High-roost rockery entices great blue herons to western Montana
By Rob Chaney
DRUMMOND – It’s not everywhere you can get eye to eye with a wild heron during mating season.
Great blue herons (Ardea herodias) return to southwestern Montana to raise their chicks in rookeries – the avian equivalent of high-rise apartment living. While they typically don’t like human intrusions, Montana Highway 1 heading south from Drummond offers a great compromise.
“I just love watching them,” rancher Sherilee Lund said of the colony that’s nested next to her cow pasture for the past decade.
While a former railroad grade on her land goes right by the cottonwood grove, the highway bridge that spans it combines better elevation with a comfortable security distance for the birds. Neither zooming cars nor photographers wandering along the guardrail prompted any disturbance on the nests.
Lund said it appeared the rookery was unused when she and husband Bob Lund moved to Drummond from Hall about 12 years ago. A few years later, a couple of pairs began nesting there.
“I’m guessing once they got started again, they stay for several years,” Lund said. “Not all the nests are occupied every year.”
Last week, at least 20 herons were sitting in or standing by at least 31 nests in the grove of cottonwood trees. The big birds can all but disappear in the clots of twigs and branches, with only their heads visible above the rim. The nests don’t look deep enough for a heron to disappear like that, especially when the mate is standing right beside it.
One nest provided a gruesome reminder of the challenges herons face in the modern world. While two birds went about their ways above, a third, dead heron hung from the underside of the nest.
“My guess is that it got tangled up in monofilament fishing line and died,” said Erick Greene, a University of Montana bird biologist who’s kept track of the Drummond rookery. “This is a major source of mortality for herons (like) ospreys with baling twine. I have done a lot of work on this issue – trying to reduce the amount of fishing line and baling twine that people leave out in the environment.”
Read the rest of the story here.
How’s spring progressing in MT? Check out our web cams
No matter where you are, it’s easy to keep track of Montana these days.
We’ve compiled a list of web cams – with links! – for everything from ski mountains to national parks.
As the state thaws, the cams are a good way to keep track of spring’s progress through the web cams.
Take second to check out our Web Cams of Montana page.
Come live in a Montana ghost town
Looking for an unusual summer gig this year?
You could really get to know Garnet Ghost Town, a popular Montana state park that brings in volunteers to run summer tours. The town’s needs a summer volunteer this year.
Perks: A summer spent outdoors getting to know one of the most historical places in the state.
BLM provides a private furnished cabin with propane stove and refrigerator, wood stove and a food stipend. Volunteers will provide visitor information, lead tours and handle sales of souvenirs.
Those interested could also work with area maintenance, assisting with special events and developing signs and exhibits. Background checks are required for all applicants.
Downsides: No running water. No Wi-Fi.
“It’s primitive, to say the least,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management Garnet Ranger Nacoma Gainan said. “It’s for people who love the outdoors and want to give back. There’s no electricity, no Wi-Fi and no running water. But there are trails to explore, artifacts to inspect. Volunteers are really left to their own devices after the visitors are gone.”
Still, if you’re hoping to apply, you better hurry. The story about the opening spread far and wide across the Internet.
Here’s the application instructions: Contact BLM Missoula Field Office by calling (406) 329-3735 or by email at email@example.com. For more information about Garnet, visit the Missoula Field Office’s website at blm.gov/j5ld or the Garnet Preservation Association’s site at blm.gov/k5ld.
Historic Yellowstone hotel gets national recognition
Big news for a big part of Yellowstone National Park: The historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
It is the oldest hotel inside America’s first national park.
Initially designed by architect N.L. Haller of Washington, D.C., and constructed in 1891, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel was entirely reconceived in the first decades of the 20th century by architect Robert C. Reamer as a grand resort hotel displaying the Colonial Revival style. Currently the park’s oldest hotel in existence, the building overlooks the north shore of Yellowstone Lake.
This comes after a $28.5 million renovation, according to the Billings Gazette story.
Here’s a little more about the renovation:
Perched along the north shore of Yellowstone Lake, the hotel is far from major attractions like Old Faithful and the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River, so it’s usually less crowded, hosting visitors who typically move at a slower pace.
