Two Dragonflies and A Butterfly

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I always welcome the distraction and challenge of dragonflies and butterflies catching my eye!  For sure, I’ve taken many more this past month, but these three are the only ones that made the cut.

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Autumn Meadowhawk

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Twelve-spotted Skimmer

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Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

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All three captured in Montana in past few weeks.

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More Beartooth Highway Wildlife

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Some of the Beartooth Mountains’ viewpoints had safe walking paths from the parking lot to the viewpoint itself.

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Beartooth Highway pathway from parking lot to a viewpoint

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It was along these pathways I happened upon a few other wildlife species.

The first photo is a new bird subspecies for me, the Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon) that resides mainly west of the Rocky Mountains.  At home, we have the Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) that resides east of the Rocky Mountains.

The difference?  The Myrtle warbler has a white throat; the Audubon has a yellow throat.  It moved on super quick!

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Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon)

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There were cute little chipmunks that were quick to run too, not wanting their photo taken.

I lucked out on this brave one, staring me down.  I felt like I was having a Clint Eastwood moment….  😂

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Least Chipmunk staring me down

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And finally, I captured three species of squirrels.

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Red Squirrel

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Red Squirrel

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Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel – female
(I shot this from a distance of someone feeding sunflower seeds to them)

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Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel – Female (packing those jaws one-handed!)

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Female Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel heading back home with food, or maybe to hide it

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This next species is also in the ground squirrel family and a new wildlife sighting for me, the Yellow-bellied Marmot.

It was not only a treat to see and capture, but it was a Mama marmot and her youngster.

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Yellow-bellied Marmot (female)

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The Mama marmot had left her youngster at a tree trunk while she was foraging for food.

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Yellow-bellied Marmot (youngster) at the tree trunk, getting curious

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That curiosity pulled the youngster a few feet away to a pile of rocks.  Suddenly, the youngster popped up, looking for Mama.

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“Where are you, Mama?”

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“Have you seen my Mama?”

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It was the cutest moment!  And, as if on cue, Mama was back.  They quickly ran and disappeared down a hole by the tree trunk, to what I’m guessing was their home.

It was dinner time!

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Mountain Goats

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To be ‘on top of the world’ at 10,947 feet and see/photograph two wildlife species was quite the thrill!  I first saw these mountain goats before I caught sight of the Black Rosy-Finch and redirected my focus (previous post), but I was back on the goats when my birdie flew away.

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Mountain goat shedding its winter coat

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I didn’t know at the time taking the above photo that there were eight more goats walking below it.  They were walking pretty fast going down the terrain, so when I was back on them, the herd was already at a distance.

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Mountain Goats

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Mountain goats are possibly the most extraordinary mountaineers to ever live.  These alpine athletes bound the steep, rugged terrain of our highest mountains with amazing ease.

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Tackling the unforgiving terrain so easily

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Herd of nine mountain goats

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The herd almost to the basin and flatter terrain (can you spot them?)

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Hello and welcome to my world!

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Black Rosy-Finch

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I mentioned in my previous post that I captured two wildlife species at the highest viewpoint along the Beartooth Highway at the elevation of 10,947 feet.

I first saw mountain goats (next post!); but when I saw this alpine bird, my excitement quadrupled.

Welcome to my lifer list, #240 Black Rosy-Finch!

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Black Rosy-Finch with a mouthful

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Residing and breeding above treeline, high in the mountains of the western U.S., the Black Rosy-Finch is oblivious to cold and snow.

This medium-sized finch nests in cliffs and crevices in alpine areas where few people go, foraging at the edges of melting snow for insects and seeds.  It will descend to slightly lower elevations in the winter when heavy snow covers their foraging areas.

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Black Rosy-Finch

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Several people were descending towards me to see the mountain goats better and my little finch took off.  I was surely disappointed, but I’ll not forget this brief, amazing encounter!

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Beartooth Highway

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While we explore northwest Montana for the next few weeks, I’ll continue to share several more posts from our previous destination stay-over in Billings.

One of the reasons for our stay-over in Billings was to check out the once a western mining/now a big ski resort town of Red Lodge and from there drive across the Beartooth Highway.

The Beartooth Highway is considered one of the best scenic drives in the U.S. and is listed as one of our “National Scenic Byways All-American Roads”.  It features breathtaking views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, as well as open high alpine plateaus dotted with countless glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls and wildlife.

This area is one of the highest and most rugged in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation.  Glaciers are found on the north flank of nearly every mountain peak over 11,500 feet high year-round.

Beartooth Highway itself is the highest elevation highway in Wyoming (10,947 feet) and Montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies.

We started at 5,500 feet elevation in Red Lodge and impressively climbed 4,000 feet in seven miles full of twisting turns and switchbacks, and ever-changing landscapes.

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Check out the three levels of roads (one is at the tiptop) that switched back and forth.  There was some serious, quick climbing here!

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It wasn’t long before we started getting peeks of the snow glaciers still present on the highest mountains.

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A very rugged, dangerous dirt road with no guard rails travels through the mountains also, following some of the Beartooth Highway; it can be seen in this shot faintly.  I read it is not for the faint of heart.

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Reaching almost the highest point, we came to this beautiful sight of glacial lakes.

