Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Swift Fox - A Prairie Success Story

Earlier this week I received a report of a Swift Fox den and I was able to follow up on it last night. I found two adults and a litter of at least 3 kits at the den entrance. I was able to sit and watch the family for a while and as I watched one of the adults headed off across the prairie and disappeared into a small drainage. The kits were pretty curious in me but finally they spooked at something and bailed into the den. Shorty after that, the adults I watched head across the prairie trotted across the road in front of me with a Richardson's Ground Squirrel in it's mouth. It must have only been about 20 minutes from the time the adult disappeared until it returned with dinner. The light was not very good with a storm moving in and I had to cut my visit short when the wind came up and the lightening started. I hope to get back there soon.

It is pretty amazing that I was able to watch these animals at all. Swift Fox were extirpated from the northern Great Plains by about 1930, probably due to trapping, loss of habitat, and poisoning from effort to eradicate wolves and coyotes.

The foxes I observed yesterday are the wild born progeny of a very successful reintroduction effort started just north of me in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta nearly 30 years ago by a diverse group of biologists and landowners interested in returning this little fox to the prairie.

The reintroduced foxes prospered in the remaining grasslands and expanded rapidly south into the United States. The most recent population estimate derived from a 2006 census across Alberta, Montana, and Saskatchewan suggests there are about 515 foxes in Montana and another 647 in Canada. The number of foxes in Montana was probably an underestimate since the survey effort was centered on the border and there were probably a number of undocumented foxes living further south of the area that was surveyed. That number has certainly grown since the survey as well and they are becoming observed more often in the area.

This was my first good observation of a Swift Fox ever. I have watched them dart across the road in Wyoming while doing Black-footed Ferret surveys, found road kills just north of Glasgow, and observed one individual on a number of occasions at a den alongside a road but he always disappeared before I got very close. It was very special to finally be able to watch this pair and their kits so close - something I have been looking forward to for years.

Friday, June 18, 2010

PAD 17 - Western Willet - Narcissus

Western Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus inornatus). Northern Valley County Montana. May 2010.

Actual posts with text may resume shortly.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

PAD 16

Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia). Fort Peck, Montana. May 2010.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pronghorn 166 update

This is not pronghorn 166. She is much farther north than this pronghorn.

Pronghorn 166 was relocated in late May, still the farthest northeast of the bunch (click on the image to enlarge). She was originally collared just north of Glasgow in February.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

PAD 14

Crested Duck (Lophonetta specularoides) Ushuaia, Argentina. December 2008.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

PAD 13

Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata). Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula. December 8, 2008.

Friday, June 11, 2010

PAD 12

Blue-eyed Shag (Phalacracorax (atriceps) bransfieldensis) preening. Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula. December 9, 2008

Thursday, June 10, 2010

PAD 11

Humpback Whale Tail. Antarctic Peninsula. January 28, 2006

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

PAD 10

Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Antarctic Peninsula. November 10, 2007.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Tenants

For the last two years we have hosted a family of Hairy Woodpeckers in the crab apple tree in our backyard.

This year we have new tenants in the tree. They moved in over a month ago and did some major remodeling judging from the amount of pecking we heard and sawdust piled under the hole.

The male flicker...

and female Flicker have moved right in and now apparently have small nestlings in the hole. They are an interesting couple - probably generations into a mix of yellow-shafted and red-shafted forms of Flickers like most Flickers around here.

Perhaps this winter the Eastern Screech Owl that occasionally hangs around the back yard will move in but until then I am looking forward to watching this new young family grow.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Bailey Head Rim. Deception Island. Antarctic Peninsula. November 13, 2007

Friday, June 4, 2010


Chinstrap Penguin. Bailey Head on Deception Island, Antarctic Peninsula. November 13, 2007

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Chinstrap Penguin. Bailey Head on Deception Island. Antarctic Peninsula. November 13, 2007.