Rain and Returning Wildlife

Our neighboring wildlife are important. After all, any neighborhood will do if you don't care what's outside your door. However, we do - so they do. Besides, who doesn't like to talk about their neighbors. Thus sightings and anecdotes will tend to pepper my writing.

This week, there were several things worth seeing (as if there isn't every week). None-the-less, it was a special thrill to see wolf sign, even though I know it probably means dead babies and harrassed ranchers. Since the cattle, for the most part, aren't in the valley, if they hang around, the wolves will most likely be looking for the young.

Since we haven't seen any sign since last December, we wondered, at first, if we were mistaken. But, since we were able to backtrack their tracks from the east end of the valley up onto Red Rock Pass, we were not only able to clearly identify these were wolf tracks, but we were able to determine three or four had come our way.

On the other end of the spectrum, I got a kick out of watching the birds this week. In addition to seeing (for the first time this season) several Red-Tail Hawks, a Bald Eagle, about a dozen Sandhill Cranes, a couple of Trumpeter Swans - I've been delighting in the smaller birds. This week, for the first time of the season, I spotted Kildeer, a couple Curlews (they'd been seen by others, but this was the first for me), and a whole flock of Pink-Sided Dark-Eye Juncos.

These pretty little birds (I'd call them colorful, but their colors are more subtle than flashy), flocked outside my window this last week, looking for seeds and bugs under the freshly fallen snow. We watched them for several moments, observing how they interacted, and how they looked for their food. What a fun 'science' class.

And, of course, there was the colorful bluebird and his less assuming mate who had me spilling laughter at their antics as they tried to get into our Blazer. This time of year these hearty little birds - some of the early returnees to the valley - spend a lot of time looking for nesting sites. Last year a pair got into the pickup (someone had left a window down about an inch) and made quite a mess before we realized they were trapped inside.

To my delight they stuck around for a photography session, although the male was more willing to show himself than his mate. Do you suppose she knows he's the flashier dresser?

Then there was the young Sandhill Crane which landed in the yard early in the week. Sandhills, although a large bird, are quite shy. In fact, it is a rare privilege to see one close up - a privilege I've had a couple of times this week. However, this is the first time I've seen one in the yard. This one, obviously young, came flying into the yard, calling loudly.

Now, for those of you who know me well, you know I cannot keep from looking when I hear a Sandhill call. There is something about their haunting voice which drives me to look. I looked out the window just in time to see our visitor soar past the lodge and alight in the yard. The numerous calls from further up the canyon told me there were other birds who weren't too happy with him for taking off on his own.

I slipped out the front door to take his picture. Unfortunately the dogs heard me and came to investigate. My attempts to keep them quiet were more effective than my attempts to keep them from noticing my feathered visitor. In fact, in less than a minute, Bo, our self-appointed guardian, had noticed him. In a flash he was off the porch, bounding across the yard, and barking his warning.

Of course the Crane took off, calling his protest. This brought his parents down the canyon in a rush. In fact, I watched as they glided over the yard and up the lake, calling all the while. Thankful for the opportunity to watch their interaction, I saw them circle and then land briefly on a hillside across the way, only to take off almost immediately, their two having become three.
On to other news - the ice is coming off the lake - about two weeks early. In fact, the bay in front of the lodge is nearly ice-free. And, the south end of the lower lake has open water. At our last look, however, the north end was still well covered.

For those fishermen who can hardly wait to dip their lines into the water, I haven't heard of anyone catching any fish - YET. My hubby did wet his line, but he didn't find any interested parties. However, if the sun would shine just a bit more (it has been cold, wet, and a bit snowy for the last week), I suspect the fishing would be a roaring success.

The road, if you're wondering, is muddy. Not terrible, but if you're coming this way, stay in the ruts. The slime on top can be treacherous when it's wet out.

For all the rest of the local news, check out the "The Latest News" (lower left) on our home page.

Lady of the Lake


Spring is in the air and on the ground here at Elk Lake Resort. It is with joy and excitement we welcome the greening grass, the warming temperatures, and the returning wildlife. In fact, the wildlife have taken center stage on all of our walks and trips about the valley.

