The neighbor spotted coyotes chasing his sheep last week and wolf tracks nearby. We will be going to Chico Hot Springs and Yellowstone in about 10 days. Come back again and see what I find down there.

02 March, 2011

Local girl, friendly neighbor, Kenya

2004 was "the year" for a local girl to hit it big. Just before Christmas, there was a picture on the lumber company wall introducing a litter of Great Dane puppies in Absarokee, Montana. Marty told me to put a deposit on the brindle female and soon thereafter Barlo had a playdate.
The lady was asking Barlo if she could become his pal, obviously the answer was yes. What should her name be? Our prior dogs had a name related to our veterinarian. The vet of choice at this time was Dr. Brown. But we couldn't name her "brownie", but his first name was Ken and we had just returned from Africa. How about Kenya?

In the winter months, our dogs can be found with a blanket (size - medium foal) on when they are outside. They grow so fast that there are make shift blankets or vests used. Although this one would more than keep Kenya warm, she didn't appear to pleased with this hand-me-down from Marty.
Being outside, going on walks with Marty and Clint, snooping around the ranch was always
considered a treat. On this day, there had been a carcass near the Grove Creek and since Kenya was the first to spot it, she got first pick of the pile of bones. She was so proud of this she carried it to the house and would not permit anyone to take it from her mouth. A few hours went by before we could take it and put it in the garbage can.
When Marty rested on the couch in the family room, or was watching television, the favorite place for Kenya and Barlo was sharing the couch with Marty. They were obviously content and enjoyed the companionship and the comfort.
Kenya enjoyed having her picture taken. This is one of many, but there were two that were enjoying the walk around the ranch on this January day. They were dressed well and happy that the sun was shining. There are similar pictures that were taken on trips to Yellowstone National Park, Chico Hot Springs, Paws Up, Woodbine, and many other places in Montana.
Shortly after Barlo's passing, Kenya jumped out of the Suburban and injured her front leg. A few days later, it was not getting better so we took her to Dr. Barlau. The fractured front leg was also infected with cancer. Dr. Barlau removed her front leg to avoid further spreading of the infection. It was a matter of days until Kenya was out running in the snow as if nothing had happened. Her sense of balance was great as well as you can see in this picture. 1 leg gone, 2 legs in the air, and 1 leg on the ground.
If you are familar with our dogs, you knew that when Barlo had difficulty laying down and getting up, we purchased a couch for him. Kenya's biggest challenge was getting in the back of the Suburban to go with us. We learned that the older Subaru Legacy was much closer to the ground so it was appropriate that we purchase this 1999 automobile for Kenya. Please note that she got her own license as well. Traveling with Clint and Marty was again a joy plus is was much easier to see out the windows while laying down.
Nothing seemed to be slowing her down. Her best friend, Rhia, would come to visit. She and Kenya would play together as if nothing had happened. This picture, taken by Rhia's owner, Heather Farmstead, shows the joy the 2 girls had when they got together.
In spite of valiant efforts on the part of Dr. Barlau, Dr. Miller, the staff at Colorado State University Veterinary College, Kenya has now joined Barlo. She will be missed by all. There are many fond memories of her held by Clint, Marty, our family and friends. We'll miss you Kenya.
Thanks for being a part of the Circle B Bar T.