Well, we waited long enough for it, but it’s finally here. Spring has come to our high country ranch. Yesterday was a coyote, flower and baby buffalo day while this morning I got to watch a moose head down the driveway to the house. Unfortunately, I wasn’t at the house – I was a half mile away taking my walk and just happened to be looking back at the house when a big black critter galloped across the hillside and down the driveway. Even at that distance, a moose is easy to recognize. They’re huge with a body about the size of a bison but with long legs and neck. Sort of like a long necked buffalo on stilts. The picture here isn’t of this moose – my moose this morning was a cow (just imagine this one without antlers). If only I’d stayed home and looked out the window!
Art is in the eye (or talent) of the beholder! December 12, 2010
One of our favorite sayings around here is that, “We have 7 months of visitors and 5 months of winter.” Indeed, when weather is warm and roads are accessible, we have waves of visitors. And that’s fine – taking care of guests in the gorgeous green summer months is easy. But we have to give special kudus to those who not only dare to visit us in the winter, but revel in the beauty, drama and contrasts that our severe winter months throw at us. One such intrepid traveler last winter was well known wildlife artist, Jay Johnson. On a tight schedule, he had no flexibility in the days he could visit and ended up here on two of the coldest, subzero days of the winter. Jay loves “playing with light” – that’s obvious if you look at his paintings – and it was so fascinating to see the difference in our photographs. We saw the same things he saw, but while my photos were “accurate and interesting”, Jay’s photos brought out the magic in a “buffalo winter”. Can’t wait to see what he does with it in a painting!
2010 Bison Quest Bird House Report September 18, 2010
Guests continue to play an important role in increasing cavity nesting bird populations on the Reserve by monitoring, repairing and putting up nest boxes. Of the 19 nest boxes that were up at the beginning of the summer, mountain bluebirds used 6, tree swallows used 2, and house wrens used 6 boxes. In addition, within our camp enclosure we had the usual birds including flickers, sapsuckers and bluebirds nesting in dead trees, wrens in a house by the picnic tables, a couple of robins made their nests on the cabins, and one intrepid house wren pair found a tiny knothole in one of the cabins and raised their babes alongside guests (the hole has been plugged and a new wren house set up nearby). We had a surprise in one of our nest boxes on the corrals, when a red squirrel enlarged the entrance hole, filled the nest box with bison wool, and raised her 4 baby squirrels there. Very fun to watch! Bison wool continues to be a common nest material in most of the nest boxes, as well as in tree nests of vireos and ruby-crowned kinglets, and even in deer mice nests. Guests in August helped us put up larger nest boxes for saw-whet owls and kestrels, so we’re already excited about next year!
Well, chickens really ARE the ultimate recylcer – and all of our “leftovers” get thrown out by the chicken house. So, imagine our surprise when we saw this odd sight – a slice of pizza sitting up in the fir tree by the chicken house.
But on closer inspection, we realized that the pizza slice wasn’t all by itself. It was being munched on by our mama red squirrel. So who said that squirrels eat nuts?!
Yellowstone National Park May Report May 10, 2010
Ok – so there’s a huge advantage to living only a couple of hours away from the most famous National Park in the world. When I need a change from seeing my bison and wildlife here at Bison Quest, I can go see more bison and wildlife in the Park! And this weekend I came home grinning from ear to ear. May is a good month to see the huge predators that haunt the Yellowstone, and we were not disappointed.
It was right after we entered the Park that we heard the frenzied cries of a pair of coyotes. Glassing a nearby hillside, we could see two coyotes frantically howling and yipping as they engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a lone wolf. The two coyotes were intently trying to get the wolf to leave the area, presumably because they had a den nearby, while the wolf made periodic lunges at them, punctuated by intense chases. I found myself rooting for the coyotes, praying that the wolf wouldn’t find the den of helpless pups. The group eventually moved into the trees, where we could no longer witness the conflict, and we went away without knowing the outcome. In nature, knowing the outcome happens much more on television than it does in real life.
Moving on, we saw a group of elk running up a hill and our immediate response was to pull over and start looking behind them. There’s really just one reason for elk to run in the Lamar- predators! It turned out that they were being chased by 2 wolves (we got there too late for that, and just saw one wolf). But while watching the elk on the ridge above us, we were gifted with the sighting of a mama griz digging on the slope with her brand new little one right on her heels.
After leaving that excitement behind us, we were favored with a more idyllic scene. A sleeping black bear laying next to a log in the sun, periodically lifting his head to see what was going on before resuming his snooze. Of course, the area around Slough Creek is always great for sighting predators in the spring, and we weren’t disappointed. A solitary griz was meandering across the broad valley floor, looking for “refrigerated” goodies left over from the winter. And our last wolf sighting was one of the more dramatic I’ve seen. A lone female wolf defended her den from a big grizzly sow and her two almost-grown cubs. It was an incredible sight that tugged at your heart strings as the lone wolf circled the bears, suddenly rushing at them and then throwing herself backwards as the bears retaliated with deadly charges. In between bouts, the female would raise her head in bone chilling howls, calling on her absent pack mates for assistance. Life in the Lamar isn’t an easy one for those who inhabit this wild place.
In between these bits of dramatic action, one encounters the threads that weave Yellowstone life together. The many elk herds that dot the landscape, the numerous bands of pronghorn antelope grazing on the rolling hillsides, and the huge herds of bison moving across the vast expanse, with new red calves tripping along beside their mamas. Awesome, incredible, heartrending and magnificent. Yellowstone National Park – like no other place on earth.
We’re wasting electricity – turn on the dishwasher! April 8, 2010
It’s a sunny, breezy day here on the ranch, and Craig just came running into the house yelling, “Turn on the dishwasher – wash some clothes – turn on the lights! We’re wasting electricity.” Is this an odd sentence to you? If it is, then it’s obvious that you don’t have solar panels or a wind generator hooked up to your house. We have both and on sunny, windy days we make TOO much electricity and, if we don’t use it, it has to just be dissipated. We aren’t hooked up to “the grid” so we can’t “sell” the power back to the power company – we have to just let it go. We’re looking into getting an electric vehicle of some sort so we can use this extra electricity. Days like today, we just look at each other and say, “why doesn’t everyone do this?” I guess it just makes too much sense in a country where everyone is used to relying on big corporations to take care of them.
Bluebirds and Buttercups – Spring is coming to Bison Quest! March 25, 2010
Even at 6000 feet in Montana’s high country, spring is coming! The buttercups are one of our very earliest flowers – often poking their sunny heads up even when surrounded by snow. We saw our first buttercups yesterday and the mountain bluebirds have finally made it all the way to the ranch. We’ve been seeing them at lower elevations, but today they’re here on the fenceposts and checking out the birdhouses!