My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Who, Me? Buy a Duck Stamp?

Yes, Birder, you should buy a duck stamp each year. It only costs $15  and $0.98 of each dollar goes directly to purchasing, renting, or improving habitat for all kinds of migratory birds.

The new duck stamp came out June 27. This year the American Birding Society is offering them though their site, so they can document that birders are doing their part to preserve and increase habitat for ducks, geese, swans, warblers, bitterns, rails, waders, raptors, and other birds.  So please do your part and click here to purchase through the American Birding Association. ABA also carries a holder so you can add it to your key ring - this is a great way to show your friends that you are supporting the continued existence of birds.

You can also purchase them at National Wildlife Refuges, sporting goods stores, Walmart, and your local post office and save the shipping costs.

And there is another win for you.  Just present the stamp at any refuge that charges a fee and get in free. And remember all of them are birding hotspots. Buy it immediately and you'll get to use it for a full year.

Here are a few birds enjoying past contributions on lands that were bought or improved with Duck Stamp monies.  They include: Anahuac NWR, Sacramento Complex of NWR's and Malheur NWR.  I asked  Bill West, Refuge Manager,  if Red Rock Lakes had any recent new lands purchased with Duck Stamp monies.  He replied that part of the money used to purchase 1490 acres in the Alaska Basin last year came from the purchase of Duck Stamps.

White pelican on breeding grounds with coots at Malheur NWR

Roseate spoonbill

Black-necked stilt at Anahuac NWR 

Purple gallinule on breeding grounds at Anahuac NWR

Cinnamon teal pair and mallard wintering at Sacramento NWR

Snow and Ross's geese wintering at Sacramento NWR

Pie-billed grebe

Merlin  wintering at Sacramento NWR

Coot and cinnamon teal wintering at  Colusa NWR
American bittern

Northern pintail at Colusa NWR

Sandhill cranes on breeding grounds at Malheur NWR

Eared grebes on breeding grounds at Malheur

Yellow-headed blackbird on breeding grounds at Malheur NWR

Snowy egret

These stamps are also great collectibles.  You might like to buy more and keep them until they appreciate.

I'd love to hear back from you if you bought a duck stamp. Leave me a message in Comments. Thanks so much for helping to provide habitat for birds. And please pass the word.  And tell me your favorite birding refuge.

Postscript: The All About Birds Blog just wrote their own blog on reasons to buy a duck stamp.  More great information. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Little Water Threrapy

Most of you know how much I love to paddle, so I was devastated when my old canoe broke down.  I need new thwarts and gunnels. I left it behind in Houston and plan to find someone to fix it while I'm recuperating from surgery this fall.

So imagine how I perked up when I looked up from a bluebird box to see a rig coming on to the  refuge  carrying THREE boats. The people stopped to take a picture of the refuge sign, giving me time to run up and talk to them." Hi!  Are you the new volunteers? They are expecting you at headquarters. How can you paddle three boats with only two of you?"  Of course they politely invited me to paddle with them.

Wednesday I was talking to Cheri in the Visitor Center/Office and found Friday is the only day we have off together. She invited me to paddle with them on Friday.  Of course I accepted and stopped by their trailer Thursday evening to confirm, as I staggered home from thirteen hours of work.

Friday, we drove over to Elk Lake which is in the Beaverhead National Forest,  just off the refuge.  Steve unloaded all the boats (he is the only one that can reach them) while Chari and I got out the rest of the equipment. I was immediately on the water, trying out the little Pack canoe while they finished loading their boats.

At the put-in

The patient - by Chari Maier
The lake is in a beautiful setting and curves around so you get different vistas. There were lots of bird life around including a bald eagle, an osprey, scaup, golden eyes, mallards, red-winged  blackbirds, yellow-headed blackbirds, swans, red-necked grebes and raven babies in the nest.

Chari and Steve

Rimrock near boat launch

Raven nest in the rimrock

Common golden eye family

And the scenery was constantly changing.  We started out under rimrock and had forested sides as well a mountain meadows full of wildflowers.  Oh yes, and snow-covered mountain ranges visible from  both ends.

We paddled close to the shore to enjoy the wildflowers, butterflies and bees

A large stand of phlox among the trees

Closeup of phlox flowers

The partly cloudy skies added to the beauty.  We enjoyed paddling together and separately and spending some time visiting and some time off taking pictures or just looking and listening. Just as we got to the marshy end of the lake, the wind picked up and we had a challenging paddle back. But I loved getting to pit myself against the wind and winning.

