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02 November, 2014

A visit to the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range

The weather in Montana has been very mild this fall and as a result there has been an absence of wild life. As we discussed where we should go to visit, the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range got our votes.  The range is closer than Yellowstone and a day trip is easily done. The risk is that the wild horses may or may not have journeyed to the main road, however the site is in the Big Horn mountains which is very scenic.

We had just entered the wild horse range, when we spotted a couple of the wild ones within the range of our binoculars and the 400mm lens on my camera. A beautiful site.
We drove all the way through the range and although we saw plenty of horse manure on the road, we didn't see another horse, so we turned around hoping we might see something on our return. We had the dogs with us, so we knew we needed to stop somewhere so they could go to the bathroom. As we rounded a curve, I spotted a horse standing on the side of a hill (in other parts of the country you would call it a mountain). Out with the zoom lens, stopped the car and this is what we saw.
We were there for at least 15 minutes and during that time the horse was eating on the top of the hill and occasionally would stop and pose for use. This is Marty's favorite image of the day, she said it reminded her of an Arabian.
Marty had suggested that we climb the hill to see if there were more horses on the other side. It was a bit chilly and the hill was very steep, and I voted against the hike. Then, guess what appeared, another horse arrived on the scene.
Would there be more as we returned toward the entrance. We would wait and see. Soon after we departed these 2 horses, we rounded another curve in the road, and right in front of us were 3 bighorn rams, the first one was across the road by himself. He was majestically standing there watching his buddies and perhaps determining where he would go next.
His buddies seemed to be discussing their friend across the road and based on this image, they could have been whispering to each other something they didn't want their friend to hear.
It was time to stop and let the dogs get some exercise. There is wonderful place overlooking the Big Horn Canyon about a mile from the main road. We stopped, put the leashes on the dogs and went for a walk. Marty suggested I take a picture of them as we returned to the car. This has to be one of the best photographs we have ever had of these two. Obviously, they were happy that we decided to let them make the trip with us.
That's Baxter on the left and Emma on the right. They were under control most of the trip, however, they did acknowledge the Big Horn rams and rocked the car with their barking as we passed them. I didn't take any photographs of the canyons, but here is one that I took with Marty's friend Mary Cummins when she visited us in September. The dogs did get to look through the fence and see the canyon. I will mention, that Mary did not get to see any of the wild horses, therefore, we took a lot of photos of the landscape on that trip.
Hopefully we'll get to Yellowstone before the end of the year.

28 June, 2014

Beauty at the Singing Dog Ranch

Montana has had a wet spring and as a result, not only are the pastures and fields green, but there is an abundance of blooming vegetation. Our neighbor Diane Signoracci called and asked if I had time to come to the Singing Dog Ranch to take some pictures of the beauty. Her interest was focused on a cactus plant along the road to their home. But I did more.

I found the cactus plant she had told me about . . . . . .

I got to her house and showed her the photographs that I had taken and she really liked this one. Then she told me that she had been walking through one of the pastures that I passed as I drove to her house and had seen a lot of beauty. So when I returned home, I stopped and hiked through the pasture that she mentioned. I was attracted to a very interesting plant. Not only was it a pretty yellow, but it was also positioned next to a rock( as you know, Montana is in the rocky mountains) -  how appropriate.

Then there was this one . . . . had I asked someone to paint a picture of a yellow cactus flower, I could not have received one any better than this.

there was this one also

I couldn't leave without taking some photo's of this plant. There were plenty to choose from, but I chose this one.

a rancher would not be proud of this, yes, it was a thistle. But it was large and beautiful. Diane did have some beauty on the Singing Dog Ranch and I wanted to share it with you.

20 June, 2014

Yellowstone is getting crowded.

. . . .  . and it has been a great year for bears. Either we have not been in the park during bear season or 2014 is a great year for observing them. June 19th was another great visit with a couple of very interesting photographs. What do we mean by crowded. June's daily attendance will be at least 20 times larger that Aprils. The average daily attendance will be over 20,000 and when you drive through the park it's difficult to find a place to view the wildlife and the roads are very crowded.

Yesterday was a good example. As you can see from our prior postings there have been a lot of folks waiting for bears to appear or get closer to the park highway so they can get a better view of them.
We were traveling toward the Tower Falls from Lake Yellowstone when we found ourselves in a swarm of cars, at least 35 or maybe as many as 50. We were stuck and soon realized what had created all of the attention. It was a grizzly. I couldn't get out of the car because I was on the road. The bear was getting closer, I rolled down the window and started taking photographs. In less that 2 minutes the bear was very close to our car and I had taken 29 photographs. When I got home, this soon became my favorite. It is without a doubt the best photograph I have ever taken of a grizzly.

Do you agree?

