Monday, July 28, 2014

Montana to Iowa

While at Great Falls, Montana we spent several hours on a 9 miles auto tour at Benton National Wildlife Refuge.  These beautiful Am Avocets were adamant about protecting their growing fledglings.

The fields had many Upland Sandpipers curiously peeking their heads above the prairie grasses.

We followed the Lewis & Clark Trail and stayed at Battle Ridge campground.  We walked up King's Hill finding some interesting plants like this Pacific Coral Root and many butterflies on the plentiful flowers.
Field Crescent

This whole trip from Alaska, Canada and into the U.S.  has had an abundance of Black-billed Magpies.  We couldn't resist another photo opportunity!
Vicki, Nate,Becky Abi, Jim, Rachel, Ty & Ida

In our two day visit at Livingston, MT. we enjoyed visiting Ty's nephew Nate and family, plus our sister-in-law Vicki, visiting from Florida.

An early start into Yellowstone National Park, staying ahead of the crowds, we enjoyed the wildlife.  We saw thousands of Bison, herds of Pronghorns and Elk, and one Gray Wolf half-heartedly chasing a herd of Pronghorns.

We skipped the geysers and paint pots and headed to the alpine areas of Bear Tooth Pass.  Ty searched diligently for Rosy Finches only finding Am. Pipits, Horned Larks and White-crowned Sparrows.

Eastward to Devil's Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming.  We took a mile and a half walk around the base of this 876 foot monolith before the crowds arrived.

There is a huge Prairie Dog "Town" on the grounds - they are very used to getting their photo taken.

We settled into the Black Hills Custer- Crazy Horse campground on a hot afternoon.   By 7pm the sky was darkening and thunder was rolling.  Lightning was a continuous strobe followed by torrential downpour and 3/4 inch hail that proved to be deafening as it hit the roof of the RV.  Rivers of mud and water rolled down the hills of the campground.  There was a three hour calm and at 1am came round two and more hail, thankfully no damage to our vehicle although others weren't so fortunate.

The sun shone bright next morning as we traversed the curving roads of the Black Hills State Forest through beautiful pine forests and rock tunnels that we just barely made it through.
We took photos of Mt. Rushmore before it opened and decided to skip the crowds again.

This Mountain Bluebird emerging from his morning bath met us as we went through the 20 mile wildlife loop at Custer State Park.

We found wandering herds of bison, many White-tailed deer including these twins, and burros that are the descendants of pack animals brought to work the mines but are now free to roam.

We drove to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, recent showers brought out the vivid colors in this unique landscape as well as many tiny toads.

The temperatures kept rising and hit 104 degrees by afternoon.  Too hot to settle down so we kept driving across South Dakota.  We saw flocks of Lark Buntings  along the highway.


We stayed at Snake Creek State Park on the Missouri River.  The wind of 30-40 mph continued through the night.

Driving through the remainder of SD into Iowa, we found a Com. Nighthawk that was resting on this fence post and our first of many, many Dickcissels.

Looking forward to Wisconsin and adding all the eastern birds to our yearly list.  Also looking forward to meeting with family and friends.

See you soon,  Ty & Ida Baumann

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rocky Mountains - Canada into US

Wood Lily

Traveling along the Rockies in Alberta, back into British Columbia and into Montana is absolutely breath taking.  Photos don't do it justice - you really need to experience it.
Elk Calf

We were in Jasper National Park and the scenery, flowers and wildlife were great.  There were many elk cows and calves right in the campground.
Bull Elk along the parkway

Bighorn sheep lambs

We took the Jasper Sky Tram up Whistler's Mountain (along with 22 other tourists in each car), at 7,400 feet then walked another mile or two upward to the summit at over 8,000 feet.

Along the trail were Hoary Marmots and Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels.

The Alpine tundra looks bare and rocky but just take a closer look .... it's covered in moss, lichens and many beautiful alpine flowers.

Elephant's head Lousewort

After five hours on the mountain, we drove the road to Lake Maligne.  We found 5 Black Bears including these two playful cubs ( #63 & #64 for the trip).

Next day, we started south on the Icefield Parkway hoping that the road was open after being closed for two days because of smoke from wild fires.  We stopped at Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls on the way.

We encountered some Mountain Goats coming down to the mineral licks on the side of the parkway near the White Goat Wilderness.