Steve enjoying the view

Lesser scaup pair in front of a large patch of spatterdock

Another beautiful view and my picture even has a kayak in it

Oh that light, those clouds

The end of the paddle

We did about a three hour paddle and then went on to look at Hidden Lake which is only five more miles down the dirt road.  We came to a place so beautiful that we had to stop the truck.  Both Steve and Cheri are photographers.  So we all got out and started taking pictures. I got carried away by a piece of Elk Lake in front of snow-covered  mountains.  However I was sure the best picture was down hill and off to the right. I never found the best place to get that picture but finally realized I was quite a distance away from Steve and Cheri - couldn't even see the truck.  So I walked to the road and back up it for almost a fourth of a mile. I was sure they were sitting in their truck, regretting they had ever met me.  Then, after I reached the empty truck, I spotted them some 400 yards away, STILL taking pictures. WHEW!

We finally got to Hidden Lake and found it is so named because you have to hike in to see it.  I did get a peek of it's very blue waters through trees. And the dirt road was very slow with some steep hills and sharp curves so we didn't get back home until 4:00PM.  They invited me for supper - I brought the salad and they made the Tortellini.

Thank you, I feel MUCH better now. 

All in all, it was the best day I've had since I arrived here.  And hopefully the first of many excursions with new friends.  (And the pictures of our trip to Hidden Lake?  I'm saving them for  Wordless Wednesday.)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Frequent Stops Required

It's slow going here on Red Rock Lakes Refuge.  For one thing the roads are all dirt and there are spots that are rutted or that have puddles of water on them, so we are usually driving under 40 mph. But the main problem is the number of stops I HAVE to make. I've found I need about an hour and a half to drive seventeen miles to my job on the north side.

Here are some of what I had to stop for.

Montana bluebonnets and phlox

Yellow-headed blackbird confab

Life at one of the ponds I pass

Cliff swallows at the bridge

One of a pair of  Swainsons that hang out at a ranch entrance

A couple of our breeding ducks - lesser scaup and northern shoveler

Sometimes I don't get to  document my stops.  Like for  the hundreds of Wyoming ground squirrels that decide they MUST cross the road just as I reach them.  Or the horned lark that was busy feeding in the road. Or the short-eared owl that flew before I could get close enough for a picture. Or the female elk that was racing to get ahead of me.  But when I speeded up to be ready to take her picture, she reversed and raced back behind me. And I almost got a picture of a pronghorn antelope and her baby.  But they snuck out the back of a hollow while I was stopped at the front of it,  and my camera wouldn't focus into the sun. The baby must have been about 3 weeks old or so, because it was staying with its mother, rather than dropping flat to the ground.

This past Thursday, I had several stops and slowdowns that weren't as much fun.  I had been setting insect traps and collecting insects from traps we had set the day before and was already tired, and still had to check the bluebirds in the western set of boxes - there are 22 of them - so that would be another two or three hours of work.  Suddenly I came up on a new gate - or was I just lost?  I radioed headquarters to ask, and found a rancher had his stock in the lane.  Then after getting out and looking at the gate, I had to call again, because all I could figure was that I would have to drag it up from where it sat down in the cattle guard and wrestle it open.  It only had a strand or two of wire holding it to the posts.  The answer was"yes that is what you have to do.  But be careful not to get your feet caught in the cattle guard. "

The new gate

I finally got it open, squeezed the truck through, and then got it shut and locked before once again calling the refuge to tell them I'd made it through with no injuries. Soon I was moving through cows.  And the further I went, the thicker they got, until I had to sit for minutes at a time and rev my engine to get a little space to move into.

The end of the road is just up there someplace

After an excruciating long time - probably twenty minutes by the clock - I arrived at the end of the road to find I was behind an electric fence. The rancher and his wife were just getting it all set up, but they graciously took it down from four poles and stood on it so I could drive over it.  Then all I had to do was take a little off-road detour to get around his camper/truck and I was back to normal driving.  The other twenty-two stops were scheduled ones to check bluebird boxes. There were lots of new babies in them. I had a nice long day - started at 7:45A and finished at 7:30 P.

The electric fence ACROSS  the end of the road