Saturday, February 25, 2023

Well Hello There

A hand and dust rag deliberately move across the computer screen from corner to corner, wiping away the dust and grime that has accumlated over 6 years of neglect...... 

Ah, there you are!  I remember you. My blog. PrairieIce. My first foray into social media before the likes of Facebook and Instagram came along with their allure of of keeping in touch with old and new friends and throwing photos out into the world with just snippets of context. 

I recently found myself longing for the chance to delve deeper into explanations and context for my photos and thoughts.  And then earlier this week when I was trying to remember the dates when I carved out some travel time to visit Everglades National Park I realized I was blogging pretty regularly back then. That search for dates and my experiences in the Everglades brought me back here and I realized that I already had a spot to satisfy my desire for more - so here I am again. No promises, but I am hoping to keep the dust at bay for a while. 

I completed another journey to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the Antarctic Peninsula last November (2022) as a guide for Naturalist Journeys. I plan on revisiting that trip here in the next few months and I hope to have another couple of trips to write about this summer, including a trip to Svalbard, my first trip back to the high Arctic in nearly a quarter century.  So, this is the first step in the promise to myself to dust off the blog, share some photos and stories, and get back into writing a bit more regularly. And share a couple of photos too. 

Burrowing Parakeet
Burrowing Parakeet

This Burrowing Parakeet (Cyanoliseus patagonusone of my favorite observations from my trip. I had wanted to see this species since I first started heading south nearly 30 years ago. This trip was my best chance. Our trip was the first of the Southern Hemisphere summer season for the Hondius, the Oceanwide ship that was to be our home for the next few weeks. Rather than beginning our voyage at the usual jumping off point in the far north of Argentina, we started our trip much farther north at Puerto Madryn south of Buenos Aires. I was excited to see a new part of Argentina and see a few new birds, with this species occupying the top of the list. One of the members of our group had arrived a couple days early and relayed to me that he had seen a few along the way from the airport to the hotel. Unfortunately we had arrived too late in the day and that trip was in the dark for the rest of us to see much. The next morning we ventured out for a day of exploration further south (more on that later) and as we gathered for breakfast I found out that another member of our group had observed a couple of Burrowing Parakeets fly past the hotel window. Missed again. A full day of birding and exploring and still no Burrowing Parakeets to see. The next day we were scheduled to board the ship in the afternoon and I decided to make sure I rose early to have a few hours to myself before our group activities began. I headed up the hill just past our hotel where there were a number of previous observations. A few Chilean Flamingos foraging in the low tide waters, glowing pink against the deep blue waters caught my attention for a bit, but I knew this was my best opportunity to catch a parakeet close to their roost before they headed off to feed for the day.  As I neared the top of the hill I caught a psittacine silhouette on a wire. It was still a bit further up the hill and backlit...was it what I wanted it to be? I hustled up the hill a bit further and soon confirmed that it was indeed a Burrowing Parakeet! I spent a bit of time watching it hang out on the wire, stretching and occasionally calling, until I decided to see what else I could find and I moved back down the hill, He was still sitting on the wire when I last saw him.  It turned out that this was the only Burrowing Parakeet I observed on the trip despite looking more later in the day with the group. It was a good day already. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Last year I took a quick trip home between Christmas and the New Year.  While I was home the annual flock of Bohemian Waxwings finally got around to dining on the crab apples on a tree next to Mom and Dad's house. I was able to spend some time hanging out next to the tree and watch these birds descend in scattered groups into the branches of the tree and work their way up and down the branches until all of the apples were stripped from their stems.
Bohemian Waxwings are common winter visitors to much of Montana, particularly where there is any sort of fruit remaining on the trees.  Most often their fruit of choice is something like crab apples or Mountain Ash berries, but I have also watched them down the little olives from Russian Olive trees. They often form very large skittish flocks of 800 or more individuals that swirl around from tree to tree.

They often perform some interesting gyrations to get just the right fruit.

Last week a few showed up at the local city park to work over the last of the apples there. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

If the wild bird could speak
She'd tell of the places you had been
She's been in my dreams
And she knows all the ways of the wind

Gene Clark - Polly Come Home

More Mallards

Winter is not the most exciting time to be in Billings. I struggle finding places to wander around and take photos and look for wildlife without heading too far out of town.  A couple of weeks ago while looking out my office window late  in the afternoon I noticed that the resident Mallards were flying in to the small drainage ditch behind our office building. So for the last couple of weeks I have spent a few hours here and there trying to take photos of the Mallards flying into the ditch. It has been fun working on finding the right spot and angle to capture the birds descending to the water. It has also been a learning experience with my camera to get the autofocus setting right to best get in-focus shots of the birds. Yes, the are "just" Mallards, but sometimes you take what you can get and make it a learning experience. Here are some of the results.

I also found one male Wood Duck slumming around with the Mallards. He is a bit more photogenic.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


This afternoon I took advantage of the light and the weather to try for some photos of the Mallards that have been spending time in the drainage ditch behind my office. I have been watching them out my office window for the last few weeks as they descend into the ditch so I figured I would see how well I could do with my camera this afternoon. Turned out ok.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

River Walk

My new pup Quill and I have been spending our lunch time walking along the Yellowstone River for the past couple of weeks. Quill gets his mid-day meal and a good walk, and I get a few minutes of away-from-the-desk therapy. We wander along the bank of the river, or through the Cottonwoods along the trails of a park near my office looking for whatever crosses our path. Sometimes it is beautiful patterns in the ice along the river, other times it is just a few moments of new experiences for a puppy. Most of our short journeys have been relatively devoid of birds except for the usual Common Goldeneyes on the river and an occasional Bald Eagle cruising along the channel. However last week we managed to find ourselves in the middle of a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees, a Brown Creeper, and a White-breasted Nuthatch. I always enjoy watching creepers and nuthatches work their way up and down tree trunks, prying little insects out from the cracks and crevices of the bark. They are always a challenge to photograph because most of the time you see only the back of the bird as they hunt the bark for food.

 Sometimes you can catch them working the tree where you can see them better.

A couple of quick little White-breasted Nuthatch calls on my phone brought the nuthatch down to check me out.

Quill enjoys all of it.