14 April 2011

Skywatch Friday: Springtime in the Rockies, Dancing Cranes, Talking Ravens

It's spring in the northern Rocky Mountains of Southwest Montana. Some days, we wake up to fresh snow (view to the East Ridge of the Continental Divide, Butte Montana; note the open-pit copper mine against the ridge, and the 80-foot tall statue of "Our Lady of the Rockies"on the ridge just above the large blasting scar):

On a trip to the nearby Big Hole River valley (East Slope/Mississippi R; Butte is West Slope/Columbia R), we saw the annual dance of a pair of Rocky Mountain Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis). Though they mate for life, each year they go through this ritual before breeding. First they greet:

Then they strut, often in step with one another:

And then they dance:


Meanwhile, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soared high overhead:

We didn't dance or fly, but we did stop for burgers at the Wise River Club (pictured from left: Mrs Rover, Emma MacKenzie, Rose MacKenzie, and in front, MollyTheDog):

I usually walk to and from work at my little college, and over the years I've gotten to know the local ravens. I was pouring a cup of coffee and watching out my office when one flew by, and so I said "Hi!" (in Ravenspeak, that's "Quork!"). Sure enough, Raven landed on the building across from my window:

Assumed the characteristic posture:

And we had a nice chat:

You can listen to the language of the Raven People at the Cornell Ornithology Lab website.

Ah, life in a preterite mining town. Just below my home in Walkerville, I noticed emergency vehicles and warning cones. Hmmm... what's this? A giant pothole?

Oh yeah, "subsidence." An old mine shaft has collapsed, opening up a car-sized hole in the pavement above. The neighbor told me his son was parked there overnight and everything was OK when he drove off to school this morning (lucky!):

Robin Hood! Snow or shine, I try to shoot a few arrows from my new longbow every day. Back in the day when I shot competitive archery with a recurve target bow and aluminum arrows, it was not uncommon to shoot an arrow into another arrow, peeling it open like a can-opener. This is called a "Robin Hood." I didn't think it was possible with wooden cedar arrows. Oops... I guess it is:

Well, not to be a whiner, but it can stop snowing any day now. If you're experiencing sunny weather, send some this way!


Sylvia K said...

Oh, it does look so cold! Gorgeous skies in your first shot! Love your raven friend! Hope you have a great weekend!


Arija said...

OK,OK, I was casting no aspersions in my comment on your last post! Congratulations on your 'Robin Hood', what is the next step, the Olympics?
I love where you live, not necessarily with car-sized potholes to the centre of the earth though.

Aren't cranes great? We have Brolgas that are quite a bit larger and dance around desert waterholes in groups . . . quite a sight.

Enjoy the melt, the spring flowers will be up to your knees in no time.

The Write Girl said...

I love the story of the mating cranes. So beautiful. You weave such a lovely story in these photos :)

Arija said...

Forsooth, I did not think I was quite that antiquated, but at a pinch I could pen my comments in Chaucer's delightful Old English -:)

msdewberry said...

Winter sure has been long enough. Some places more than others. The warm would be nice.
Nice set of photos!

troutbirder said...

Robin... I mean Eco. Wow what a shot! Our specialty here is "sinkholes", however, they don't usually appear suddenly overnight. I'm a little shakey on remembering Big Hole valley towns. If memory does serve me is there a big summer gunswap/show in Wise River? I think, maybe, we used to hang around a flyshop in Wisdom on really rainy days. :)

Naturegirl said...

An interesting series of images. I can't send you any sunshine from where I am ...lots of icy water ...hoping it will warm up in our worlds.Ask the raven to find some sun...there are wise birds.

EcoRover said...

@Arija: Sandhill Cranes are fairly large--up to 8-foot wingspan. Hard to tell from the lack of perspective in my pics.

Anonymous said...

Well, you had a lively week! I guess we won't complain about the pot holes around here, anymore. Mine shafts under the roads??

We are having sunny weather here, The sky is beautiful, but it is only 41ยบ outside. Spring is slow coming.

I loved the cranes, the eagle, and the raven!

secret agent woman said...

There's a big sandhill crane habitat south of here - it's something to see when they are there mid-migration.

WIsh I could send you some of our sunny weather!

Merri said...

what a great bird day you had! and of course the Raven was icing on the cake.
I still have to write my Raven story about my Raven rescue, but 'Hoss' is still around here, they are nesting down the creek (were up the creek last year, and they lost both babies), and he shows up in the trees to croak here about every day, and I SWEAR it's Hoss and he comes to say hi to me.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Anonymous said...

There are 40,000 miles under the city of Butte. Many of the main shafts go as deep as 6,000 feet deep. The city is hallow