A Visit to Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge with two Humphrey Fellows

Spring in the Bitterroot Valley

May 2019

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Dona and I recently took a course in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at the University of Montana. We should have taken the course about the time we got married, as it would have been a big help when we were teaching in Namibia; better late than never. As part of the course we had to do a practicum which involved student teaching and/or tutoring.

Dona did part of her practicum working with visitors in the Humphrey Fellowship program. The University of Montana helps the Humphrey Fellows through a Long-Term English program when they first come to the United States.

A few of the fellows were particularly interested in wildlife, so one day we took two of them on a visit to Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.

We hiked around the refuge with Hlaing Hlaing Htoon, from Myanmar, and Alain Georges Moukoko, from Gabon. We were there mid-day, so it wasn't the best time, but we saw some good stuff anyway.

Whenever we were near the Bitterroot River we found evidence of beavers, but we didn't see any actual beaver. No big surprise there, since it was the middle of the day and they are generally nocturnal. Fortunately, the visitors' center was open and they had a stuffed one in there Alain and Hlaing Hlaing could look at up close.

Dona was looking for wildflowers as well as birds; she found a few but not as many as we had hoped.

Tree Beaver
Tree cut down by a Beaver
Photo by Dona
Flower Jacobs Ladder Polemonium Pulcherrimum
Jacobs Ladder
Polemonium Pulcherrimum

Photo by Dona

One of the first birds we saw was a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. We don't see them at our place and they are always a treat since they are so colorful. There were some Northern Flickers around; they are a bit shy and if the light isn't right it's hard to get a good picture of them.

Bird Yellow Rumped Warbler Myrtle
Yellow Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Setophaga coronata
Bird Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker
Colaptes auratus

Photo by Dona

The first Canada Goose we found was nesting; later on we found some with goslings sticking tight like glue. We were surprised at how green the goslings were; others I have seen always appeared more yellow. Then there were the inevitable grouchy ones.

Bird Canada Goose
Canada Goose
Branta canadensis
Bird Canada Goose
Canada Goose and green(!) goslings
Bird Canada Goose
Angry Canada Goose

As usual, there were quite a few different ducks around. We found Common Mergansers on the river; the rest were on various ponds within the refuge.

Bird Common Merganser
Common Merganser
Mergus merganser

Bird Cinnamon Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Spatula cyanoptera
Bird Green Winged Teal
Green Winged Teal
Anas crecca

Bird Redhead
Bird Redhead

Aythya americana

Bird Mallard
Anas platyrhynchos
Bird American Wigeon
American Wigeon
Mareca americana

Bird Ring Necked Duck
Ring Necked Duck
Aythya collaris
Bird American Coot
American Coot
Fulica americana

Photo by Dona

Bird Bufflehead
Photo by Dona
Bird Northern Shoveler
Northern Shoveler
Photo by Dona

Bird Magpie
Pica hudsonia
Bird Killdeer
Charadrius vociferus
Bird Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove
Zenaida macroura

There were quite a few California Quail wandering around. We don't have them up where we live and they are such cool-looking birds! It's pretty amazing that something would evolve like that.

If anyone can identify the left-hand bird below, please let me know. I've been through our Sibley's guide twice and can't find it.

Bird Hairy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Dryobates villosus

Photo by Dona
Bird California Quail
California Quail
Callipepla californica

Bird Tree Swallow
Bird Tree Swallow
Photo by Dona

Tree Swallow
Tachycineta bicolor

Bird Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey
Meleagris gallopavo

Photo by Dona
Bird Red Winged Blackbird
Red Winged Blackbird
Agelalus phoeniceus
Bird European Starling
European Starling
Sturnus vulgaris

There were Great Blue Herons at the margins of the marshes, looking for their next meal.

Bird Great Blue Heron
Bird Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron
Ardea herodias

Photos by Dona

There was an osprey nest with some chicks in it; mom or dad was busy looking for food; we didn't get very close and s/he didn't give us much of a fly-by.

Bird Osprey
Pandion haliaetus

It was a warm spring day, and the painted turtles were out basking in the sun. The one below was pretty laid back — he let Alain and me get somewhat close to take a picture.

Painted Turtle
Painted Turtle
Photo by Dona

Painted Turtle
Chrysemys picta

When we stopped by the visitors' center there were Columbian Ground Squirrels running all over.

Columbian Ground Squirrel
Columbian Ground Squirrel
Spermophilus columbianus

On a short walk from the visitors' center we found the remains of a deer, maybe killed during the winter by a coyote. Back at the visitors' center, Alain enjoyed seeing some geese up close.

Alain Deer Carcass
Alain Deer Carcass
Photo by Dona
Alain Moukoko Canada Geese
Alain Moukoko Canada Geese
Photo by Dona