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Bluebirds and SandHill Cranes

Bluebirds and SandHill Cranes


Spring has sprung here in Montana. The bluebirds are back — there’s a number of them zipping around up at the cabin (although I haven’t seen anything as dramatic as this photo). They’re a color blue that you can’t quite believe exists in nature, much less that it’s zipping around out there catching bugs, building nests and having babies. At the end of last summer, when we were hiking up on the Judith Wildlife Reserve, we saw hundreds of them flocking up to migrate. It was wild, little blue shards everywhere you looked.

And the Sandhill cranes are back. There’s a pair down at the bottom of the road to the cabin. In the evening I sometimes mistake them for deer at first, because they’re the same brown color and they’re big, but then they move and there’s no mistaking them. A breeding pair, who have apparently been there for decades (or they’re handing the spot down between generations). There’s another breeding pair I see when I drive back into town, on the O’Hare ranch — two or three mornings I’ve seen them flying toward the Yellowstone.

And then the other night I heard what sounded like a mother coyote teaching pups to hunt. There was at least one adult voice, and a whole number of high-pitched, excited voices that sounded like puppies to me. I couldn’t see them since they were over a swale, but there are a lot of bunnies up there, and it would be a great place to teach pups to hunt. And that big healthy bitch coyote I saw several times this winter certainly looked like she was a good candidate for reproduction. She’s beautiful. A big reddish ruff, healthy coat, and from the number of deer legs my oh-so-domestic dogs have found, well fed.

So here’s to spring in Montana, and to wildlife babies all around.

Spring in the Paradise Valley

Spring in the Paradise Valley

There are new calves all up and down the valley — they’ve arrived in the past week or so. Not only are they incredibly cute, but they play — a reminder that even beef cattle once had a wild nature, before we bred it out of them. When I leave the cabin in the mornings they’re down there, nestled in the hay, goofing off, nursing, and one bold boy had a standoff with my Subaru the other morning.

Today’s wildlife count also included a juvenile bald eagle on a fence post, a full-grown golden eagle on a roadkill deer carcass, and the usual assortment of mule deer and whitetails. The elk seem to be hiding somewhere up on the mountain, although we did drive through a small band of mountain goats the other day on the Tom Miner road. Mostly ewes, although there were a couple of young rams, their horns just starting to curl. The newspaper also warns that the Yellowstone bears are starting to emerge — so spring is definitely starting to break here in Montana. And we’re all ready for it (although I’m sure we’re going to get another couple of snowstorms).