Saturday, June 30, 2018

My Hiking Journal: Entries 12 and 13

Yesterday, I was watering my neighbor's garden, and the tree swallows were dive-bombing me in an attempt to protect the youngsters in the nesting boxes nearby.  It brought to mind our kayaking trip last July, when we floated past a large cliff wall riddled with holes made by bank swallows.

Friday, July 7, 2017 - Whitefish River - 8 miles

Our son shuttled us with a put-in at Kay Beller Park and a take-out at the Highway 40 bridge.  During the 3-hour paddle, herons would lift slowly and silently from a marshy inlet to find a spot without people.  Numerous painted turtles lined up nose to tail on every available log, and were ambivalent to the yellow creature drifting past.  Only the yellow iris tucked among the still-short bulrushes, and the occasional goldfinch, could compete with the brightness of our inflatable kayak.

Mid-way through our journey, we approached a curve and immediately noticed a dramatic increase in bird traffic.  And then we saw the cliff wall and the birds flying to and from it.  As I learned later, the Bank Swallow is usually seen in flocks, flying low over ponds and rivers with quick, fluttery wingbeats.  It nests in dense colonies, in hole in dirt or sand banks.  Some of these colonies are quite large, and a tall cut bank may be pockmarked with several hundred holes.  Despite their small size, tiny bills and small feet, these swallows generally dig their own nesting burrows, sometimes up to five feet long.
I took this video of the bank swallows on Whitefish River, and got a pleasant bonus at the end.

While Man with Hat didn't hook any fish that day, we watched birds on the wing snagging dragonflies and other winged insects that flitted about the river's surface.  At one point, a bald eagle flapped serenely over the river, and unseen hawks called to each other from the thick stands of trees.  A deer near the river's edge lifted a dripping, shiny nose to assess our threat, and then slowly retreated to the woods.

Two pairs of kayakers each shared the waterway that day, exchanging only a nod in our direction as they glided downriver.  It seemed no one wanted to break the peace of the summer day, punctuated by nothing louder than the buzz of insect wings and the twitter of the birds.

Saturday, July 8, 2017 - Middle Fork, Flathead River - 8 miles

Yes, we went kayaking two days in a row.  You might as well, when you have all your gear together, but it probably had more to do with our son's work schedule accommodating another shuttle!

We put in around 11 am at Cascadilla Creek, an apparently good time for entry given that we saw very little traffic ahead of us throughout the 4-hour journey (we stopped three times for Man with Hat to fish). The take-out at Moccasin Creek at 3 pm was a different story - clearly it was a key launching time for the rafting companies - at least a dozen craft hovered creekside while loading up tourists lathered in sun cream and bug repellent!
But I have skipped 4 hours of beauty, so let me re-wind!

A picturesque wilderness whitewater river offers many opportunities to the boater.  Splendid views.

This Pike Minnow was a feisty fellow

Upper Middle: Oxeye Daisy; Lower Middle: Harebell; Lower Right: Pearly Everlasting
Upper Right: Nodding Onion; Lower Right: St. Johnswort


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Friday, June 22, 2018

Fountains Abbey (Showing Off a "Small Island" #8)

365 days ago, we were in the UK.  As I look out the window at the Montana hills, dappled with early morning sunshine, last summer truly seems a world and a lifetime away.  But the pictures in my archives hold a story begging to be written, so here I am at the computer, exhilarated to deliver Part 8 of last summer's holiday (read: vacation).

This post continues my series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7) documenting our joy in guiding my sister and her husband through a small slice of the cultural delights that Northeastern England has to offer.  June 22, 2017?  Must be Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.

(I can still remember the day I first heard about Fountains Abbey - Spousal Unit RAVED about this paradise that he had visited with his parents and the kids.  Now, keep in mind that Spousal Unit is from the UK and has seen many historical sites.  So a RAVE from him really means something.)
The kids at the Abbey in 2008

My enthusiasm for the Abbey springs from the slow reveal.  You pass this sign and stroll a wandering path, and your eyes suddenly gaze upon the Elizabethan Fountains Hall.  OK, not the Abbey.

Exploring the cottage garden of the Hall, you cross a footbridge and the waterway pulls your eyes toward the Fountains Mill built by the Cistercians in the 12th century.  OK, still not the Abbey.

And then, there She is.  Fountains Abbey - one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England.  Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for 407 years, becoming one of the wealthiest monasteries in England until its dissolution in 1539 under the order of Henry VIII.

And there's more … the stream that led you from the cottage to the Mill to the Abbey meanders downhill and is transformed - into the Studley Royal Water Garden.  During the 18th century, John Aislabie had a breath-taking vision to impress visitors to his Yorkshire estate and so turned the surrounding woods and valleys into the Georgian water gardens we see today.

Of course, a National Trust site would not be worth its cottons without a tea shop.  And by this time, we needed some nourishment!
Upper right - that Jackdaw was keeping a close eye on my lentil soup and crusty bread!

