Saturday, June 28, 2008
This morning I needed to get out. Looming and past deadlines and general ill weather in the office have been taking their toll and I needed a recharge. I headed north early this morning to one of my favorite areas full of Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Sprague's Pipits, Baird's Sparrows, and a few McCown's Longspurs. I have been trying to get a real good photo of a Chestnut-collared Longspur and I had hoped that I get that accomplished this year but it looks like unless I get out some more mornings soon, I am going to have to wait until next year. It was still a very nice morning.
Ferruginous Hawks were flying around.
A Northern Harrier heavy into molt too.
A pair of Savannah Sparrows were tending a nest with four young.
Baird's Sparrow were quite common too.
A Badger was working a hole, probably digging out a Richardson's Ground Squirrel.
When I walked up to the hole to see what was going on I found this Burying Beetle in the dirt recently excavated from the hole.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Early Bird Project had been collecting DNA sequence data from all major living groups of birds and will publish the results tomorrow in Science.
The implications from the research are far reaching and suggest that modern habitat associations and lifestyles evolved several times and falcons are not closely related to eagles, hummingbirds evolved from a nightjar type ancestor, and tropicbirds are not related to pelicans and other waterbirds. The basal evolutionary group is not shorebirds as previously thought, and tinamous have a common ancestor with the ostrich and emu.
Perhaps the most exciting thing that I take from this research applies to all life on earth and suggests how wonderfully diverse and adaptable we are and that each individual animal contains within it the stuff that enables species to respond and adapt to change over time.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The first book is Return to Warden's Grove by Christopher Norment. This book came with high expectations on a recommendation from the author's brother-in-law; my good friend, and fellow co-author on the Birds of Montana project, Paul Hendricks. The book is ostensibly about 3 field seasons in the arctic studying Harris Sparrows but it appears that there is much more in there than just descriptions of study sites and findings. I am looking forward to reading this through and I will give a complete review when I am done. I already found one quote from Christopher I really like and describes my feelings for the Antarctic (and Arctic):
"In the dream I understand where I am, what keeps me rooted in the world, and why this arctic ache, this desire born out of emptiness and space and living things, will be with me always."
The other book is the latest edition of what was already a great book, now made even better. It is the new edition of The Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife: Birds and Marine Mammals of the Antarctic Continent and the Southern Ocean by Hadoram Shirihai. Again, I will review this edition when I have some time to delve into it a bit more but it certainly looks great and just thumbing through the pages this evening has me feeling an Antarctic ache and wishing for the logistics to work out for me to be able to venture south again this year and experience the emptiness and space and living things.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
The reason I missed the fledgling of the last Hairy Woodpecker from the nest in my yard was a fund raiser for the local volunteer fire department. We raised over $4000 in donations selling coffee and generously donated homemade caramel rolls, cinnamon rolls, and cereal marshmallow treats in the morning and burgers and hot dogs in the afternoon. This works out to a per capita donation of about $16.
The main reason for the fundraiser is to purchase newer equipment. This is most evident in the fire trucks we use. One of the two fire truck we have (two others are county vehicles we use mostly for grass fires) is a 1940 LaFrance Fire Engine. We still use it and it still works although the brakes are a bit temperamental. Here are some photos of this fine old fire engine.
Here is the LaFrance in front of the Fort Peck Theater. They both are about the same age. The theater was constructed to provide entertainment for the workers building Fort Peck Dam in the thirties and it has a number of old movie posters still on display in the lobby. It is currently the home of a summer theater company and each summer they have a number of plays here.
This sign is on the dash of the LaFrance. Obviously from a different time.
Friday, June 20, 2008
I released the bird near the nest hole and she didn't even seem to recognize what it was from the outside and she headed right up the trunk past the nest hole. I retired to a chair near the back door and watched the family for a while. After watching for a while the young female launched out of the tree and flew rather strongly for such a new flyer, only to thunk against the side of the fence and attach herself like a tick to the boards. She was there for a long while but when I checked again about 15 minutes later she had moved somewhere else.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Sunday, June 8, 2008
A couple of weeks ago their accounting of visitorship appears to have ceased working like it should and the number of reported visitors for everyone's blog plummeted.
Early last week I decided to see what was going on and headed to my usual place in the rankings, about 3 pages in to the list.
I wasn't there.
I went to the next page back.
Not there either.
I thought I must have really fallen with the new accounting and looked to the end of the list.
Then I decided to check from the beginning to see where I missed it or if it was not listed anymore.
There I was on the first page!
This morning I am number 6 on the list!
I don't know how this has happened and it is kind of funny for a site that averages about 30-40 people a day to be in front of blogs that were averaging over a thousand unique visitors a day before the change in visitor accounting.
Hopefully the Nature Blog Network will get things fixed soon but for now it is kind of nice to be on the front page and I will take it while it lasts.
For all of you who stopped by after seeing PrairieIce on the network - Hello and I hope you like my journal.
And if you want so to see the last best prairie, come visit!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Laura had encouraged Benton to do a drawing for the contest and he was all for it. He spent one evening working on his design.
Guess who won?
Here is Benton holding his winning design.
A closer view of his work.
The objects on the left are the powerhouses, the power generating facilities at Fort Peck Dam. Here is a photo I took earlier this spring of the buildings so you can see what he was going for.
Mom and Dad are in Billings this weekend for the state Audubon Bird Festival and I am hoping that they come back with some more photos for me to add to this album.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
What an interesting world view they must have right now. Their whole world consists of wood walls and one glowing magic opening where Mom and Dad disappear into the light only to return with more food (and take away the fecal sacs, a membranous bag of bird poop kind of like bird diapers produced by young birds as a way of keeping the nest cleaner).
Monday, June 2, 2008
This Black-headed Grosbeak nest was actually quite easy to find, particularly when he was incubating. He couldn't shut up. He was singing the whole time he was on the nest and I could tell when he had taken incubation duties after the female was on the nest for a while because his singing was coming from one spot rather than all around they neighborhood. There is apparently still a bit of disagreement about his territory though. I watched what I assume was this male and another fighting near the nest. They had locked bills and were tumbling through the branches as they each tried to gain an advantage. Both were singing through the whole thing too.
This species has become much more common in the area over the last 20 years. I don't remember seeing many when I was younger but they are fairly abundant bird in the area now.