Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day six: Glacier National Park

I've received several nice responses from family and friends who are following my trip via my blog. Thanks guys; it's been a lot of driving and searching for new birds. Tomorrow I will arrive at my destination in Sandpoint, Idaho. I know my nephew does not have wireless access, so the posts may stop for a few days. Thus far, however, I have had no trouble getting wireless in motel rooms. Tonight I am staying the the Glacier Inn Motel in Columbia Falls, Montana. Clean, clean quiet room.

I set off this morning at 6:00 am from the Siesta Motel in Havre - another place I recommend staying if anyone gets out this way. The morning was cool, but bright and sunny; the first full sun I have seen since leaving home. My destination was Glacier National Park. Again, it was highway 2 nearly all the way. I don't have a photo, but I got my first life bird for the day between Shelby and Brownlee - Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis), seen well through my spotting scope. In all I saw three Ferruginous Hawks today. On this same route I had two
Prairie Falcons (Falco mexicanus) fly over. I saw this bird in Texas, but it's gratifying to find on my own. To my surprise, this whole trip has had a dearth of raptor sightings. Mostly I've seen Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), but even they are not common. American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) are scant. Maybe this is it - with so much habitat available to them, they can really spread out.
Still approaching Brownlee, I saw this stray dog wandering with another dog. It looked so much like Ky, just a little bigger, that I had to stop and take this photo. Gosh, that was difficult.

It's always difficult to tell how long a drive through unfamiliar territory will take. Beyond the Native American community called Brownlee, the roads became mountainous and driving on mountain roads always takes longer. Around Brownlee, Black-billed Magpies (Pica hudsonia) began to show up again. I tried for a picture, but it didn't happen.
Montana has fewer prairie potholes than North Dakota, especially this far west, but they're still around and usually have one or two waterfowl species. This pond held an American Coot (Fulica americana) and a pair of Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors). Mostly I just think this was a pretty photo.
I remember that last summer there was a large wild fire in the area of Glacier National Park. I came across the evidence of this on Highway 89 north driving toward St. Mary's and the east entrance of Glacier National Park. Huge swaths of forest were fully destroyed by that fire.
I have not been to many national parks, so I have nothing to compare Glacier to. It is amazingly beautiful. A couple of things up front. Logan Pass was closed - and not because of snow, but because of road construction. If you look a map of Glacier NP, you'll see that this really limits access around the park in any kind of timely fashion. Next, the air in and around the park is wonderfully fragrant. I have never experienced such an omnipresent outdoor pleasure - when all the air you breathe smells pure and fresh and full of pine.
This male MacGillivray's Warbler (Oporornis tolmiei) was singing very near to the start of the Sun Rise trail. Of course, I didn't know what was singing that song, and this was all I needed to chase it down. You can just barely see the bird's eye arcs in this terrible, but identifiable, photo.

As I was spotting the MacGillivray's, I was briefly distracted by a fast flying and tiny Sara Orangetip (Anthocharis sara). Unfortunately, I could not get a photo. Other butterflies seen well enough to identify were:
Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)
I found this one on the road, struck by a car, but not damaged where the colors show up better.
Western Pine Elfin (Callophrys eryphon)

Leaving the park, I stopped at the Medicine River to look for American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) when I saw one fly low up the middle of the river. I hope I'll have a chance to see another properly.

Another long day ends, another blog post. What will tomorrow bring?

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