My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

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