My daughters and I made a run up into the Beartooths today, stopping along the way to check on our Lilly Lake bluebird nest.
We have a little history with this nest as we shared it with filmmakers for the Yellowstone: Battle For Life film. Two shots made the program but that was three years ago. The next year we were disappointed to find the cavity packed full of sticks, a practice of the sweet sounding but mean spirited wren. I happened to walk past it a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised to spot a bluebird leaving the hole! After three years it was active again! What makes this nest so appealing and why the BBC enjoyed filming it so much is the large size of the cavity opening. Instead of only one or two young showing at the entrance you can often see the entire brood.
I decided to hang out for a while and take a few feeding photos. The biting flies and mosquitoes soon became unbearable, so Kelly and Cassie retreated to the car. As I watched, the feedings came rapidly. Little caterpillars, large winged somethings and small moths were on the menu. Suddenly I noticed a flicker had appeared twenty feet from the nest. When the male returned and discovered the woodpecker he instantly attacked. Hitting the much larger bird in the chest and driving it out of the area. Now he was in an aggressive mood. A chipmunk was foraging down slope. With bill clicking the little male darted after the confused intruder, driving it to cover. He then perched in front of the nest defying anyone else to come near. A large shadow passed over me. I looked up to spot a raven. Instantly the bluebird hid itself deep in a maze of aspen leaves. When it was safe again, the male continued feeding. But instead of ranging far upslope it collected food nearby keeping the nest in view. All this time the female arrived every ten minutes or so with food, seemingly oblivious to what had been going on while she was away. I caught movement down slope. A bull moose appeared and began browsing on aspen saplings. I changed position to get a few shots of him, and then decided it was time to head on towards Beartooth Pass.
Kelly spotted a couple of goats from West Summit at 11,000 feet. They were too far to approach so we drove on. Just after crossing East Summit, I picked out four white specks below us, just above Twin Lakes. The girls were game, so we packed up some gear, then started down. A half hours hike found us on a ledge above the little band. It was made up of two yearlings, a nanny and her young kid. At first they were nervous but soon forgot about us and returned to browsing along a cliff edge. An hour passed quickly. It was nearing 11:00, time to head home.
The climb back to our car seemed twice as long as it took coming down. As we drove up Cooke Pass, a cow moose grazed in a meadow. A mule deer nursed her twin fawns just before Cooke city and a marten greeted us when we arrived at our cabin.