Monday, May 31, 2010


Snowy Sheathbill. Antarctic Peninsula. November 14, 2007.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Sunset iceberg. Weddell Sea, Antarctica. January 23, 2006

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Whale foramen magnum. Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula. January 27, 2006

Friday, May 28, 2010


Torres Del Paine National Park Chile. January 19, 2006

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Photo a Day 2

Looks like I missed a day already. Jury duty is my excuse. Maybe I should call it Photo Most Days.
Anyway, here is the next installment.

January 28, 2006 Antarctic Peninsula - Glacial blocks. This is what the leading edge of a glacier looks like as it breaks apart into large blocks near where the face is calving into the water.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Photo a Day

I am going to try to post one photo per day for the next year. Most of the time I have seen this done, I get the impression that the photographers were also trying to take the photo they posted the same day. I am going to try to do it the lazy way and dig through my archives for photos I have not posted here before, many of them taken before I started blogging. I was inspired by looking for a photo in my storage recently and I found myself reminiscing about past trips and photos so I decided to give myself a reason to stroll back through the photos again.

This first photo is of a Darwin's Rhea (Pterocnemia pennata) and chick taken in Chile, along the highway from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales. 1/16/2006

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pronghorn 166

The Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is the sole surviving member of a family that, during the Pleistocene, consisted of twelve species. They are the fastest land mammal in North America and are built for the open plains of the west.

Although speedy, they are poor jumpers and would rather find a way under a fence than try to jump over it. However, they can move surprisingly fast underneath barb wire fences and even faster if the bottom wire is raised even a couple inches above what is traditionally used when constructing fences. Woven wire fences (see the photo above), used to confine sheep, are effective barriers to pronghorn movement.

Roads and traffic are also deadly for antelope during their migrations or when the roads bisect their wintering areas.

The area just north of the Milk River in Eastern Montana is a primary wintering area for a number of pronghorn. We have known that many of these animals spend their summer in Canada from past studies of collared animals, but little was known of the routes and obstacles these animals faced or how they used habitat configuration at landscape levels.

About 40 doe antelope have been captured and outfitted with GPS collars each of the last two winters to get a more detailed view of their habitat use and movements in relation to the larger landscape of the Northern Great Plains. Andrew Jakes, a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary, is conducting the work which is funded by a number of governmental and non-governmental entities.

The pronghorn are captured on their wintering areas near Malta and Glasgow, MT by Quicksilver Air, a crew that specializes in capturing animals using net guns fired from helicopters.

These guys are really good at this and it was a blast watching them work the animals. They were very good at minimizing the time spent with each herd and would capture an individual quickly and have it up and running again soon after the initial capture. In the photo above you can see the orange net covering a doe antelope and below is that antelope being released a few minutes later.

Below is a map of the capture locations in Valley County from February 2010. The pronghorn capture photos above are of number 166 (the furthest south capture, just northwest of Glasgow).

Below is the location of the animals at the end of April. Notice that 166 was about 200 miles north of her capture location (Glasgow and Malta are located along the bottom edge of the map and the dark line through the map is the US/Canada border).

The collars have a VHS transmitter and a GPS receiver. The VHS transmitter enables us to occasionally check the location and status of the animals (as above) and the GPS collars store the location of the animal every 2 hours or so. Then in February the following year, the collar is programed to blow off the animal and the VHS enables us to locate the collar and get the stored location information.

The map below depicts the cumulative locations of thirty nine animals from Feb 2009 to Feb 2010.

It is amazing the amount of land these animals cover annually. I imagine that if we had this level of information for all the animals that spend their winter along the Milk River, this map would be even more impressive, but even as it is we will be learning a lot about how these animals react to changes and challenges in their world.

Andrew has agreed to provide me with information on 166 as he gets her location throughout the year and next year when we recover her collar we will be able to see her how she moved between those spots. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Montana Politics

It's been a crazy couple of weeks with tales to tell and photos to share, but for now just a photo caption to ponder.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Long Day

Yesterday I arrived in Calgary in the early afternoon after braving the howling winds across the Montana on Tuesday evening. Yesterday's drive was not windy, just snowy and slushy. All the way from Shelby to Calgary.
After an pleasant afternoon at my host Brain Elder's house I gave a talk about Montana birds and a bit of Antarctica and South America to a joint meeting of the Calgary Field Naturalist Society and the Bird Study Group. I really enjoyed the evening with a nice group of people. I hope they enjoyed it as well.
I had planned for it to be a quick trip. I have another talk on Saturday for The Nature Conservancy at their Matador Ranch, another on Monday for the Sacajawea Audubon Society in Bozeman, and then back again to the Matador the following Saturday.
I ventured outside this morning to clean the ice off the windows of the car and warm it up. I fired it up and headed back to the house to grab my bag. I was about half way up the driveway when the car stopped running. And wouldn't start again.
After a call to CAA and a tow the the local Canadian Tire (thanks again Brian), I waited for the mechanic to fix something simple like a frozen gas line. But that was not to be. After tracing the problem back to what now appears to be a faulty fuel pump (on a 2006 car with less than 70,000 miles on it) I found out just how much a fuel pump for a 2006 Toyota Corolla costs. Take your best guess and quadruple it and it will probably be close. Oh yeah, and the part is in Vancouver to add insult to injury. So hopefully tomorrow a new fuel pump will arrive in Calgary and hopefully that will fix the problem and I will get on the road for the 10 hour drive home. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
At least in the mean time Brian has opened up his home for me for an extra night which has made the situation much more bearable. Thanks again Brian (and Barbara and Diane).