August 30, 2013 Day trip to Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Decided today was the day to take a trip to Red Rock Wildlife Refuge on the border of Montana and Idaho. Initially set up to help the then endangered tundra swans, I had read that the refuge was a great place for all kinds of birds, especially ducks. The refuge is accessed off of route 20 by a 30 plus mile gravel road suitable for regular vehicles, but rough and dusty. What the online info did not specify was that nearly all the waters in the refuge are off limits and you really can’t even think about shooting with a large telephoto because you are so far away and the fields between the road and the ponds and lakes are closed to foot traffic.

 

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird
Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

 

All I got to show for my efforts are some shots of juvenile mountain bluebirds and sandhill cranes along the road, and a very dusty car, both inside and out. It was certainly interesting to see this broad expanse of meadows and lakes at an elevation of 7000 or so but I don’t think I would make the trip again, too much pain for not enough reward.

 

Madison River Ospreys
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Ospreys
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best shots of the day were taken about 6 miles from my campsite on 287 at the osprey nest platform I visited the other day. They obviously have not read the signs about “catch and release “ you find all along the Madison River. It was pretty neat to watch this pair fly down to the river, about 200 yards away, patrol only a short section, maybe 200-300 yards only, make a few dives, and then come back to the nest to devour their trout, some fairly good sized. They gave me a great opportunity to capture them in flight as they landed and took off from the nest.

Disaster Strikes

After my mostly unfruitful, very hot day trip out to the refuge, I was looking forward to getting back home to stretch out in the shade or in front of a fan. But when I arrived back at my campsite, I found my passenger side mid coach window shattered and laying on the ground, in a million pieces. I have single pane safety glass sliders on the motorhome and this has never happened before. maybe a bird hit it or some other kind of freak occurrence? I don’t think it was a breakin because the RV wasn’t missing anything and nothing was disturbed inside, so who knows?

Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I do know is that this was the last thing on earth I wanted to deal with on a 90+ degree afternoon after an eight hour fruitless, frustrating road trip. Then it dawned on me that this was really bad, this being the Friday of a long Labor Day weekend when everything was going to be closed up for three days and me sitting here in a remote BLM campground, in bear country with a 24” x 28” opening in the side of my motorhome. My first thought was to call Tiffen Industries, the manufacture of my coach and see if they could ship out a replacement piece of glass before they closed up today. It was 2:30 here in Montana which meant 4:30 in Red Bay, Alabama where Tiffen is located, and that meant I had to get a call in quick before they closed.

Of course, with no cell coverage here in the campground, I wold have to scurry quickly to higher ground, so I headed back up 287 towards Ennis, searching for a signal all the way. At 2:42, I finally got one and pulled off the road to call Tiffen service, got put on hold by their automated call system ( aren’t they just what you want to hear when you are sweating it out in somewhat of an emergency? ) for the next ten minutes, 2:52 now and I am assuming they close down at 5:00, their time, so I give up and call their parts number and once again am put on hold for what seems like an eternity as the clock ticks towards the magic hour, 5:00, when finally, just exactly at 5 someone picks up.

I explain my situation, bear country, severe afternoon thunderstorms, being out in the middle of nowhere with this gaping hole in my motorhome’s side, and could they ship out a piece of replacement glass before they close up for the weekend. He explained to me that all they could do was manufacture me a full new window frame with components and that would take about two weeks to make. I got the distinct impression that my predicament really wasn’t a big concern to Tiffen, and after my experience at their maintenance facility in Red Bay last December, I kind of assume they really aren’t all that concerned anymore with maintaining their formerly great reputation for treating their customers right. Well, it doesn’t make much sense to me to wait 2 to 3 weeks for a full replacement window at a cost of probably a couple of grand ( I am guessing, I didn’t ask a price ) when I need something NOW and for a whole lot less money. A piece of replacement safety glass, there is no frame on the glass panel, surely can be come by somewhere at a much lower price than $2000 and a lot sooner than 2 or 3 weeks.

So, first things first, I rushed up to Ennis to the lumber yard to get a piece of 1/4” luan plywood cut to my window size that I could take home with me to temporarily close up the gap. They were very helpful there and for $7 I was out the door and headed back home in just a few minutes. Once there I took out my screen, used it as a pattern to trace out the rounded corners on my plywood, cut the corners out with my trusty utility knife, and then was able to bow the 1/4” material enough to get it snuggly back in the track of the now missing glass. Not much to look at, but now I can at least keep the rain out.