This was great, but we missed another grizzly, similar to this one about 2 hours before. Why didn't we get a photograph. We were too far away in the traffic and the bear was going in the opposite direction.

Prior to the bear experience, Marty spotted what she believed to be a mother moose and perhaps a calf. We stopped, I got out of the car and ultimately decided I would hike into a better position to get a photograph and determine if there were calves. In the backdrop was the Lamar River and as you can see they were on the other side of this brush, but I did get this picture of the mother.

She was a big gal and yes, she had not one but twins. I wandered around and waited and finally, one of the babies appeared for me. The other one must have been shy as I never did get a good view of it. If you look carefully, you can see part of it's side to the left of this one.

I did see see a black bear but the image is not like the above grizzly. Of course there were lots of bison, an occasional pronghorn, some deer and some elk. I was another great day in Yellowstone.

We had to return home via Livingston as the Beartooth pass was closed due to snow. As a result I drove over 500 miles in the 38 hours of our travel. We did get to stay in Chico Hot Springs.

26 May, 2014

Yellowstone was exciting again

Another day in Yellowstone. The roads to the south were open as well as the Beartooth Highway which connects Red Lodge and Cooke City. The weather was beautiful and the snow in the Beartooths was very deep. As we drove along the highway, we saw snow piled at the side of the road as deep as 20 feet at times.

We did see another Elk with new antlers, a couple moose as we were nearing Cooke City, Bison were plentiful, and a mama black bear with triplets and a grizzly.

There were lots of people attracted by the mama bear and the triplets. This was my best photograph, however as we returned past the scene several hours later, all three cubs were resting on a log. There were so many people there, we were not permitted to stop for another photograph. Look carefully and you'll see the baby on the left and mama on the right.
We didn't go far until we saw another pack of people. We were informed there was a grizzly, so we parked the car and walked back to the area. This was the big guy that everyone was looking at.
In the Lamar Valley there were lots of Bison. This is just one of the many herds we saw and this youngster was a standout. They are referred to as "red dogs" and there were plenty of them in the park.
The forage in Lamar is very lush at this time of the year. Many of the herds were all resting as their bellies must have been full. This guy was near the road and for sure his belly was full.
Of course we saw elk as well, this guy with his new and growing antlers was by himself near the road about 8 miles from Mammoth Hot Springs.
The remaining question was, will be see any moose. We were almost in Cooke City when Marty spotted a moose that we were about to pass. I stopped the car and turned around. I took several photographs of this one.
we were about to leave and Marty spotted another one. Yes, there were 2 moose, we got to see them and got photographs of them both.
Our next trip to Yellowstone is in 3 weeks. If that trip is as fruitful as our last two, you'll see additional postings on the blog.

17 May, 2014

A Great Day in Yellowstone National Park

Spring has sprung and Yellowstone National Park was evident in every aspect of our trip through the park. Our past winter has left it's impressions as well. There is still plenty of snow in the higher elevations and more water in many of the ponds that have typically had little or no water in them.

One of the more prevalent sightings has been of bears. Although we were not close enough to photograph any of the very young bears, we did see a lot. In total we saw over 10 different bears in different locations and there were lots of visitors with their spotting scopes, either watching or waiting for the next bear to show up.

This bear was near Tower Junction along with several more that were farther away or were hiding behind trees around the Tower.
The next series of photographs were of pronghorns (antelopes). These two guys were having a great day as they were either enjoying the beautiful sun and weather, actively playing with each other, or sparing for leadership. This tells the story of what we saw.
So you think you are the boss, or do you think I will put up with you any longer, or my girl friend told me about you and I'm ready for the challenge. They guys were alternately sparing, dancing or trying to stare down the other. We had never seen such activity among 2 pronghorns. We labelled the next photograph, "watch out, I'm on my way" to determine who really is boss.
and then another battle began.
and they were still playing or fighting as we left the scene.

Did we see any wolves?  No, but as were traveling through the Lamar Valley, this coyote crossed the road ahead of us.
Elks were plentiful. This herd was strung out on a ridge, and when were drove around the bend in the road, we saw what had their attention. It was a bear along a river.
This guy was resting as he was spending all of his energy growing his new set of antlers. You can see that they look more like velvet than the boney look you'll see in another month or so. If you are not familiar with their antlers. They grow at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per day.
I still don't know what this guy had up his sleeve. We saw him in the river and he was not crossing it. He may have been warm and wanted to cool off and certainly he was thirsty as I saw him drink on several occasions.
One of the sites I was hoping we would see were the new born bison calves. Almost every sighting of bison included some new calves. Not all were close enough to get good photographs, but these were.
This calf was walking along the river, content to be with it's parent.
The calf near the head of the older bison is happy to be with it's parent. I said it was whispering to the parent that this other calf is it's good friend Billy, the Bison.
We plan on returning at least 2 more times in the next month and hope we can find as much to share with you after those trips as we did not this one.

