There’s been abundant spring rain on the prairies and foothills around Red Lodge, Montana, the area I call home. Though the weather isn’t so great for sprouting garden seeds or setting out tomatoes, it’s nurtured thick, tall stands of grass on the hayfields and native prairies.
About this time of year, I like to putter down the backroads at dawn, on the lookout for wildlife, particularly the lark buntings, meadowlarks, upland sandpipers and American kestrels that frequent the grasslands. Though these species find their sustenance in the blooms, buds and bugs at or near ground level, that’s not where I usually spot them. They’re on the fence posts, and other man-made perches — things like tractors, center-pivot irrigation pipes and the occasional road sign.
The photographer in me fervently wishes that all fence posts were of the original variety, cut with axes, set in holes dug with shovels by homesteaders, some that have valiantly secured strands of barbwire for nearly a century. These posts came from native junipers with dense, aromatic, burnished red heartwood that resists rot for decades. They’re a much pretty perch for an upland sandpiper than a shiny aluminum irrigation pipe.
But even when their toes are clutching more modern articles of agriculture, I’m still delighted to see the birds.