I will have to backtrack to Bozeman on Tuesday and try to find a glass shop that can custom make a piece of safety glass for me, I hope! If not, I will then try to get a piece of 1/4” acrylic ( plexi ) cut to use as a semi permanent solution until I can figure out what to do.

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison

 

 

 

 

 

For the next three days, I guess I will just stay put here on the banks of the Madison River and enjoy my peace and quiet and watch the fisherman go by.

As always click on any image for a larger version.

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Staging area for Madison River fishing trips
Staging area for Madison River fishing trips
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 25, 2013 Ennis, Montana

Montana horses
Montana horses

Once again up early and out before sunrise, pretty much retracing my route of yesterday morning down the west side of the Madison River south of Ennis.

Two pronghorns in the foothills
Two pronghorns in the foothills

 

Small bachelor herd of pronghorns
Small bachelor herd of pronghorns

 

 

 

 

 

Took a side road up into the foothills and through a lot of scattered mini ranches, and found a few more small groups of pronghorns.

 

Osprey nesting platform
Osprey nesting platform

I have noticed many nesting platforms for ospreys erected on the side of the road and in pastureland all along the madison River Valley. Most seem to still have an all but full grown chick or two still in the nest, with one or both parents around.

Montana horses
Montana horses
Big red
Big red

 

 

 

 

 

I found my small band of horses from yesterday a little further from the fence and managed to get some of the shots I had hoped to get yesterday.

Weather remains quite hot with strong breezes bringing some relief if you are in the shade. Late afternoon thunder showers hit almost every day severely limiting early evening photo excursions.

As always, click on any image to see a larger version.

Image of red horse
Red 2
Palomino image
Blondie
Morning Trespassers
Morning Trespassers

 

Pronghorn buck
Pronghorn buck

 

Pronghorn buck
Pronghorn buck

 

Pronghorn buck
Pronghorn buck

 

Pronghorn mom and kids
Pronghorn mom and kids

 

Fjord pony
Fjord pony

 

Small bachelor herd of pronghorns
Small bachelor herd of pronghorns

 

Montana horses
Montana horses

 

 

August 24, 2013 Ennis, Montana

Prospecting for wildlife along the Madison River

Pronghorn family crossing the road
Pronghorn family crossing the road

Unfortunately I have to address my HWH hydraulic leveling system problem. For a week or so I have had one front jack that will not descend, now I have the other front jack deciding that it will not retract, so time has come to find a service technician. Fortunately, the people here at the Ennis Rv Village had the card for a local tech who does work on these HWH systems and I was able to get an appointment for Monday AM. Unfortunately, his hourly rate is $100/ hr., sure hope he is worth what he charges.

Fleeing pronghorn family
Fleeing pronghorn family
Pronghorn family fleeing
Pronghorn family fleeing

 

I took off this morning at sunrise hoping to find some deer to photograph and maybe even some pronghorns. I headed down a road on the west side of the Madison River out of Ennis heading toward the fish hatchery. It didn’t take long to find both deer, though no nice bucks, and my first pronghorns of the trip.

 

 

 

Doe and fawn
Doe and fawn

 

There was a doe with her fawn grazing in the tall grass alongside an irrigation ditch and I stopped to take some photos. I was horrified to see how badly tick infested the fawn was, while the doe had no visible ticks. You would think mom could help her poor kid out somehow, but I guess that is not how it works. Perhaps the fawn should consider signing on with a baboon troop.

 

 

uch! You'd think mom could help with those ticks
Ouch! You’d think mom could help with those ticks
Fawn and thistle
Fawn and thistle

 

 

 

 

 

Scouted out a couple more small campgrounds along the Madison River and got some shots of couples heading out flyfishing with their guide. Looks like a great way to spend a gorgeous day like today.

Jenny inspecting my Madison River campsite
Jenny inspecting my Madison River campsite

 

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison

 

 

 

 

 

The open range
The open range

 

Crossed over the Madison River, from the west over to the east side, and drove through a couple of miles of open range pasture, where I could see hundreds of black angus, and hoped to find more pronghorns.

 

Determined not to let me pass
Determined not to let me pass

After getting through my black angus road block, I ran into a few more female pronghorns and their fawns and then finally found where all the big boys were hiding.

Pronghorn bachelor herd
Pronghorn bachelor herd
Pronghorn girls watching the boys go by
Pronghorn girls watching the boys go by

 

 

 

 

I would guess that the mating season has yet to start for them as the males are still herded up together and the females and youngsters are still in separate bands.

