Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Raptor Ranch

Here is the Raptor Ranch- thirteen years in the Bitterroot now, after thirteen years in Clinton. The swallows are nesting on that garage/studio on the right side, our house on the far right, hawk buildings to the left. Flooding Bitterroot River in the back. More photos on the way!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cliff Swallows At the Ranch

This about as delighted as I could be, the Cliff Swallows haven't given up on their nesting attempts at our place as in past years. They all left yesterday at 3 pm, and we had resigned ourselves to another bad year. But back at dark last night and got this just now, check out the shadows! Swallows on the front and back of the garage/welding studio, hopefully for a while and more photo opportunities.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cliff Swallows Arrive

In our 13 years here, Cliff Swallows make appearances and have moved on. This year, looks like they have decided to use our garage/welding studio as a little nesting colony. We hope so at least and dozens of them delivered mouthfuls of mud up under the eaves. About ten years ago John Davis climbed a tall ladder and screwed in two strips of moulding to help them make a base for the nests. It might just work this year. I took hundreds of photos and got this one right away, lucking out (right out of the camera, I swear!) I tried hand-held, tripod and auto focus, then manual focus, and good old sitting in the yard waving the D800 around. This is a challenge, and fun when you score. I'll put some new images the photography web site, swallows and sandpipers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Swallows Everywhere

Since I can't get down to the beach any longer with the flood waters (!) my new evening activity is photographing the myriad of swallows on the slough in the back yard. The trick is catching them in the air with foliage in the background, but somehow it will happen. Promise. Here is one Tree Swallow, and I am always reminded of the olden days of film, shooting slides. Every time you hit the shutter you would say, "eighteen cents...eighteen cents..." Film and developing with 36 exposures a roll. HA! Now, a couple hundred a day and hit the "delete" button when you get home. I love digital and my Nikon gear.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Spotted Sandpiper

My creative wading to get across the slough to photograph the eagles is about over, the water getting way too high. The eagle stood there for over an hour, but I had a cooperative Spotted Sandpiper right before dark. I love the blue water.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One More

Scavengers Galore

A little creative wading and I made it across the slough last night to watch the male eagle fly away and come back about two or three minutes later with this Columbian Ground Squirrel. How does he catch them? Beats me, as they are always standing by a burrow, and I have yet to see one run over on the road. He then spent 30 minutes ripping it open with two other scavengers hoping for scraps, a magpie and starling. The last half was delivered to the nest and time for me to head home as well.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bridge Is Out, Book Is In

Tom's brother John did the honors of pulling the bridge out of the slough this year with his pick-up, waters up but staying very steady. Unfortunately, I can't cross over and photograph the eagles for a while, and am having withdrawal symptoms. So here's the last eagle shot for a while. Time to get some hummingbirds and kingfishers next. And the kestrel book final edits were sent in to our pals at Mountain Press Publishing! Just a few months off schedule, oh well. We still hope to have it out by the fall. Maybe I should weld a big eagle sculpture next.

Monday, May 19, 2014

That Time of Year

We thought this would happen a lot sooner, but the water level rose and fell for weeks. Tom's bridge across the slough out back is floating and has to be dragged out, pulled by a cable attached to that stake on the right. Soon this whole island will be under water, and we hope the river stays put there. We did have sandbags at low spots a three years ago, and are keeping a close eye on the levels and weather. Something like 190% snowpack in the Bitterroots this year!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Prom Night

Three generations of girls, as Frankie Needles (right, obviously) graduates from high school at Hellgate next week, heading to Arizona State in Tempe. I am so proud, as I was there at her birth and her first breath.  My sister, Betsy is the proud Mom, and Sally Phillips seated is the matriarch, just turning 80 years of age this February. Prom night !

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Kids at Lowell and in the Nest

We had an assembly for Lowell Elementary School in Missoula yesterday, one of my favorites since our first visit in 1989! The 280 kindergarten through 5th graders were wonderful, and our birds the best, including our new kestrel Wes - a pro already. Then I got this photo of the young eagle in the nest behind the house. Compare it to the older-looking chick in the bottom photo taken Monday, and I think there are two youngsters in there. Somehow, I have only seen one at a time, a frustration I recall from the East Missoula nest in 2011, trying to have all FOUR stand up at the same time for the camera!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Photographing the eagles on the beach the other night, I noticed a kestrel carrying something so took some snapshots. She was across the river and it was nearly dark, and reviewing the photos on the back of the camera, something looked strange. On the computer, the pixelated images made me think, a lizard! Wait, we don't have lizards around here, do we? I've never seen one. So I sent two fuzzy photos to Dr. Kerry Foresman, who always ID's mammal parts in seconds. He wrote back: "I agree with  your ID. I think that this is clearly a lizard (especially seen in image #2 where the foreleg is visible). The only one around this area that would fit this is a Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea). Pretty neat!" Closer inspection and it looks like the kestrel ate the front, as they are prone to doing, and that's a hind leg! New for my lizard life-list. Oh, I guess this doesn't count. Below is last night, the male raptors in one tree.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Last Night

Storm clouds were looming in the background to the east, and brief periods of sun, with me changing the camera settings every few minutes. But got this one, a change of guard as the female takes a brief fly around the Bitterroot, and the male calling below took over brooding duties. We can still get across our little bridge on the slough and not flooded, so far.

Happy Mother's Day

Sally Mom standing by my big Gyrfalcon. No looking for Peregrines today, our Mother's Day tradition, as it is currently snowing!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Beach Time

A couple or three hours on the riverbank the last two nights and one photo worth sharing, sort of. I hate to tell you where this fish came from, but pirated from an Osprey. Hard to take sides, but I always do, cheering for the Fish Hawks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

West Fork Today

West Fork?...that could be anywhere but this is the Bitterroot and Mac Donofrio and I scored another Peregrine territory today on this cliff, and met the fantastic landowners, now falconphiles! Hear all about it tomorrow on the Pea Green Boat, Montana Public Radio - 4 pm MST, or streaming on the web at 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Blue, I Mean Dusky, Grouse

Up looking for Peregrines today across the valley with Mac Donofrio, and this guy was displaying, just as we got a falcon on the ridge. Yep, Peregrines breeding at One Horse Creek another year! And maybe even those Prairie Falcons from years ago...a chance and we hope. We heard another falcon call on the way back, and these two species sure sound a lot alike, even to someone that is listening to Sibley chupping all day long this time of year.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Last Trip Over Our Bridge (for a while)

Absolutely, with Tom's bridge over the slough practically floating at 7 tonight, high water here. Eagles, anyway!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rocky Mountain Map Gallery

The Map Gallery was the happenin' place last night, a First Friday event. Owners Kevin and Dianna McCann pose amongst a myriad of maps and Sonora Aplomado. She was having a little quiet time on a perch with her hood, the most excitement we've had in a while. My photos will be up all month, recent shots and old faves. Check it out on Brooks in Missoula across from Pierce Flooring (who just so happen to be the folks that supply all of the astroturf for our bird perches!) What a nice neighborhood.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

First Peregrine Shot of the Year...

Almost giving up on this Peregrine territory. Two years ago the adults disappeared in May, and last year, they never stuck around at all. A local business installed a frisbee golf course above the nest, and they have since closed, and hopefully no more folf. Peregrines don't much mind activity below them like parties on the beach and a flotilla of rafts and innertubes. But, they don't tolerate activity above them, like climbers and hikers...and frisbee golfers. We are so excited to see two adult falcons doing their courtship thing, and will watch this one closely. With the 500 mm lens.