23 April, 2014

A short trip around Fishtail

I didn't have to travel far to find this variety of images. It's mid April, most of the snow is gone, Easter has just passed and the creatures are starting to invade the pastures and other terrain. One of the first images I spotted were some birds. Of course, one of our favorite birds is the American Eagle and this one was perched in a tree overlooking some interesting other birds.

I looked closely and I wasn't sure I had seen these birds in Montana. I took several pictures and it wasn't until I got home and looked closely at the images that I discovered it was buzzards that I was observing. The eagle was looking down on the buzzards and I figured they had some type of a meal 
in the vicinity but I never discovered if there was something. Maybe they were just working together to find their next supper.

Spring in Montana brings a lot of new births and the ranchers are busy taking care of the new calves and lambs. What caused me to stop the car were these images of baby sheep.  They were in a field of at least 150 mothers and probably 300 babies. The normal birth rate is twins and you can see here. The rancher had already labeled them with their mothers number.

and not too far away was one of the older lambs who adventured away from his twin and was climbing on a log. If you look carefully they have started the process of removing the tail. The ring that you seen is cutting the circulation and soon the lower part of the tail will be missing.

Starting in the spring and until late fall, one of the birds that you will see in the fields are the Sand Hill Cranes. They returned in late March, they travel with a mate, will have off spring and travel south in the fall, only to return in the spring. This is the male of this set.

When we got the snow the week before Easter, I commented on my Facebook that the hiding of the easter eggs would be a real chore with all of the snow. The mountains in Red Lodge got over 2 foot of snow, we didn't get that much, but we had plenty. So as I'm driving down one of the back roads,
who do I spot but Jack like in Jack Rabbit, like the guy who has the chore of hiding the easter eggs.
Looking closely at him, you can see he looks exhausted from the chores that he inherited prior to Easter.

Yes, it is spring in Montana and we're happy to be sharing with these guys and gals.

04 April, 2014

Migrating Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park

There has been a lot of speculation about the migration of the wildlife and particularly the bison in the last few days in Yellowstone National Park. For those in the know and those who have observed the wildlife in Yellowstone recently, the cause is not the animal instinct that another volcano is about
to erupt like the one several million years ago. It's the fact that the winter of 2013-2014 is one of the
severe winters that has been experienced in Wyoming and Montana.

As a result of the tough winter, the vegetation is even more scarce than typically this time of the year.
So, what does the wildlife do, they migrate to area's where they hope there may be more to eat.
My wife and I visited Yellowstone on April 2, 2014 and made the following observations and took these photographs in support of what we saw.

This is one of the few bison that we saw as we drove from Mammoth Hot Springs toward Cooke City. It was not the healthiest looking bison and was content to be standing here as we passed going East and still there when we returned going West.

We have been to Yellowstone in the winter on many occasions and had never seen as many bison on the road, in the fields, and pastures outside the park, north of Gardiner to the cattle crossing on route 89 approximately 14 miles north.

This is a scene where pronghorn and bison were inter mingled with a lot of bison in the hills in the background,.

If you compare the vegetation in the first photograph and look carefully here there are signs of vegetation and the wildlife is grazing the available forage.

Just across the Yellowstone River was this scene. You ask the question, why were most of the bison laying down. Again if you looked carefully, they were chewing their cuds and at least their bellys had more in them here than in the park.

and then a sight we had never seen. Bison crossing the Yellowstone River to get when the better grazing was. I didn't believe what I was seeing until I got close enough to take this photograph.

Finally, this was the other side of the Yellowstone. You can see some who had crossed the river and others who were returning for a drink of water.

To make the point even more profound. Where the bison were migrating to we also saw a lot of pronghorn, big horn sheep, deer, and elk. We saw none of them while we drove over 80 miles in Yellowstone.

Finally, Al Nash, Chief of Public Affairs, Yellowstone can be seen on this web site where he provides his opinion of the wildlife migration.

15 February, 2014

Happy Valentines Day


I’m different than most of you men sitting here,
I’m seldom with my woman and never drink beer
When the season’s called mating, I fight for my love
Occassionaly you’ll find me with my girl friend, Dove

In the summer, we go to the mountains on high
As the grass starts to dwindle, we all say good bye
We’re easier to find in the lower elevations
We fight for our love, those mating sensations

The boys drift away from the girls and the herd
We rest on the slopes and think of our loves
As the time nears for creating more sheep
We rant and we rave and rarely get sleep

The picture you’ll see, was an unusual shot
She was playing hard to get, and I was not
The rest of the scene was not recorded for others
But the result of my love, is now with it’s mother.