28 May 2010

Pronghorn Antelope, Elk, Wildflowers

Perhaps spring has finally come to the Continental Divide, East & West Slopes, near Butte Montana. For the first time this week, the passing storm fronts did not bring snow. Rain, precious spring rain. And temperatures above freezing!

Nature responds. As the hills green up, Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocarpa americana) have returned to their summer range on the prairie of the upper Big Hole River valley:

We should be seeing elk calves over the next week or so. As Mike Mulligan, MollyTheDog, and I were fishing No Tellum Creek in the Pintler, the cow Elk (Cervus canadensis) spotted us from a sagebrush bench between the flood plain and the timber:

Instead of fading back into the trees, she came down the hill, crossed the creek, and cavorted back & forth nearby. Poor MTD quivered with excitement. I realized what was going on, and let her give a brief chase. Cow Elk ran across the meadow of the floodplain, leading MollyCoyote-Wolf away from the hill. Surely this was a Mother Cow with a newborn calf hidden up in the sagebrush or perhaps in the willows across the creek from us:

In the rich soil, moist soils along the creek, Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana):

And Blue Violet (Viola adunca) are blooming:

Up on the dry glacial till of the open prairie bench, there is a carpet of Pretty Shooting Stars (Dodecathon pulchellum -- both purple and white), Biscuitroot (Lomatium cous), and Leafy Bluebells (Mertensia oblongifolia):

Back in town, on the West Slope of the Divide, a century of mining & smelting took their toll on the soil. But life, and spring, will not be denied. Cutleaf Daisy (Erigeron compositus) has been ready to bloom for the past month, and has  been brought forth by the spring rains and warmer weather:

On its heels, Scorpionweed (Phacelia hastata) is ready to open:

Walking the mile-and-a-half from my home in Walkerville to my college office today, it felt SO good to have rain running off my old Stetson and across the shoulders of my elk-leather coat. Spring: Bring It On!


Anonymous said...

Those flowers must be really hardy. Snow and wildflower posts side by side. I always enjoy your photos.

Janie said...

Great shots of the spring flowers and the greening hills.

Arija said...

Oh, I do enjoy your nature posts so much with botanical names that engender so misunderstandings.