First Snow on the Mission Mountains

First Snow on the Mission Mountains
First Snow on the Mission Mountians

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: September Views From the Bison Range

Missions dusted with snow

One of Two Cubs

Mother Black Bear

Moon from High Point

Bull elk with harem

White-tailed fawn

View from the top

Bachelor bull elk

Mule deer secrets

Mule deer fawn

Moon rise over the prairie

Young big-horn rams

Not water buffalo


Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Visit to Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge

Kathy was planning to visit Lee Metcalf NWR on her way home, but I persuaded her to stay here and take me on one of my days off.  So Friday, we went over there.  I had never bothered to find out where it was,  and thought I had to make plans to camp out near it, but it is less than two hours away from the Bison Range.

We thought we didn't have to bother to get up early as we would mostly be seeing ducks, but we also saw lots of other species. And a staffer told us of a recently burned place where we would have a good chance of seeing black-backed and three-toed woodpeckers but an hour and a half wait only resulted in seeing yellow-rumped warblers, a pair of downy woodpeckers. and one red-breasted nuthatch that we never saw enough to identify until I looked at my pictures.  

We also had a bust on Lewis Woodpeckers but ran across a California quail family while looking at them at Stevensville River Park. 

Lee Metcalf is in the Bitterroot Valley which was described by Lewis and Clark when they visited here.  Today it is managed for many birds, including ones that are threatened or endangered, along with other animals that live in the several different habitats of the refuge.

We already had found a few species of birds before we reached the Visitor Center where we found the most beautiful displays I've seen at a refuge.  And even the bathrooms were decorated with thank-you letters and pictures received from  classes of children that come to the refuge for educational training offered by the refuge staff and volunteers. 

The Visitor Center has a pollinator/bird friendly garden on the left side of the picture

Part of the captivating exhibits 

The walls were covered with bird mounts - didn't check out the video of the refuge 

Kathy pointed out the pygmy owl, which neither of us has seen

Great art and letters from happy young visitors

We started out birding trip by scanning the ponds in back of the Visitor Center.  The staff keeps one or more scopes set up for visitors to use.  Then we took the walking trail that led to other ponds and wetlands and dry fields with scattered trees and shrubs.  We had to spend a lot of time figuring out the ducks, most of whom were still in eclipse or just getting their new winter look.  I was interested to see them, because, by the time they get to their winter homes in Texas, they are already almost finished putting on their new feathers and are much easier to identify.  And it was great to have Kathy along as she sees more details than I do, while I notice behaviors, so together, we gather more clues for identifying the birds.

With 242 species of birds documented at the Refuge and views like this, it's no wonder it makes the top 10 NWR Refuge list. 

On the trail that starts at the Visitor Center

Blue-winged teal - think I see a hint of the crescent forming on the back bird. 

Osprey breed here

There is a great mix of habitats in a small area here

By the time we got back to the Visitor Center, we were starving, so we grabbed our lunch and came out to the picnic table that overlooks the pond.  For this first birding experience since I birded with Teri in the Centennial Valley, I used the smoked salmon she gave me in a salad/dip which we ate on bread and crackers.  Thanks, Teri.  It made for great memories and made our lunch match this marvelous location.

I made Kathy go on this side for the picture but she immediately moved back to enjoy the pond

What happened to the salmon dip 

 While we were eating lunch, I noticed a line full of swallows.  After lunch we went down to look at them.  There were several species - all of whom looked liked this year's birds and were very confusing. Their colors were pale and they hadn't gotten the adult patterns - some appeared to be changing so they were faded, speckled, and their feathers were all mussed -up looking.  I still don't know how many species I saw, but did see barn swallows and cliff swallows, and perhaps a violet-green swallow.   (I'd love some ID comments on these and have more pictures if you want to help with ID.)

Barn Swallows and ????

Cliff swallow

????? Swallow

We decided not to walk the trails along the Bitterroot River but did snap the picture of this hawk.  We can't figure out what this bird is either.  This is not a great picture as it was too far away for my camera. But if you click on it, you may be able to make out the details better. (Please comment if you know.)

We then went just off the refuge to Stevensville River Park to look for Lewis Woodpeckers, per the advice of a birding staffer.  Alas there were none but there was a family of what I think was California Quail - definitely one with the little topnot feather. I just saw the female and saw and heard little pieces of the half-grown chicks. Couldn't get a picture as she was moving fast, climbing through a shrub trying to divert us from seeing the chicks.  But another visitor was there just to watch her and says she hangs around just at the trailhead.

Gravel bar in the Bitterroot River  

We SHOULD have seen Lewis Woodpeckers here
 After that we went to the site of a recent burn where black-backed and three-toes woodpeckers are currently being found. But an hour and a half wait  only resulted in seeing yellow-rumped warblers, a pair of downy woodpeckers, and what we later realized was a red-breasted nuthatch.

