Since our daughters were not home for Easter, Cindy and I decided to do our annual spring run to Cody via I-90 then south at Laurel. As always our main objective was our golden eagle and great gray owl nests. As we neared the eagle nest a golden eagle soared overhead and we were excited. But the nest was empty! A fresh green pine bough lying on top of the nest gave us hope but last year she had been on the aerie for two weeks by now. I guess we’ll call it inconclusive. We’ll know for sure when the road opens from Cooke City to Cody in a month.
Climbing up over Dead Indian Pass we were amazed how little snow was on the ground. Of course when we reached the location of the great gray owl nest the snow was easily two feet deep. I did not bring snowshoes so I waded into the nest wearing only hiking shoes. I got wet. Very wet. And the nest was empty.
Two more golden eagle aeries were empty and I wandered if nesting could just be late this year. At a fourth nest site we found nothing inside but an eagle perched nearby.
When you really think about it, it makes sense. The birds would probably wait until after Easter. Why would they chance having rabbits sneaking in to steal their eggs!
We stayed in Cody for the night and rechecked our eagle nest the next morning. Still empty. We worked our way north to Red Lodge and drove the Old Bozeman Trail toward Columbus. In the past we found a lot of bird life in the rolling hills, aspen groves and arroyos along the sleepy looping highway dotted with ranches. We weren’t disappointed. Sandhill cranes flew overhead and pranced about the hayfields. Meadowlarks sung from the fence rows. Our first osprey of the year perched near its nest. A northern shrike hunted from a fence post. We spotted a heron rookery with easily a dozen nests containing great blues.
Over all the trip was mildly successful. It’s too early to dismiss our regular nests. Hopefully when I return in a month, they will be occupied.
Some old friends returned to our cabin last week. Our grizz with the blond shoulder stripe emerged from its den. I was happy to spot it at Pebble Creek far away from our house. A marten from last winter has finally returned. It’s funny, I just looked out the window and there he is now sitting on the stump. He is one of the brothers.