A Trip to the Bison Range with Grandma Dorothy

Springtime at its Best in Western Montana

June, 2013

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One of Dona's mother Dorothy's favorite things to do is to tour the National Bison Range in the springtime. Since it's only an hour or so from where she lives in Missoula, we took her up for a visit on a fine spring day.

There is a nice loop drive that winds through the area and climbs up to where there is a great view. After checking in at the Visitor's Center to see if there was anything new on the menu, we headed out on the loop. In short order we came upon ... guess what? Bison. It's a small herd, but it's always a treat to see them.

Bison Range
Bison at Home on the Bison Range

We took our time, checking the creek bottoms for birds. The day was filled with bird song; I wish I could identify more than a few of them. We came upon a Bullock's Oriole, a species we hadn't seen before.

Meadowlark Spotted Towhee Bird Eastern Kingbird
Meadowlark Spotted Towhee Eastern Kingbird

Bullocks Oriole Bullocks Oriole
Bullocks Oriole
Bird Swallow Bird Swallow
Nesting Swallow

The bison bulls were fat and lazy, but the mothers were busy tending their calves, who were enjoying running around.

Bison Bison
Bison Calves

There were wildflowers popping out everywhere, and we even found some bitterroot, the state flower of Montana. I had never seen them in their natural habitat before. They are a fitting choice, beauty-wise, for a state flower, although not as widespread as one might wish. But that makes seeing one all that more special.

Lupine Arrowleaf Balsamroot Yarrow
Lupine Arrowleaf Balsamroot Yarrow
Bitterroot Bitterroot

Bison Range
Looking across to the Mission Mountains

At the end of our loop we came across some pronghorns. They were pretty scruffy looking, in the process of shedding out their winter coats.

Pronghorn Pronghorn

On the way home we stopped at one of Dorothy's favorite place for dinner, the Buck Snort Restaurant in Arlee. It was yummy! Unfortunately, I was using a legacy lens and forgot to change the image stabilization parameter from the 600mm lens I was using earlier for wildlife shots to the 28mm one, so the picture below has a lot of image-stabilization-introduced blur. Amazing what some sharpening will do to it, though...

Dorothy and Dona at Dinner