The hotel first opened in 1891 as a three-story clapboard structure with 80 guest rooms. Between 1903 and 1937, a series of expansions led by architect Robert Reamer turned the hotel into a 210-room Colonial Revival style lakefront complex beloved for a its Ionic columns and genteel sun room, which still hosts string quartets and pianists performing for visitors taking a sweeping view of the largest alpine lake in North America.
Adding bathrooms to each guest room has cut the current room count to 153.
Learn more about our upcoming issue featuring Yellowstone here.
Pictured in History: Send us your #TBT photos
We love seeing photos from back in the day. And Throwback Thursday is the perfect time to share our collection of the great historical photos readers have sent us throughout the years.
Here’s a slideshow of some of our favorites from 2014.
And did you see this one of the “expert bullwhip specialist“? It’s one of my favorites from our archives.
Here’s a post about some vintage stories (including great photos!) from our more recent issues.
That should satiate your #tbt appetite, right?
Now, we need your help. Do you have historical or old family photos you’d like to share with Montana Magazine? We’d love to see them (and don’t forget to subscribe today so you can see all the historical photos in print).
You can email the images to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, including your information and a full description of the image.
Thanks for sharing!
Yellowstone roads set to open
It’s time to get your summer park plans in order. The mild winter around Montana means that the parks are beginning to awake early this year.
Portions of roads inside Yellowstone National Park (open to bikes only for a few weeks) are set to open Friday.
The road from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will open for the season at 8 a.m.
Each spring, Yellowstone National Park plow crews clear snow and ice from 198 miles of main road, 124 miles of secondary roads and 125 acres of parking lots inside the park, as well as 31 miles of the Beartooth Highway outside the park’s Northeast Entrance to prepare for the summer season.
Additional road segments in the park will open during May as road clearing operations progress.
We’ll be taking readers into both Yellowstone and Glacier in our upcoming Park-to-Park issue.
As for Glacier – here’s a look at plowing progress on Going-to-the-Sun-Road.
Want more of Montana all year? Subscribe today and don’t miss our Park-to-Park issue.
Behind our cover: Meet the western tanager
It’s a definite sign of spring when the tanagers come to Montana. They should be headed our way in the coming weeks.
We featured a beautiful male western tanager on our March/April 2015 cover just for that reason.
- Watch our cover come alive here
Photographer Michael Gallacher captured this little guy during a mass migration of the birds into Montana several springs ago.
Here’s a little bit more about our cover star bird: He was most likely following a hatch of bugs along western Montana rivers while making his way north during an annual migration. Tanagers are a medium-sized song bird that migrate north into many areas across Montana in the late spring. During their migration, tanagers frequent a wide variety of forest, woodland, scrub and partially open habitats, as well as various human-made environments such as orchards, parks and gardens, according to the Montana Field Guide. The male tanager is brightly colored, with a distinctive red head, while the female is olive green with yellow wing bars.
Here’s the Missoulian story about the tanager influx.
Get more of Montana (and get an up-close glimpse of our beautiful covers) by subscribing today!
1936: Fork Peck featured in Life magazine
Did you know that Life magazine’s first cover was a picture of Montana?
We went back to the archives for this one, but according to this Time.com piece from 2012, the November 1936 issue featured a cover, story and photos from Fort Peck dam taken by the wonderful Margaret Bourke-White. The story, photos and several unprinted photos were reprinted at Life.com
She wrote about the experience in her memoir:
I had never seen a place quite like the town of New Deal, the construction site of Fort Peck Dam. It was a pinpoint in the long, lonely stretches of northern Montana so primitive and so wild that the whole ramshackle town seemed to carry the flavor of the boisterous Gold Rush days. It was stuffed to the seams with construction men, engineers, welders, quack doctors, barmaids, fancy ladies and, as one of my photographs illustrated, the only idle bedsprings in New Deal were the broken ones.
You can see several of Bourke-White’s cover and several photos in the Time.com blog post about the issue.
Our May/June 2015 issue will feature at story about Fort Peck Theatre, which opened to entertain the workers building the dam. Don’t miss it! Subscribe today!