Posts Tagged ‘Wilsall’

7 February, 2013

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Hi Folks,

To anybody that happens to actually be following my blog, let me apologise for the relative lack of posts over the last week or so.  I had lots of various chores to work up around here, and there were, as is becoming usual, some health issues.   My basic plan is to add one good sized post and a couple of short chatty posts per week.  If anybody comments, I will reply, of course, if it seems I should. 

After a bit of cold weather in early January, it appears that around here we are having an extended early spring.  We seem to be in a weather pattern having bright days with a high of about 40F (5 C) and a low of about 20 F (-6 C).  This pattern is far different than what it used to be at this time of year.  The highs are typically 40 deg F warmer than in the bad old days.  And our snow cover mostly isn’t.   We have scattered skiffs of crusty snow, but there is a lot of barren ground. 

Such a weather pattern is not good for our local vegetation – trees transpire away their moisture, but the ground remains frozen so they can’t replenish what is lost, and as a result, there is a lot of winter kill.   Also our snow cover is damnably low, which will give us a drought come summer.   But… I’ve got to say, even with all the negatives, I can do without the blistering cold.  Now, we certainly can – and probably will  – get some very cold periods before the definitive spring sets in, but the longer it stays the present version of nice, the better I will like it.

With the nice weather, we have been having a herd of furry birds hanging around eating the seed I put out for birds.   There is little forage for these animals, and I am quite worried about their survival.  About 15 years ago, we had a yearling fawn die of starvation in one of our flower beds, and that was a really sad thing to watch.  By the time she showed up in our yard she was too far gone for me to do anything except provide a quiet environment for her.   And then I had to dispose of the body.   She was less than half the normal weight for that time of year.

So far this year, though… so good.

Mom and her two kids last year's fawns,, resting by evergreens in our back yard.

Mom naps with her two kids, last year’s fawns, all resting by evergreens in our back yard.   This doe has distinctive markings, and I have photographs of her in our yard since 2002, when she was a half grown fawn.


Have a good one, if you can.

More later,

Cheers, Ron

11 January, 2013

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Hi  Folks,

The last couple of days were chore days, so I didn’t post.  Also – Hooray!!!!  I got my old desktop back and it is functional.  I have been spending my spare, and unsparing time, trying to restore – from backups – all some of the files that got trashed.  There are some of the most ridiculous seeming problems.  For example, my email program – Outlook Express – now does its  “Spell Check”  in French.  And I can’t seem to find a way to make it remember to think in English.  That is a true PITA!!!

The computer tech/guru who worked on the machine really did a pretty good job, and charged a very reasonable fee.  I do have backups for what was on the machine, but I am hesitant to restore a lot of files at one time, for fear that I screw up what is now, at least, a partially functional machine.

I had to go to Bozeman (about a 100 mile round trip by the time all the shopping was done) yesterday.   Mostly getting bird and “furry bird” food.  I came back with some 400 pounds (181.2 kg) of food.  And I got home, just before the blizzard struck.  It is still Blizzarding…  Our low this morning was -4 F (-20 C); and right now it is really nasty out 30 mph winds, with a temperature of 5 F (-14 C).   The weather channel says we have “light snow”; as opposed to “dark snow”, I presume.

Our most abundant birds at our feeders right now are “Rosy Finches”, which are present here in a huge flock, probably close to 500 birds are around our feeders at times.  The grey-crowned rosy finch, Leucosticte tephrocotis,  is the most abundant one here, but the other Rosy species, or types, are also represented in small numbers.

Grey Crowned Rosy Finch.

Grey Crowned Rosy Finch.


Leucosticte tephrocotis is a bird of high mountain habitats being found above the tree-line in summer.  The really nasty weather found at those elevations forces the birds down to lower elevations in the late autumn.  The first ones typically arrive here around the middle of November, and they leave around the middle of March.

Taken in 2012, A Mule Deer Doe We Call Notch-Ear, Eating Sunflower Seeds From A Bird Feeder.

Taken in 2012, A Mule Deer Doe We Call Notch-Ear, Eating Sunflower Seeds From A Bird Feeder.

My first picture of “Notch-Ear” was taken in 2002, and she is here this year, but I don’t have any images of her available yet (computer problems, remember, 🙂 ).  She is here this year with a pair of fawns.  Unfortunately, they, and all the other deer around here this year, are really looking awful.  We had a nasty drought in the last half of summer, and that tremendously impacted deer forage.  They really don’t have much to eat.  So… I don’t begrudge Notch and her kiddies a few bits – or a lot –  of sunflower seeds.  However, it is the other 12 or so deer that have shown up at about the same time she comes by, that reallydrain the bird feeders.

This was one of Notch-Ear's fawns last February.

This was one of Notch-Ear’s fawns last February.

The length and shape of this species’ (Odocoileus hemionus) ears, clearly visible here, is the reason they are called “mule deer“.

I haven’t had time to continue the discussion of why invertebrate zoologists are members of a “dying breed”.   However, that discussion will continue in a day or two.  It is more imporant to me to get my computer up and running and useful before I do much other work, such as writing.

However, before I leave —


See the first videos of living giant squid in its normal habitat.  OMIGAWD !!!!

This short entry by Dr. Craig M.  in Deep Sea News discusses this video.


