My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Renewal Time on National Bison Refuge

We're getting all kinds of babies here on the bison range. Some of them we've seen and some of them are still hidden. The bison babies started arriving in April, a few weeks before got here. A few have just been born within the last week.  At least two of them were born very near the road to the delight of several visitors. Bison babies are born a bright orange- brown color and retain it for only two months.  So its easy to spot the youngest calves.

This calf is probably less than a week old
The proghorn antelopes are getting rounder and rounder. A few of them have already "popped" out babies. I was fortunate to get a picture of the first baby. But I haven't gotten to see a brand new baby.  A couple came in  to the Visitor Center a few days ago, and I gave them the spiel about the auto tour.  I always tell people who ask how long it will take that it will take and hour and a half to two hours to drive it but you will be there as long as you are willing to stop and look.  Then I tell them about where we are seeing the various mammals, birds, and blooming flowers. I also tell them, the more you stop and look, the more you will see. Stop often and use your binoculars because animals can be so far away, you will never notice them while moving.

The couple came back all excited because they had seen - and taken pictures of - a newly born pronghorn antelope. They reported that when they spotted it, the mother was licking off the afterbirth.  They watched the baby get to it's wobbly feet the first time and hunt down a nipple. Then three does came over and all sniffed the baby.  The baby tried to follow one of these does instead of its real mother. The mother had to go after it and get it to follow her. The told me," This was all because of what you told us."  So I guess they did follow my instructions to stop often and look lots.

At first the baby pronghorn looked like it was struggling to keep up

But seconds later it was running ahead

The same day I saw the baby antelope, I found this trio waiting for mom to come back and nurse them.  They are Colombian ground squirrels.  Their den was right in the road.  I saw the mother leave and one little head stay behind. After I stopped to take pictures of them, several other cars also did. One baby was super bold and stayed out a lot.  The second one would shortly follow the bold one's lead.  But the third one was really shy and would run back in the burrow at the slightest provocation and mostly stayed hidden. These squirrels are here in in much smaller numbers than were the Belding's ground squirrels at Malhaur NWR. 

Colombian ground squirrels just starting to check out the world outside their den
Birds all seem to have nesting on their minds or already be raising babies.  Robins, western and mountain bluebirds, and tree swallows, kestrels, and red-tailed hawks are bringing food to babies. Other birds, like the vesper sparrow and the catbirds are setting up territories and singing their heads off to defend them. Male Bullock orioles are competing for females - I've seen a couple of them at a time chasing after a female.

The vesper sparrow has a really beautiful song and sings it over and over. 

Western bluebird dad is busy bring in food

All the big-horned sheep babies are on the ground - about sixty of them - but we don't see them from the tour. A researcher was living at the bunkhouse for several weeks.  Each day he tried to find any big-horn sheep babies that had been born in the last couple of days.  They can't run and he could capture them, notch their ears so he could identify them, and collect some DNA samples. He knows the genealogy of each kid that he has caught. But we are getting very distant views of the rams when they climb over the mountain to the side nearest the auto tour road.

And the elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer should be birthing but we haven't seen any babies from them yet.

Tuesday I started working on the bee survey project. I'm to head it up and figure out what we are doing, how we are doing it, and what materials we'll need,  I also have to figure out where we can buy each item, how much we'll need and about what it will cost. I'm also collecting questions to ask of the pollination coordinator.

I'm so glad I can get other people interested in helping our most important pollinators survive.