Horses follow the leader
Follow the leader

 

Freckles
Freckles
Red horse portrait
Red 2
Red horse portrait
Red

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home, I stopped by a horse pasture hoping to get some full body horse images for my painting references. There were a couple light horses, a few beautiful reds, and one paint that I thought would make a good addition to my reference gallery. Well, before I could get up to the fence to take my shots, they had all covered the hundred yards or so between them and the fence. They must be used to people bringing them something to eat, or were they just being friendly?

Anyhow, I couldn’t resist taking some horse portraits since they really were beautiful animals.

Two pronghorns
Two pronghorns
Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier takes flight
Northern Harrier takes flight

 

Doe in the stream
Doe in the stream

 

Freckles 2
Freckles 2

 

 

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison

 

August 17, 2013 Glacier National Park

There were no posts for the last two days since I had nothing worth posting, no animals, no scenics.

However, that all changed today!

I decided to try Logan Pass again this morning since the road construction closing doesn’t happen on weekends. Got going around 6:15 and only encountered two or three vehicles heading up the mountain at that hour. However, I did not see a thing anywhere and decided to head down the west side a ways to maybe run into some goats or sheep there. No luck.

Went back up to the Logan Pass parking lot and glassed the slopes for sheep or bears, again, nothing. The sky was starting to blue up and the sun beginning to peak over the mountaintops, so I stopped just down the east side a little way past the tunnel and figured I might try some landscape shots.

The kindness of strangers

While turning my car inside out looking for my neutral density filters, a man stopped and asked if I saw the bighorn sheep above us on the uphill side of the road, slowly trudging toward Logan Pass. Immediately I stopped the search for the filters and grabbed the 200-400mm lens and concentrated on the sheep.

Bighorn ram heading up to Logan Pass
Bighorn ram heading up to Logan Pass

 

It was apparent that he was headed towards Logan Pass, so I turned around and drove back to the parking lot to await his arrival.

 

 

 

Bighorn ram and wildflowers
Bighorn ram and wildflowers

 

Within a few minutes, he showed up and three more young rams joined up with him in the parking lot, all of them looking for antifreeze spillovers and/or salt. Not terribly photogenic!

 

 

Soon they tired of this and departed the parking lot and headed up the mountain, posing very nicely along the way.

Three young rams follow the leader
Three young rams follow the leader

 

Bighorn ram posing
Bighorn ram posing

 

Three bighorn rams
Three bighorn ram
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep along stream
Glacier N.P. bighorn sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending an hour with them there, I decided to head home, but on the way down ran into another bachelor herd of four browsing their way up a hillside of grass and wildflowers.

Four bighorn rams grazing amongst the wildflowers
Four bighorn rams grazing amongst the wildflowers

Got several more nice shots of mature rams here. I owe a big thank you to that stranger who kindly alerted me to the first big ram that I probably never would have seen without him pointing him out to me. And if I hadn’t seen him, I wouldn’t have reversed direction and gone back up to Logan Pass, and if I hadn’t spent an hour up there taking pictures of those sheep, I would have been too early going home to catch the next batch of sheep. Kindness of a stranger.

Also, because of the extra time I had spent up on the mountain, as I descended and passed the Goose Island observation point, I couldn’t help but notice that finally, the light and sky were right to perhaps get some good shots of this iconic landmark.

Goose Island, Glacier National Park
Goose Island, Glacier National Park

On top of that, while I was taking shots of the Goose Island landscape, I had the opportunity to see, up close, my very first Western Tanager. What a beautiful bird! Unfortunately, no photo though, since I was working with the wrong lens shooting scenics.

Out of the park by 10 AM and back home for some photo processing. Getting in that early led to a great trip and I managed to miss most of the crowd. Around 6 PM I decided to go in to Many Glacier hoping to spot some bears after my recent dry spell. No such luck though.

Reflections on Upper St. Marys, Glacier National Park
Reflections on Upper St. Marys, Glacier National Park

 

Hidden lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Hidden lake Trail, Glacier National Park

 

 

 

 

 

Goose Island, Glacier National Park
Goose Island, Glacier National Park

 

Goose Island, Glacier National Park
Goose Island, Glacier National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn portrait
Bighorn portrait
Bighorn portrait
Bighorn portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn ram scratching what itches
Bighorn ram scratching what itches
Bighorn ram and wildflowers
Bighorn ram and wildflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two bighorn sheep crossing the stream
Two bighorn sheep crossing the stream