Monday, September 24, 2012

Video: Summer on and around Flat Ranch

If you haven't been to The Nature Conservancy's Flat Ranch Preserve, maybe this video will entice you. Our summer intern, James Freeman, filmed this footage on the preserve and around Island Park. The whole area is amazing - just a fantastic place for families to visit.

The Flat Ranch Preserve is right off of the main highway, just outside of West Yellowstone, and now has a full-time manager, Matt Ward. Enjoy our visitor's center, newly constructed trail, wildlife watching and unique fishing opportunities at the head of the Henry's Fork. From June to August we host an educational series.

Click here to read more about visiting Flat Ranch.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sage grouse spotting!

Our friend and volunteer Ken Miracle spotted sage grouse this week while exploring the Owyhees. The Conservancy's restoration team has been working to enhance habitat in this area for the past few years.

Here's his report from the field:
We endured the dusty bumpy road to the Uriquidi property scheduled for a wet meadow habitat enhancement project. In this dry year it was clear that this project should be very beneficial to brood rearing and summer forage habitat enhancement.

We saw deer and antelope while driving in the area but did not see any Sage Grouse.  After looking over the habitat, stalking antelope and shore birds we hiked around the ridge just before the road drops down to the project sight.  I found some old sage grouse droppings but no birds and not the best warm day habitat.

After driving around some more and seeing very little sign about 2:30 we proceeded south west up a draw to a dry pond where an archery antelope hunter had reported seeing sage grouse.  We proceeded to hike the area searching for sign and as you can see from the photos I started finding old signs. Surveying the area I saw what looked like it could be good resting habitat for a sunny warm afternoon. As I headed into that habitat I started seeing fresher droppings and then looking down into another dry pond I spotted a dark spot under a sage at about 150 yards.  Checking in out through my binoculars I knew I had found Sage Grouse.

I stalked in closer and encountered about 15 birds.  I then withdrew from that area and headed higher to the south west toward an area where I expected to find some older toms away from the broods and found two pairs and then headed back to the vehicle so I would not disturb any more birds.

Outstanding view of the Owyhees on a beautiful Fall day. Photo ©Ken Miracle

Cattle grazing near a creek. Photo ©Ken Miracle

Sage grouse droppings. Photo ©Ken Miracle

Sage grouse in flight. Photo ©Ken Miracle

Soaring through the sky. Photo ©Ken Miracle

Sage grouse hunkering down in the bush. Photo ©Ken Miracle