Whenever we get into a vehicle I know it is going to be at least 45 minutes until we get to our destination. Most trips are substantially longer. To wile away the time, if I'm not driving, I bring along a project or two - a craft project, a book to read, information on topics I'm researching, or my laptop to get in a bit of bookwork or to write an article.

But, best intentions aside, I cannot seem to keep my eyes off the scenery as we travel the stretch from Elk Lake to Henry's Lake. There is ALWAYS something to see! And, quite frankly, I'm loathe to miss a moment. So, just for fun, I've kept track of exactly what we've seen on our walks and drives the last six days (11th - 16th) At the time of this writing (just after noon on the 16th) we've sighted:

In and around Elk Lake and the eastern Centennial Valley
3 elk (1 dead since last fall)
2 antelope
4 river otters
11 moose (1 dead calf, recently died - the rest, were probably sightings of some of the same animals more than once)
3 eagles (2 golden / 1 bald)
3 Trumpeter Swans (we've actually sighted more but I'm sure they're the same birds we've seen several times)
11 sandhill cranes (the neatest sighting were the 4 which were in the middle of Elk Lake Road - apparently a family as two were grey colored and two were in their adult plumage. The adults moved out of the road, the young flew several yards away. The adults called loudly and profusingly to their young. We got out of their way so they could reunite.)
2 coyotes
1 bobcat (at least we think it was a bobcat. It was definitely a cat - and it looked about the right size and color for a bobcat - but it was on its way to the next county!)
Numerous other birds including Mallard Ducks, Goldeneys, various other ducks, Bluebirds, Tree Swallows (I saw them the first time today), robins, chickadees, a couple of Meadowlarks (I was surprised to see them so soon), Magpies, a Kingfisher, and a woodpecker of unknown vintage (it didn't stay still long enough for me to get a good look).

In addition, the refuge manager and his wife dropped by for a visit on Saturday after a trip to the north side of the valley. The mentioned seeing numerous antelope and a variety of waders - in addition to many of the same species I've already mentioned.

Henry's Lake Area
The west shore of Henry's Lake is absolutely teaming with bird life! A brief drive along the west side road today yielded the following:
9 eagles (on the edge of the ice - apparently the fishing isn't half bad)
6 pelicans (I was surprised to see them so soon)
several Canadian geese
6 sandhill cranes
numerous ducks
a flock of seagulls
a variety of smaller birds

Obviously life is returning in full force to the area. I feel extrememly blessed to be able to experience its return!

Lady of the Lake


Life in the 'Real World'

On our off-seasons we visit family. That's just the way it is. Well, more than that, that's what we promised we would do when we up and moved way out to Montana. However, every time we do, I find myself forced to wake, again, from my 'dream'.

It's this way. I chose not to watch much TV. I rarely listen to the radio. In fact, my primary contact with the rest-of-the-world is through our guests. Since most of our guests come to escape the rest-of-the-world, current events are rarely discussed. Of course, all this adds up to my hearing next to nothing about what's going on in the 'real world'.

It doesn't bother me. I figure if something major happens, I'll hear about it from someone. If I don't, well, I don't. When we visit family, however, I get large doses of reality. I see the news (on occasion). I listen to the radio (rarely). Mostly I 'see' changes - changes which have occurred in style, new developments carving away at the open spaces, or little things which I don't pay much attention to on those quick runs for supplies which constitute my 'trips to town' in the busy season.

Take the traffic. One hour of traffic on any major thoroughfare in the city is more than we see all summer at the lodge. I find myself feeling sorry for my fellow travelers. Then I remind myself, most of them would find my home far to far off the beaten path for their enjoyment, let alone their comfort level.

Without fail I'm reminded how blessed we are to live where we do. Without fail I'm anxious to return. Without fail I realize how quickly things change. Mostly, I guess, I'm thankful our children are growing up close to nature and far from the city.

None-the-less, Elk Lake never looks better than it does when we return from a few days (or a few weeks) spent in the 'real world'.

Lady of the Lake