23 June 2008

Let Summer Begin: flowers blooming, trout feeding, snakes slithering

"Summer," of course, is a relative term. Here at 6,000 feet or so in the Northern Rockies, our yard flowers are just starting to bloom. It feels as though warm weather is here to stay. But the wet, cool weather has been great for poppies and lilacs:

The daisies and other volunteers have taken over the roadside near the mailbox:

And the birds seem to be happy now that there are some bugs around. Here's a male violet-green swallow near a nest box that he and his mate took over after they bullied the bluebirds out (Dave Carter tells me that, if nest boxes are set out in pairs within 50 feet of each other, the bluebirds & swallow will tolerate one another):

It's nice to see songbirds around Butte. Twenty years ago they were rare, but now many species are common. Even the western tanagers come through town. You know it's summer when the bitterroots begin to form their flower buds. They are about two weeks later than last year:

Fishing on the Big Hole River has been excellent, despite the high water that makes wading difficult for us non-boating anglers. Howard Smith (Moulton Road, Butte) and I fit in a quick campout last week in a favorite spot where the chokecherries were blooming. Their pungent scent hung in the cool air along the river canyon:

Near camp, we came across this very beautiful prarie rattlesnake (about 30 inches long) crossing the road to get from a dry sagebrush hillside to the cool, lush grass along the river:

Some Butte guys pulled up near us as we were shepherding the rattler safely across the road. The son of the good old boy that was driving pulled out a revolver, held it across the front of his father's face, and was going to shoot the snake. I yelled sharply, "Don't kill that snake!" and to my amazement they did not, though they were grumbling and cussing as they drove away. I did not even have to reach for the Ruger .357 magnum on my hip.

Howard, RTD, and I found a lovely, shaded campsite in a delightful little spot at the end of a long, bad road. After an hour or two, I convinced Howard there were no more snakes and he finally got out of the truck. Ponderosa pines grow here--a rare sight in the Big Hole. Somehow, in numerous trips to this area, I had overlooked this spot on previous trips. Here's Howard (aka "the dog killer") and RTD, lounging at camp:

As the heat of the day retreated, it was time for a little fishing. The salmonflies and other big stone flies had not emerged yet, but big nymphs fished dead drift along the bottom worked very well. We killed just one trout for supper:

Montana surf & turf--in this case, antelope steaks and a rainbow trout on the grill:

After a good night's sleep and a little morning fishing, it was time to go. Jim Handley had put together a two-day float on the Big Blackfoot River beginning the next day, and Jan & I had some packing to do.