View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR

View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR
View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Very Special Yellowstone Visit

June 10, 2017

I got to have a wonderful visit with my daughter and only grandson last weekend.  Kris, her friend, Patti, and grandson Cian came up to Yellowstone and I drove over to camp with them.  They were camping at Grant Village  so we spent a lot of time on the loop road, checking out some of the geyser fields.

We also got to enjoy a little wildlife.  I only saw elk and bison but Kris saw a bear after I left.

And the weather was not very accommodating.  It was mostly cold and cloudy with a few short intervals of sun.  The steam was so low and thick that pictures were hard to come by. And I had to drive through a blizzard in the mountains west of Yellowstone.

But here is a little of what I captured.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Another view of Grand Prismatic Spring

Nettle bud

Think this is a kind of a penstemon - loved by long tongued bees. 

Edge of one of the pools

Pastel view, including the white stumps

The bird flew but the colors remained

Kris and Cian

Female common goldeneye in Yellowstone Lake

View at Tom Thumb

Big Cone - the only geyser above the high waters of Yellowstone Lake

Another Tom Thumb View

Geyser field at Tom Thumb- first good light I'd had all week

This week, I'm having to stay close to the refuge and do a bee survey.  All the working week was too cold and wet to survey the bees. I'm also closely monitoring our dam and trying to make sure we capture as much water as possible.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Birds of Red Rock Lake

Red Rock Lake is home or a stopover to some two hundred and thirty two species of birds.  During the winter, only a few species live here, but as spring comes to the Centennial Valley, more and more birds are seen or heard. This is an important site for Trumpeter Swans.  It was established to try to bring them back when there were less than seventy of them. Today we have provided swans across the west and have over 100 breeding here. Many songbirds pass through here or remain to breed. We also have breeding ducks, Franklin gulls, terns, and wading birds. And we also have lots of breeding raptors, including bald eagles, ferruginous hawks, Swainson's hawks, kestrels, red-tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons. I'll never be able to get pictures of all of them but it keeps me busy trying.

MacGillivray's warbler

Our very common Northern Flicker, red shafted

I caught this red-tailed hawk hunting. I have also found its nest but can't see any action in it.

Red-tailed hawk

The rule for identifying sitting sparrows holds up here - if they fly up and sit, they are Savanah sparrows. 

This western tanager  is one of my most recent pictures. We were still seeing waves of migration coming through in late May

Sandhill cranes have been most elusive - this is the only one I've seen till yesterday when I saw it with a mate. 

Bluebirds were already starting to lay eggs when I first checked, the second week of May

And now some of them are feeding babies

California Gull

A female phalarope

Shoveler pairs are nesting in wet areas 

A bathing Savanah sparrow

Male cinnamon teal- the one in the back is displaying - part of a group of 6-8 males plus females

A  trumpeter swan

Lesser scaup pair

Feeding avocet

Phalarope pair- the lady is the pretty one because the male raises the children

Barn swallow - they are way outnumbered by the cliff swallows and tree swallows

The yellow headed blackbirds are very closely associated with water

Long-billed curlews breed here

I often see willets with long-billed curlews - and their call is heard throughout the refuge

Red necked grebes nest on Widgeon pond but seldom come close enough for a decent picture. 

 Click here for a list of refuge birds.  Note that the ones with asterisks breed here. I have lots of birds to go before I see them all.

For more great blogs about wild birds from around the world, click on the picture.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Happenings on the Refuge

This is my third visit to Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge so much of what I am seeing and doing is old hat. We are also down to only three staff so everyone is stretched thin.   I was the second volunteer to arrive and took over the cleaning and inventorying of the volunteer and tech quarters. I also took over the bluebird survey until another volunteer got here.  Another job was detailing  a few of our vehicles. And the best thing that happened is that my boss is letting me survey our bees. We are going to send them in to the Fish and Wildlife Bee Center for identification, so we won't know what bees we have for several years.

Other jobs I'll be doing is helping to spray invasive weeds.  Got to get in shape for that one as it requires lots of walking with a backpack sprayer.

So here are some scenes I've found while driving around the refuge.

Bombus huntii


Shambo Pond - I take a picture almost every time I drive by in the early morning or late evening

Early morning mist at Shambo Pond

View of my living area - I have a trailer behind the right front building - a bunkhouse 

Driving back from Lower Lake is beautiful

Elk seen just past dawn at a great distance

Pronghorn antelope are the easiest animals to find

I'm forced to drive over to Widgeon Pond every two weeks to survey bees

The last cup of 24 set out full of soapy water to drown bees 

It's a job, I tell you - gotta keep track of our three eagle pairs. 

Another one of my favorite spring views at Red Rock Lakes NWR

On my first bee survey, as I was driving back from picking up my bee cups, I found a mother moose wth a baby still extremely tottery on its feet.  I had my camera but had been charging my battery in the office and drove off without it. So I can't share it with you.  But I had gone to check the outhouses at Upper Lake Campground and found a couple with a low tire. I had them follow me to the office, but stopped at Shambo Pond so they could enjoy the Shambo trumpeter swan pair. Then we saw the two year old moose twins. I was only able to get this shot of one of them.

We now have two volunteer couples and, this week,  will get some guys from Denver that are doing some mapping of Upper Lake. One of the ladies that ride the valley and check on the cattle will also be staying with us. And June 6, the University students and professors will arrive for the summer courses they offer here. Our little village will increase at least ten fold over the winter count.