More later,

Cheers,  Ron

Wilsall, Montana

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

As any of my regular readers, either here or on my forum know, I live in Wilsall, Montana.  Located in South-Central Montana, the scenery of the area around my home is striking.  If one can ignore the right-wingnut politics of rural Montana, which are rather like those of the communist-scare era of the early 1950s, but not as progressive, it can be a nice place to live.  However, because of the overabundance of nutcases, this is kind of  an odd place to be if one has any sort of decent liberal arts or science education; it keeps feeling like being transported to an alternate universe.  I keep wondering, “What is IT with these people?  The basic motto seems to be “On my honor to do my best to help myself and forget the rest.” 

I suspect the real problem is that many of the folks here haven’t had the dubious pleasure of living someplace else, so they don’t know how good they have it, and because of that it is easy for them to trash it by simple neglect and the inability to see that the government has a positive role to play in the process of maintaining the region’s well-being.  And –  shock of shocks!!! – that the taxpayers have a responsibility to fund it.  Not so for these dorks!   They want the ability to trash the place, and many of them are hell bent on doing so – and regretably they are succeeding. 

Fortunately, at the present time, at least, the process is still a relatively slow one.  With the increasing degradation caused by climate change, coupled with the inevitable population growth, the time will come soon enough when the children and grandchildren of the present folks will curse the lack of foresight of their progenitors.  And because, that time will mean the absolute loss through death and destruction of a lot that I hold dear about this place, I am glad I won’t be alive to see it.    

Oh well, for the present, here we are, and here we will stay.  Among things we simply can’t afford to move to anyplace else.    

The political and social environment aside, the area’s physical and biological environment is spectacularly beautiful.  Wilsall is in the Shields River Valley, which is bordered on the west by the Bridger Mountains and on the East by the Crazy Mountains.  The illustration below, courtesy of the remarkable software of Mr. Google et alia, shows the lay of the land pretty well.  The northern end of the valley is north of Ringling, Montana, where there is a watershed divide between the Shields River and the Smith River drainages.  The south end of the valley terminates in the  Yellowstone River valley, a few miles east of Livingston, Montana where the Shields merges with the Yellowstone.  I thought I would use the next few blog entries to showcase some of the spring and early summer scenery and wild (mostly birds) life found either in our yard in the small cowtown of Wilsall, or in the nearby region.  Some beautiful and interesting bird life is found in Wilsall, for at least the present.  And even though the changes for the worst are relatively slow, they are accelerating and are noticeable, so … that will not be too long, at all.

A Google map image showing the Shields Valley from south of where the Shields River empties into the Yellowstone River. Our house's location is shown by the small yellow marker. Wilsall is located at the east end of "Battle Ridge."

Sunset over the Crazy Mountains to the east of Wilsall, Montana. The highest peaks in this range are a skosh over 11,000 feet above sea level.


The Bridger Mountains to the west of Wilsall, as viewed from the Wilsall Reservoir a few miles north of town. As with the Crazy Mountains, the highest peaks top out at around 11,000 feet.

One of my favorite Wisallian birds – for that matter one of my favorite birds at all – is the Western Tanager.  Not only do they have spectacular coloration, they have neat behavior.  When I grew up in Great Falls, Montana, about 150 miles north of Wilsall, I had no idea such gorgeous creatures even existed, let alone could be commonly found at times within 100 miles of my home.  At the time of my youth, Great Falls was the city of small, brown sparrows.  It was home to a giant population of one of the curses of the North American avifauna, the damned English sparrow.   I pretty much thought that in a town, any town, about all one was likely to see were these small, nondescript or cursed ugly brown birds.   My dear wife disabused me of that stupid idea, and has shown me the absolute pleasure of looking at our little flying dinosaurs, for which I am truly grateful. 

With that background, you probably can imagine my wonder and delight at seeing my first Western Tanager here a few years ago!  I simply couldn’t believe my eyes.   Wow!!  I still can’t get over them.  NOR DO I WANT TO!!!  These lovies are here for a while in the beginning of summer.  This year we appeared to have 4 pairs which were here for about a month.  So for your viewing pleasure, in this post I have uploaded a few images of  some Western Tanager males.  Most folks know that there are some wonderfully descriptive names for the aggregations of some birds, probably the best known of these is, “An Exultation of Larks.”  After watching the 12 pairs of Western Tanagers that were around our yard last year, we decided that a fitting descriptive name for a small aggregation of this wonderful species would have to be,  “A Squabble of Tanagers.”  What feisty birds!!!  And how absolutely wonderful to watch their interactive behavior!!!

A Western Tanager Male, in our silver poplar tree giving me an askance glance while I focused my camera on him from within my office about 20 feet from him.

A Western Tanager Male in our "fly-through" bird feeder located about 20 feet outside my office window. I think these males KNOW how good they look! This year we had a series of males ranging from ones with almost no orange/red on the head to ones that looked like their heads had been dipped in brilliant red/orange paint. There was quite a difference in aggressiveness - and even the most "laid back" Western Tanager males are AGGRESSIVE!!!

A Western Tanager male checking out some food. Unlike a lot of birds, these guys (and their gals) tend to closely examine some foods with one eye or the other before picking it up.

Well, that’s it for today!

More soon, there are some nice critters found around here.

Until later,