Helping a Bushy-tailed Woodrat (packrat) move out. September 26, 2009
Fall is a time of dispersal for many of our local wildlife neighbors. So it came as no surprise when we started catching bushy-tailed woodrats (commonly known as packrats) in our live traps that we had set in the cook tent. We knew we were getting visitors checking out the kitchen. While we weren’t sure of the identity of some of them (though we have a better idea now – more about that in another post), others were leaving very definite “calling cards”. Now, first let me make it clear that the packrat is adorable. I don’t mean in a “mousy” sort of way, I mean in a “big eyes and round ears and fluffy tail” sort of way. They register high on the cuteness scale. And, as one guest was surprised to learn, “packrat” is not just a made up name for people who collect things – it came from this furry critter, who will pack away anything they can get their adorable little mitts on. But they have one overriding attribute that makes them an obnoxious tenant (aside from the fact that they make nests under the stove, run off with any item you didn’t nail down, chew holes in towels and potholders, and leave brown “pellets” everywhere). They stink. I don’t mean a mild, slight mousy odor. I mean an acrid, sharp, and lingering odor that permeates anything associated with them. That smell is absolutely and unequivocally not something you can live with. So, as good neighbors do, we assisted our packrat family in relocating.
Summer film crews July 25, 2009
You know, last winter we were complaining that the only time we ever got film crews is when it was snowing, but it seems that we were wrong. We’ve had two film crews here at Bison Quest this summer and were so proud that we could show off our place when it’s full of flowers and greenery! The end of June, we had Matt and his crew from Pure Life Productions LLC spend a few days with us and we were quite thankful that our wildlife and flowers all stepped up to the plate! The whole crew kept exclaiming and ohhing and ahhing over everything they were catching on film and we just puffed up with pride. Matt will be sending us a high definition promotional dvd as a “thanks” for being able to shoot here at Wild Echo, and we’re really looking forward to it. They were a fun bunch and we really enjoyed having them – we’ll let you know when the dvd comes out.
We also had a visit from Flying Horse Communications, who were so impressed with the beauty of the ranch that they wanted to shoot here for a commercial. We’ll let you know when that one airs as well!
Goshawk Surveys in the Black Hills July 24, 2009
I know a number of you have been on my case for not posting for the past few weeks. But what’s a girl to do? Believe it or not, there are still people in this world (and I’m one of them) who actually don’t have computer access every day of my life. When we are in the midst of many of our wildlife surveys, we just don’t come across that many internet cafes. Heck, we don’t even come across many cafes! And, for those of you who would like to know what little critter keeps us so entranced, here’s a picture of a goshawk chick sitting in his nest waiting for the folks to come home with the chow.
Coyote in the limelight June 10, 2009
I just went and picked up the remote camera yesterday. One of our chickens had died (no, not TDC) during the winter and I had placed it down in one of our forested drainages to see what would come to it. Well, we got lots of curious deer – most of whom are recognizable as the deer who frequent our yard – and one coyote in the limelight (or flash in this case)!
Cabin continued June 8, 2009
More pics of the cabin as it goes up. It’s moving fast despite working around guests, weather and irregular material deliveries!
Building a Bison Quest Cabin June 2, 2009
Trying to wake up this morning. Had to make a late night run to Helena (100 mile round trip) to get lumber for our cabin. The guys building it realized they needed more lumber. I HATE hauling 16 foot boards – they are soooo unsteady over these roads. I kept expecting to see them sitting in the road behind me! This is our second, and LAST cabin, at camp. Thought I’d post pics as it goes up (though I’m already behind with the pictures).
Introducing TDC – Truck Driving Chicken! May 16, 2009
We have a number of laying hens that wander our yard, but there is one that stands out. Let us introduce you to TDC (Truck Driving Chicken). She garnered this name at her silly insistence of getting in our old ranch truck at every opportunity. You pull up into the driveway after a day in town and, running down the road as fast as she can to greet you is…. Truck Driving Chicken! You park the truck and look out the window, and find you’re being circled by a wild eyed little grey hen…. Truck Driving Chicken! You open the truck door and immediately there is a flurry of wings and, landing on the seat of the truck you are joined by…. Truck Driving Chicken! Or don’t open the door and there’s still a flurry of wings and, on your truck window is…….Truck Driving Chicken! We have no idea how the love affair started, but there you are – TDC LOVES the truck. And, if you leave her alone long enough, she says “thanks” as only a chicken can.
Winter Snow Coach in Yellowstone National Park March 17, 2009
Winter is a great time in Montana, and we usually have our fun on skis or snowshoes. We do have snowmobiles, but tend to go for the quieter forms of transportation and leave the snowmobiles for when we really need them. But one form of recreation that we’ve always wanted to try, is taking the snow coach to Old Faithful. We’ve talked about it for years, but never took the time off to go until this year. And we LOVED it! We spent the night at the Stagecoach Inn in West Yellowstone and the next morning made our way across the street to Yellowstone Vacations to board their snow coach for Old Faithful. We met Heather – who made our reservation and greeted us with enthusiasm, and even got “dog care”. When Heather found that we had Lee Lee with us, she asked if she could “dog sit” and keep Lee Lee in the office with her! As many of you know – EVERYONE loves LeeLee!
By 9am we met Doug, our tour guide (and summertime YNP ranger) and boarded a beautiful, spacious bus on “snow tracks” along with several other tourists and off we went. Turns out, it was the maiden voyage of our new tracked vehicle and it was a joy to ride in. And I have to admit, in the cold, zero degree (F) day, I sure was glad I wasn’t one of those snowmobile riders! Doug was full of information and kept up a running commentary on the Park history, geology, wildlife and other fascinating facts. He would periodically throw out wildlife questions and, when no one would answer, Craig or I would quietly give the answer. He would look at us in surprise and then say, “well, someone here obviously knows their wildlife.” At the end of the tour, we formally introduced ourselves and, when we told him we were wildlife biologists, he laughed and said,”No wonder you knew all of the answers!
The Park in the wintertime is a whole different place than in the summer. For us, one of the highlights was being able to see numbers of Trumpeter Swans, as well as bison, elk and other wildlife. We always look for them in the summer, but there are very few and those that are there, are scattered. But in the winter – they migrate from Canada to the Madison and Firehole Rivers in large numbers because these rivers do not freeze due to hot springs and geysers. Doug was super good-natured in stopping when we’d see some close to the bank so I could “get some shots”. Beautiful, beautiful birds!
And how exciting to drive up to Old Faithful and have it seem empty by comparison with the bustling hordes of tourists in the summer. Strolling around the geyser walk by ourselves, watching the clouds of steam roll off of the hot pools, all under a brilliant blue sky. What can I say – we highly recommend the snow coach tour and would go again in a minute. And , after meeting the lovely staff of the Yellowstone Vacations, we would highly recommend them also for those of you planning a winter vacation in the Park!