And there's more … the magnificent St. Mary's Church is one of the finest examples of High Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in England.  It was designed in the 1870s by the flamboyant architect William Burges, and has been called his 'ecclesiastical masterpiece'.  The church was built by the Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon following a tragic family death in 1870.  Its extravagantly decorated interior is influenced by 13th century English gothic styles, and displays colored marble, stained glass, a splendid organ and gilded figures in all their original glory.

By the time we arrived at the church, it had JUST closed.  My sister charmed the docent into opening the door for a 'quick peek'.  So most of my pictures of the stunning edifice are from outside!

We closed our visit (as you do) with a quick look 'round the gift shop.  I was entranced with the site map - there was more that we had not explored!!!

So, now you know why this page of the diary was calling out to me.  Rolling vistas that MY words cannot describe.  Sudden ruins that pop up from the earth - what hands wrought this beauty, and what other hands sought to wipe it out.  An opportunity to return and see even more of this delightful valley.  
I do think we'll be back.

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Our World Tuesday Graphic

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Another Day in the Neighborhood

When we moved to the country, I fully expected to encounter wildlife in all its forms, and this post is testimony to that dream, fulfilled.  And we've only been here 60 days!

My trail cam is the gift that keeps on giving … like a kid on Christmas morning, I retrieve the SIM card every few days and practically jog back to the house to see what has been wandering around the 'back 40'.

On May 23, the beaver(s) worked from 7.53 pm to 2.30 am as
documented by the trail cam.  A couple of days later, the trail cam
captured the lower right hand shot of mist rising off the lake as    
the sun rises.  I call it "Swimming Home from Work". 
If you read my May 23 post, you know that an active beaver pair has dammed the lake on the edge of our property.  At that time, I did not have any of my own pictures of the beaver … a situation that has now been rectified!

In my six months with the trail cam, I have learned that it can capture changes in the environment in addition to candid shots of animals (such as snow disappearing, in my May 10 post).  While the trail cam was focused on the beaver dam, it documented the sunset and the resulting reflections in the lake.

And I love this picture of the 'bubbles' on the lake's surface, created by large raindrops.

You may be wondering how I decide on the location of the trail cam - mostly it involves observing events (beaver is building a dam) and positioning the camera accordingly.  From my blogging perch on the deck, I noticed a dead tree frequented by Columbian Ground Squirrels.  Turned out to be a good choice for a photo studio!
Good morning, madam!

Let's see - safe to take a snooze?

Oh, this sun feels SOOO good ...

Yeah, baby, this is the life …
Until that TURKEY shows up!
Of course, some forms of wildlife are not welcome, and can be a downright nuisance or problem.  Within a 24-hour period, we discovered a carpenter ant invasion (not a good thing in a log home) and a squirrel that had set up house in the bottom of the barbecue.  The latter was easily solved (remove the nest - no babies, folks!) but the ants will require ongoing vigilance ….

(And now I have an inkling who was scratching away at my patio cushions … could it be the squirrel in search of nesting material?)  We now have our cushions safely stored in this handy dandy shed!

(And then there was the recent episode with the fan in my 4runner, which was making flapping noises.  Upon servicing it, the technician showed Spousal Unit a large hole that had been gnawed in the air filter!!!  Apparently, this is a frequent event with vehicles that are parked outside in Montana.  Good thing that our garage now has space for both cars to be inside!)

Swallows had won the nesting boxes from the mountain bluebirds, but then the squirrels came along and made the entrances larger by gnawing around the circumference of the hole.  Exit the swallows … Grrrr.  (Are you noticing a repetitive villain here by the moniker of SQUIRREL?)

When I need to calm myself (how dare those carpenter ants chew MY logs?), I go for a walk.  And I find plenty to distract me.  First, geese flying overhead.  Listen for the flapping wings …

And the flowers always put me in a better mood!!!
Upper left: Cinquefoil; Upper Middle: Blue Violet;
Upper Right: Butter and Eggs
Lower left: reflection in lake; Lower right: Shooting Star

Top and lower right: Painted turtle -  I ran into
this turtle on the old logging road on our
property, and was amazed to see it several
days in a row, including an episode of 
apparent egg laying not too far from our
deck … Middle left: Narrowleaf Collomia
Middle right: Rose
Lower left: Starry Wild Lily of the Valley

And there's almost always some sort of surprise, like this turtle in the middle of the road!

Last year, we had no rain for over 90 days, spanning most of the summer.  So, although I haven't checked the stats, I know we have already accumulated more rain in June than we had all of last summer.  I love watching the sky as the storm clouds move in.

Spousal Unit, from his chair near the great room windows, had observed the lone coyote loping by in the dusk, so I moved my trail cam in the hopes of capturing more shots of this iconic hunter.  So far, no luck with the coyote, but maybe I got something even better … (please note that the trail cam was only 20 yards from our house for these shots.)


Black bear

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