16 February 2009

Alien Inspection, Take Two

Or: The Return To The Tower

Some days I love my job. Once again, I got to go adventuring around a distant county, on the backside of Devils Tower and the Missouri Buttes. In a reverse of my last expedition, the day started out gray and ominous, and turned to bright blue skies by lunch. The highlight was the plethora of wildlife we observed, including 21 bald eagles. (Yes, we kept count.)

The first pair flew across the road on a wooded curve, startled up from eating roadkill by our passage. I think both my coworker and I flinched at the sheer size passing by the windshield. We saw several more on that stretch of road leading to Hulett. Luckily, traffic was sparse, so I had my camera ready and my colleague was prepared to pull over at a moment's notice. Of course the drawback to a semi-cheap digital camera is inability to get closeups, or real action shots.

But as honkin' big as bald eagles are, they were easy to spot in the sky. We scared several more on a back road, feeding off a dead deer on the side of the road.

WARNING: Do NOT click on the pic to enlarge it if you do not want to see an eagle gnawed dead deer.

Strangely enough, there was also a dead cow not 2 miles down the road, untouched by anything. It must have died in the night, and the eagles hadn't discovered it yet. Or beef wasn't what was on their menu.

We saw enough live animals to make up for the dead ones.

Turkey, whitetail deer, horses, live cows, hawks, more eagles, more turkey, ranch dogs, and did I mention the overly friendly ranch horses? They swarmed the truck the instant we came over the cattleguard, and seemed quite miffed we didn't offer them a treat, or at least some of our coffee.

The whitetails were everywhere, watching us. Like the turkeys of the last expedition, every time we stopped to take a picture, they got shy, or bounced off, flag tails in the air.

The strangest thing we saw in our travels had wildlife (deer) around it, but wasn't alive itself - as far as we could tell. Mixed in with normal stacks of hay, was a strange, caterpillar shaped object. Since the deer were quite intent on gnawing at the seams of the plastic, we reluctantly concluded the white tubular objects were... hay condoms. There was no other explanation. After documenting the alien objects for posterity, we moved on.

We got to see some pretty sights, also. The backside of the Missouri Buttes in a bright afternoon sky.

By the end of the day, we'd circled almost all the way around the Missouri Buttes, and as we headed for home, they sank on the horizon.

We made our way out of alien environs, pausing to be glad our school was in a bit better shape than the one we found out in the wilds.

After a fun filled day of eagle watching and sliding around on muddy back roads, we were glad to see the office. I left it up to my colleague to explain to her husband why his nice, shiny white truck now matched the red-gray scoria of county back roads, and why there was horse slobber all down the driver's side door...



Anonymous said...

Loved the landscape shots, could have done without the carrion. We used to have two bald eagles around here, but they disappeared last year.

Still have a couple families of deer, and the fox that lives next door as somehow managed to avoid the roaming dogs and raise two litters of kits.


Constance said...

C'mon, Kris, carrion is that whole circle of life thing... Besides, I was in photographer mode, and more interested in the colors, cause, now that you mention it... eww...

I always forget how big eagles are until you get right up near them. Wow.

Carla said...

Amazing. 21 bald eagles is incredible. I've seen golden eagles in Scotland but never more than two in a day.

David Anthony Durham said...


I just stopped in for a visit and enjoyed the pics!

kc heath said...

Awesome photos!

I really enjoyed the trip, even if it was a cyber one :)

My favorite picture was the Friendly Horses--real cute :)

Thanks for sharing.

Meghan said...

I too loved the landscape shots. Just beautiful.

Constance said...

Carla, they just did a count in our area and came up with 197 bald eagles, and 72 golden eagles in the Powder River Basin (our area). I never get tired of seeing them.

Constance said...

Hey David, thanks for stopping in. The pics are a tiny fraction of what I actually photographed that day. I do love digital for the ability to click to your heart's content...

Constance said...

KC - I was thinking it would be hard to explain hoofprints on the side of the truck, harder still if they were in the front seat!

Constance said...

Meghan - it's easy to take pretty pictures of my part of Wyoming. Just point and shoot, usually. And look out for wildlife. :)

Gabriele C. said...

I love the horses, too. :)

And you got some spectacular landscape there, despite its lack of trees.

Constance said...

Gabriele - horses always liven up the day. Like big dogs.. with big curiosity.

Wyoming is pretty photographable, no matter where you are. :)