We have resident moose here at the ranch on a year round basis, and it’s not uncommon to see them striding past the kitchen window. You would think that, with such long legs and oddly proportioned head and body, they would look ungainly, but they most definitely do not. They have a grace that makes their long legged pace look almost relaxed and easy and they cover distance at a remarkably fast rate. Their long legs lift them up above the snow, and they don’t find it the obstacle that deer do. So, while the deer and elk leave our high mountain ranch in the winter time, the moose are content to move from one drainage to another, crossing over the ridge that our home and bison ranch sits on, and striding down the other side. While they eat substantial amounts of aquatic vegetation in the summer months, spending long hours in willow thickets and streams, their winter diet is more accessible on the mountain slopes and south exposures where aspen, fivewillow and chokecherry, snowberry, snowbrush and other shrubby offerings stick up above the snow. This fella is using his front hooves to paw through the snow to reach vegetation hiding away there.
There’s a reason that bison have such big heads (a bull head can weigh up to 200 lbs). They can forage through 1- 2 feet of snow by using their head to push snow aside to reach any vegetation underneath.
Here Gigi is finding some green grass under the snow that grew as a result of our fall rains .
So how can you tell what a nocturnal critter is doing all that time in the nest box? Why, working at making one of the cutest babies in the world. And when the baby owlet peeks out, you know everything must have gone very well indeed!!
“Just a bunch of Crows looking for a bunch of Sage Grouse” April 17, 2015
Okay, time for another “I Love My Life” segment. I’ve had a blast these last couple of weeks looking for sage grouse leks on the Crow Reservation (Apsaalooke Nation) with some really fun people. And it’s hard for me to look for anything wildlife without trying to do my amateur best to catch it on film. I don’t have great equipment, but it’s good enough to balance on the edge of my car door and capture some of the awe inspiring wildlife behavior that I see in the world around me (and since youtube has that “we can fix your shakiness”, the grouse aren’t shaking around too much – just the words :)!. And since we’re looking for (and finding) Greater Sage Grouse leks, that’s what I was able to film (thanks to the patience of the fellas I was with – one of which gave me this great quote that I used for the title).
Look who’s living at our house – a Northern Saw Whet Owl has decided to use our front yard as a nursery! March 16, 2015
A few years ago, Craig made a squirrel house and put it on the Doug Fir tree in the front yard (just a few feet from our front porch). While a squirrel used it one winter, it never did house squirrel babies. Then, the other day as we wandered out in the early morning to get in the truck to go feed the buffs, Craig said, “Well, look at that!” And peeking out of the “squirrel” box was a wee owl face watching us with the utmost concentration. We had heard Northern Saw whet owls calling (a very monotonous beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep that they can keep up for hours!!!) and, while we’ve never seen two at the same time, we’re quite certain that there are two and that they are nesting. I took this photo the other day as the little owl sat in the entrance and watched the chickens with interest but no real intent (the chickens are about 10 times larger than this little robin sized owl who mostly eats mice). To help out a little, we’ve been scattering some bird seed on the ground around the tree at night. Now that’s what I call a Montana mouse trap!
Bison – how do you tell them apart? We’ll start at the beginning with the calves and their horns! January 12, 2015
When guests come to visit, Craig introduces them to all of the herd cows by name. And that leads everyone to ask, “How can you tell them apart?” Well, the simple answer is the same as your answer to this question, “How do you tell your friends from each other?” Because they all have individual characteristics that are unique to them. Of course, if you aren’t used to looking for those characteristics, they’re hard to see (I have Caucasian friends that tell me they can’t tell Asians apart, and I have Asian friends who tell me that all white folks look the same :). It’s just a matter of knowing how to look for those differences. So I figured I’d do a series showing how we identify our buffs!
And since horns are probably the characteristic that most folks look at first, we’ll start there with a look at age classes. And to do that, let’s begin at the beginning. The calves!
The one sleeping on the left is a newborn. If you could touch the top of her head, you would feel the tiniest little bumps that will become her horns. And you would really feel some horns when her mom caught you doing that!
The next calf picture (sniffing my fingers) has little horn buds that are just showing up above the curly wool.
The little black faced “red” calf is about 4 months old,
and the last is a six month old calf. I think their little horns make them look like devils!
Bison Quest Christmas Carols continue – A Hay in a Stranger December 8, 2014
We thoroughly enjoyed Jo Piazza’s visit and resulting article about our Bison Quest Wildlife Vacations!
Helicopter Eagle Nest survey – how we do it. June 8, 2014
For those who are curious, here’s how we try to determine the number of golden eagle nests in an area (for those concerned about tax dollars, these aren’t. This is money from oil and gas leases, which is fitting since they are some of the issues causing the problems.)
Golden eagles need either cliffs or very large trees to nest in (Bald eagles nest primarily in really big trees near water). So to find Golden Eagles (the primary target of this study) here’s what we do:
Get up in the morning, grab a bite to eat, and run out to the pasture to catch a helicopter to work. We’re doing Golden Eagle surveys this week :)!