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Close-up of the small glacial lake in upper left of previous photo

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A couple more steep climbing turns from that awesome view, and we finally reached the pullout at the highest point at 10,947 feet.

The air was crisp and cool, the view breathtaking.

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Clouds shadowed the foreground in this shot, but look to the left snow, you’ll see another person taking in the views, to give some perspective.

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Another similar shot with no cloud shadowing.

While standing on dry dirt and rocks, there was snow behind us off to one side where you could stand.  It was here I captured two alpine wildlife species, very exciting!

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Snow in July!

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Alpine plateau, sprinkled with wildflowers

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From here the highway continued a bit further on to the north entrance of Yellowstone NP, but it was already getting late and we had to return on this highway to get back, and didn’t want to do it in the dark.  We planned on returning a few days later and start earlier/not waste time in Red Lodge, but strong winds and storms sent smoke from one of the nearby wildfires into the Beartooth Mountains, so we didn’t go back.

For this one day cruise, in all, I captured six wildlife species and lots of beautiful wildflowers from the viewpoint pullouts, those posts to come!

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Smoky Skies in Northwest Montana

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To catch up, we have left my ‘birding paradise’ of Billings to head further up into northwest Montana.  (still more photos to come!)

While crossing the Rocky Mountains on I-90, from our first overnight stopover, I had an opportunity to capture “Our Lady of the Rockies”.  She sits atop the Continental Divide at the elevation of 8,510 feet, overlooking Butte, Montana.  Unfortunately, there were smoky skies.

This 90′ statue is built in the likeness of Mary, Mother of Jesus.  She is the fourth tallest statue in the U.S. and sits on private land.  It was originally conceived by Butte resident Bob O’Bill in 1979 as a tribute to the Virgin Mary following the recovery of his wife from cancer.  Later, the statue was additionally dedicated to “all women, especially virgin mothers.”

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“Our Lady of the Rockies”

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“Our Lady of the Rockies”

(more about this statue here)

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We’re reached our destination to Kalispell, where we are surrounded by the Salish Mountains and Swan Mountains.  As we rolled in and set up camp, we had high haze that quickly turned into smoky skies in a couple days.

We just cruised the scenic US-2 Highway that crosses the Rocky Mountains from Hungry Horse to East Glacier Park Village and back.  It weaves through the southern part of Glacier NP, giving us a chance to see more of what the Rockies were looking like with the smoke.

Here are five random photos from along the highway.  Working with the layers and distances of contrasting smoke, I tried capturing some beauty of the mountains.

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#01 Glacier NP, Highway US-2

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#02 Glacier NP, Highway US-2

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#03 Glacier NP, Highway US-2 (with a bit of snow still present)

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#04 Glacier NP, Highway US-2

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#05 Glacier NP, Highway US-2 (with remnants of a previous year’s fire)

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Currently, Montana has 19 of the United States 79 largest wildfires presently burning.  For our location, we are not in any danger’s way at this time.

Recent news reports the smoke has now reached the east coast, including New York City.

Let’s keep the brave firefighters and rescue teams currently battling the fires, as well as those in harm’s way, both people and wildlife, in our thoughts and prayers.

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Five On The Wing – #13

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Continuing my series, here are five birds in flight, captured in the past few weeks in Montana.

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Mallard (female)

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American Robin (juvenile) carrying his snack of bugs in his beak

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American White Pelican

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Northern Flicker – Red Shafted (female)

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Red-tailed Hawk

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“If birds can glide for long periods of time, then why can’t I?” – Orville Wright

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Birds in Song

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Joy is when a tiny bird

sings a

Big, Sweet Song….

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Yellow Warbler

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Song Sparrow

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Song Sparrow

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House Wren

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Yellow Warbler

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“The birds of hope are everywhere, listen to them sing.” – Terri Guillemets

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A Gallery of Birds – Part III

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I have been seeing a wonderful variety of birds in the last several weeks!  Here’s a mix of some of the same species shared in Parts I & II, with different compositions and/or days.

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Yellow Warbler – male (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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House Wren (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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Canada Geese (Montana Audubon Center)

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Black-capped Chickadee (campground)

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Northern Flicker Red Shafted – female (Riverfront Park)

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Song Sparrow (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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Black-headed Grosbeak – female (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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Canada Goose (Riverfront Park)

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American White Pelicans (Riverfront Park)

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Cedar Waxwing juvenile begging for food from the parent (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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Downy Woodpecker (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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Yellow Warbler (campground)

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Any bird composition or species here strike your fancy? 🧐

Thank you very much for sharing your favorite picks in my three part series, I enjoy hearing what you think!

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A Gallery of Birds – Part II

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Here’s my second gallery of birds, the smaller ones, taken in past couple weeks in our campground or within five miles in the local parks.  What a joy to see so many little ones!

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A wet Black-capped Chickadee after a bath (campground)

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House Wren (Riverfront Park)

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Yellow Warbler (campground)

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American Goldfinch – male (Montana Audubon Center)

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American Goldfinch – female (campground)

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Yellow-breasted Chat (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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Western Wood-Pewee (Riverfront Park)

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Song Sparrow (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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Downy Woodpecker – male (Norm Schoenthal Island)

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If you had to pick a favorite bird or composition within this gallery, which one would you pick?

A third post of a gallery of birds, repeating the bird varieties with different favorite shots, coming next!

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