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Monday, August 30, 2010


Pelicans are such strange and unlikely looking birds, with their plump bodies, very long bills, and large pouches for scooping up fish. Years ago, as I was swimming in the Pacific off Santa Monica Beach, a brown pelican dove for fish within five feet of me. What an  awesome sight. In flight the pelican has a wingspan of up to ten feet. When it sees fish beneath the surface of the water, the bird folds its wings and plummets head first into the water, where it scoops up as many fish as it can, into the large pouch below its bill.

Shown here are White Pelicans, photographed on the Madison River in Montana.There are two species in North America, the Brown Pelican, found along ocean coasts, and the White Pelican, found throughout inland North America. White Pelicans are often seen in Yellowstone National Park and the Greater Yellowstone area.

In the sequence below, a parent approached an immature bird to offer it food. The immature pelican is as large as the parent, and is distinguished by the brownish feathers on its crown, in contrast to the pure white of the adult.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wildflowers of the Gravelly Range

In summer, mountain meadows bursting with spectacular wildflower displays create carpets of color extending for miles atop the Gravelly Range in Montana's Madison County. The rangers of Madison Ranger District lead an annual wildflower tour, which this year took place on July 8th.

Meeting at the ranger station in Ennis, the car tour covered about 60 miles round trip, mostly on gravel roads, and moved through all the vegetation zones from the Madison River Valley to the alpine zone at the top of the mountain range. After driving through the foothills, the first stop was in the montane zone. Summer flowers abounded, and showy arrowleaf balsamroot covered large swaths of the hillside.

Arrowleaf balsamroot


Parry's Townsendia


Ball Anemone

Fields of blossoming bistort reached their white blooms above the other flowers.

At the second stop the colors were different, and the fascinating pink prairie smoke and delicate forget-me-not dominated fields scattered with lambs-tongue groundsel.

Prairie smoke


Lambs-tongue groundsel

There was a lunch stop in a lush subalpine meadow ringed with firs and adorned with tiny wildflowers, of which the most showy was the shooting star.

Shooting star

The tour then proceeded another five miles, past meadows full of beautiful blue sky pilot and other flowers, surrounded by amazing views of snow-capped peaks and ridges in every direction.

Sky pilot

Finally reaching the alpine zone at an overlook above the Ruby Creek drainage, old man of the mountain smiled his sunny smile above plants like kitten tails and draba which hugged the ground, and sky pilot bloomed its beautiful blue. The adaptable paintbrush, found from lower elevations up to the alpine zone, is quite stunted at this elevation.

Old man of the mountain

Kitten tails