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Mountain Plover Research in Montana with Stephen J. Dinsmore, Ph.D.,

Iowa State University, IA

17–22 June 2003

Jon and Joyce Bahrenfus, Ogden, IA, and I met in Orin, WY on 15 June 2003 and camped and fished in the Big Horn National Forest until driving to Steve’s research site on 17 June 2003. The research site, located on BLM land in southern Phillips County, is a very dry shortgrass prairie habitat of buffalo grass, glacial pavement, and many prairie dog colonies, which is favored by nesting Mountain Plovers (MOPL). Steve has nine years of data for this site. Currently he, one of his graduate students, Theresa, and his technician, Tate, continue to band birds and collect data from this and another site in the vicinity. We traveled with Steve to many prairie dog colonies for several days and experienced full days of MOPL research. We then birded with him in the Little Rocky Mountains just west of Zortman and at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge near Malta, MT.

Jon, Joyce, and I left the research camp on 22 June 2003 and traveled through the Lewis and Clark National Forest (NF) to Red Lodge, MT. We went over a very cold Beartooth Pass at 10,947 ft., just over the border in WY, where we saw several Black Rosy-Finches that breed in the cliffs there. We continued on to Boysen State Park where we camped in the mist and rain and then on through a late June snowstorm in mid-WY and past Saratoga where we camped in the Medicine Bow NF, which only had one campground open due to deep snow! Jon and Joyce continued to IA and I entered the land of blue sky and sun after crossing the border into CO on Hwys. 230 and 125! We had a great experience with Steve and his colleagues and we thank him for showing us his MOPL research techniques. Below are a few photographs.


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Steve Dinsmore, with Kay Niyo and Joyce Bahrenfus above Missouri R. in MT, 6/20/03

Kay, Jon, Joyce above Missouri R. in MT, 6/20/03

MOPL near nest, 6/18/03

MOPL nest with three eggs pretty well camoflaged on glacial pavement, 6/18/03

MOPL nest with three brownish eggs similar in color to glacial pavement, 6/18/03

One MOPL egg pipped, 6/18/03

Steve holding a pipped MOPL egg from a nest, 6/18/03

Steve banding a MOPL captured in cage as it went back to its nest, 6/18/03

Steve holding a MOPL with four color bands, two per leg, 6/18/03

Steve banding another MOPL, 6/19/03

Steve holding banded MOPL for photograph, 6/18/03

Steve checking fat deposits on banded MOPL, 6/18/03

Steve extending wing of MOPL, 6/18/03

Steve weighing MOPL in bag, 6/18/03

Steve showing four color bands on MOPL, 6/18/03

Closeup of color bands, 6/18/03

MOPL chick, 6/19/03

MOPL chick, 6/18/03

Steve reaching for bands for MOPL chick, 6/18/03

MOPL chick banded and ready to release, 6/18/03

MOPL chick with bands, 6/18/03

Steve floats the eggs in water to check for viability and approximate age, 6/18/03

MOPL nests and eggs are well camoflaged. Steve takes GPS coordinates for every nest. 6/18/03

Willet chick, 6/20/03

Research camp dinner with Steve and technician, Tate, on left, 6/20/03

Research camp dinner with graduate student, Theresa, Joyce, and Jon on right, 6/20/03

Opuntia spp. of cactus, common on shortgrass prairie of northcentral Montana, 6/20/03

American Dipper nest in Lewis and Clark National Forest, 6/22/03

Partially frozen lake below Beartooth Pass, WY, 6/23/03

Black Rosy-Finch on top of Beartooth Pass, WY, 6/23/03

Another Black Rosy-Finch on top of Beartooth Pass, WY, 6/23/03

Alpine Forget-Me-Not (Eritrichum aretioides) on top of Beartooth Pass, WY, 6/23/03

Joyce and Jon at our first campsite at a Big Horn National Forest campground, 6/17/03


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Niyo Scientific Communications and Kay Niyo Photography
Phone: (303) 929-1194
E-mail: Kay@KayNiyo.com