Fires were still burning near Saskatchewan Crossing but we were able to keep going as the wind was in our favor.

Campgrounds were full at Lake Louise so we moved south into Kootenay National Park.  We followed the Kootenay River all the way to the U.S. border.
Edith's Checkerspot

We visited Glacier National Park, birding the west side and going as far as we could as size restrictions and construction kept us from going over the pass on Going to the Sun road.

We found many butterflies and other insects on the roadside flowers and saw one more black bear for our list.  We then drove around the south end of Glacier Park stopping at the Goat Lick adding 5 more Mt. Goats.
Sacken's Bee Hunter

A little rain and sunshine near East Glacier and you find spectacular rainbows.  This was actually a full double but impossible to capture in a photo.

The flowers were at their peak and everywhere you looked was more color.  The only drawback is the hoards of people that overtake the parks so we left for unknown roads and birds.

It is good to be back in the states.  We don't complain about high gas prices because it's much lower than in Canada.  We are thankful for a wonderful, safe trip and looking forward to traveling back to Wisconsin.

Ty and Ida Baumann

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Alaska Highway - From Alpine to Prairie

Alpine Forget-me-not

The Alaska Highway is 1,390 miles from the prairies of Dawson Creek BC to Fairbanks, Alaska.  Since we came up the west coast we are traversing it southeast.  The books say it's paved but don't believe it.  There's lots of gravel, mud and construction along the way with plenty of stones trying their best to crack the windshield and vehicle paint.  But wildlife, vast majestic views and lifetime memories are worth the trip.
Arctic White Butterfly

Our northern most adventure took us up the Steese Highway and two days in the clouds exploring the flower and lichen covered alpine tundra.  We were 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle which I'm sure you could have seen from Eagle Summit at 3,685 on a clear day.

Here are some of our unique wildlife finds high on the treeless mountains - these are excluding the mosquitos and gnats that were very abundant.
Northern Wheatear - note leg bands

Bracted Lousewort

Lapland Longspur

Tumbleweed Lichen

Red Fox kit

Short-eared Owl

Rusty Blackbird

From Fairbanks back to Tok - our Alaska circle was complete, except for Haines, but you need to leave the state, travel through Yukon and a corner of British Columbia then back into Alaska's southeast panhandle.
White-winged Crossbill

We camped next to Lake Kluane in the Yukon - a hangout for Grizzly Bears and we did see two of them.

We traveled through hundreds of miles of Black Spruce forest always watching for Northern Hawk Owls.  Finally after it seems like millions of strange looking tree tops, we did find a pair and one was very cooperative for photos.

Yukon's territorial flower, the fireweed, blanketed the roadsides along the Kluane and the Haines Highway.

We stopped in the rain at Million Dollar Falls and found this Snowshoe Hare checking out the campsite.

Along Haines Summit at Chilkat Pass we found families of Willow Ptarmigan in the soaking rain.

Mew Gulls are quite common in Alaska and this one thought Ty was a little too close to it's fledglings.

Fairy Barf Lichen

In Haines, we walked the trails of Chilkat State Park to the south and Chilkoot State Park to the northeast for the 4th of July weekend.  The rain forest here has some very interesting lichens and many birds.
Cabbage Lungwort Lichen

The peninsula is part of the 48,000 acre Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve where 3,500+ eagles come from mid-October through December.

Back to Haines Junction for a surprise along the marsh trail.  Ty was pishing for warblers and chickadees and what does he get?  A very curious Lynx who tried to stay hidden from the intruder with the camera.

As we headed toward Watson Lake, we encountered much of northern British Columbia's wildlife.  A herd of Elk, 20 cows and yearlings; three Black bears, 1 wolf and 2 moose.

Between Watson Lake and the northern Canadian Rockies we had some single Bull Wood Bison and three herds of cows and calves, and 19 black bears including one Cinnamon colored one.

At Stone Mountain at Muncho Lake Provincial Park we found Stone Sheep, some very high on the cliffs and some near the road licking salt minerals.

This ram stone sheep was camouflaged against the stone cliffs where most people just passed him by.

With some rain clouds and sun, plus God's blessing of a rainbow, and lots of mud on the vehicle, we passed "Mile 0" on the Alaska Highway.  But there are still many miles to travel through Alberta and the east side of the Rockies which we are looking forward to.

Until next blog - Blessings & Prayers,  Ty & Ida Baumann