Sunday, May 3, 2009

Uncommon Saturday (part 2)

After Benton, Crean and I finished spending a few minutes in the park we headed out to one of my favorite spots near Fort Peck. It is a high, small butte the provides a wonderful overlook to what used to be a strong north bend in the Missouri River through a rather narrow gap in the hills, but now is the main part of Fort Peck Lake. On our way out of town we found a roadkill beaver that a couple of Turkey Vultures were feeding on and we got to watch them soar around us for a while.

Further out on this ridge are a series of sandstone breaks and short cliffs where the Prairie Falcons and occasional eagle or hawk nest. I also helped build an small alcove in one of the cliffs as an artificial nest site for prairie falcons many years ago when I worked for the Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge. The most wonderful thing is that this hole in the sandstone that we carved out with portable drills and hammers and chisels has been used pretty heavily by Prairie Falcons over the years. I will remember to bring my short lens next time and get some photos. I also found my first swallowtail butterfly of the year flying along the ridge top.

We had a great morning hiking around on the rocks with the Sprague's Pipits singing above and the Rock Wrens making a ruckus in the rocks. There was a pair of Prairie Falcons at the natural nest site and I hope they take residence there this year. Benton was finding dinosaur bones everywhere including a rather recent Coyote scat. I figured it was a Bushy-tailed Woodrat, but you never know. Crean and Addie were just happy to be out and about and they both had a wide grin on their faces. Later we climbed to the top of the butte and had a snack. I had packed some water and a package of local made jerky to the top and we looked out over the lake and brush filled drainages and had a few slices of jerky - or as Crean later stated "We had turkey on the mountain."

On the way home we stopped by a large concrete building where a small locomotive used to raise and lower the spillway gates is stored because the boys always like looking at the train. The building is surrounded by a few hardy trees and as we were looking in the window a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew out in front of us.

This was a bird I had not observed in Montana before and it was a nice find thanks to the boys insistence that we stop to look at the train. That was immediately followed by Crean's rather traumatic observation of a snake which he insisted was a rattlesnake. I couldn't find any snake at all so I told him he must have scared the snake as much as the snake scared him. He still insisted it was time to leave so we headed home for a nap after a wonderful day in the field with my two favorite students!


Trevor Herriot said...

great story John--those boys are lucky kids.

Anonymous said...

Tell Crean his Aunt Cathy doesn't like snakes either.