Kathy took me out to supper so we didn't get back home until about twelve hours later.  I've been playing hard with her the rest of the weekend and now am writing this after the time I usually post. Now have to run to take a shower and get to work. Kathy will leave sometime this morning so I'll soon be wishing for more company.  And I'm planning on more visits to this place since waterfowl migration is just beginning and I need to find those woodpeckers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Canada's Rideau Canal

Back in the early 1800's, Canada was fighting with those terrible southerners, AKA Americans. They were concerned that, in a later fight, that enemy would cut off their supply route.  So they decided to connect several lakes into a navigable passage way,  from Kingston, on the St. Lawrence River, up to the Ottawa River at Ottawa, some 125 miles north. This required 45 locks. 

Oh, the places I could go in my kayak!

Now the canal is a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been in operation since 1832, making it the longest continuously operated canal in North America. Today, it is mostly used by pleasure boats, canoes and kayaks in summer, and it is the world's longest skating rink in the winter, weather permitting. You can take a tour boat on part of it.  Always it has beautiful bike/hike baths along it so it can be enjoyed in many ways.  I would love to paddle it in its entirety. Here is information  on paddling it, if you would also like to dream about a trip on it. 

First view of the Rideau from a bridge over the Ottawa River

I fell in love with the Rideau Canal the first time I saw it in the beautiful evening light.  I took lots of pictures of it on different days and at different locations. I toyed with the idea of a day paddle on it, but decided not to antagonize my slowly healing ribs.  But I did enjoy walking along several parts of it. 

I also toured the museum of the Rideau Canal.   The canal was  designed and the building of it supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel John By and is a wonder of engineering.  The saddest part was that By was recalled in disgrace because of big overruns, even though he said it would cost much more than first predicted. While he was exonerated, he never received the credit he deserved in his lifetime.  Today his statue stands across from the Rideau Canal Museum where he can look down on his work.

Lieutenant-Colonel John By

Lieutenant-Colonel John By's view of the Rideau Museum, an 18th century mill

Tools used to build the canal

I was so excited to come out of the museum and see two boats coming up the locks from the Ottawa River to the Rideau Canal. The next pictures show that process. 

The water level  in two locks has to equalize before the gate opens

The gates are opened my hand cranking.

Coming up. 

This boat has been floated up until it is at the level of the next lock.

Ready to move

View of the Rideau on one of my walks

Same view in winter - from Ottawa Tourist Bureau

Rideau Locks at night

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Montreal Botanical Garden

Begonias, Bromeliads, Cacti, Toxic Plants, Medical Plants, Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Alpine Garden, Arboretum, First Nations Garden, Peace Garden, Monastery Garden, Perennials.....  Leave lots of time to visit the Montreal Botanical Gardens.  And do wear comfortable walking shoes. This place not only has a lot of different gardens, but they are huge,  in 190 acres with lots of paths to follow. And you have 10 exhibition greenhouses, 22,000 plant species and cultivars, and more than 20 themed gardens. And if you manage to get through all that, you can visit the Insectarium.  But there are also lots of places to sit for a rest and,when we were there, there were various artists playing in different places.

We spent the first hour in the greenhouses enjoying extensive collections of begonias, bromeliads, cacti, and tropical plants. I was surprised that they did not have a very large collection of orchids. But then I found I must have missed their orchid collection. And other gardens and collections. So I'll have to go back.

One of hundreds of amazing bromeliads

In the formal area

The textures and colors were amazing and still very lush, even this late in the season

Water features and hardscape added to the beauty

The colors were mostly bold and vibrant

I loved the play of textures and the bright colors

View of the Clock Pond - where time stands still

A hot border against a dark grassy backgrouond

Other areas were more natural and soothing - Montreal Tower is in background

The Lion, de la Feuillee, a gift from Lyons, France

Arch at the entrance to the Rose Garden

Pink water lotus and red hibiscus in the Chinese Garden

The Chinese Garden was getting it's luminaries for the September-October Gardens of Light

More Luminaries

This is what the scene will look like when the luminaries are lit in September-October - from the Museum's site

Koi in the Japanese Garden

Water feature and lantern in the Japanese Garden

Dramatic garden in front of the restaurant

Some of the live bugs in the Insectarium

Amusing diorama in the  Insectorium
We also managed to walk the short distance to the Montreal Tower, the highest in the world and ride the funicular to the top for amazing views.

One of the 360 degree views we had from the tower
I took over 600 pictures and edited over 100 of them.  For the rest of the story check my Flickr album.  (I'm slowly getting titles on them.)