June skies over the Centennial ValleyJune skies over the Centennial Valley – Nikon D200, handheld, f16, 1/180, ISO 320, +1.3 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 18mm, natural light

Gray winter days make me think of spring and one of the places that I most often think of is the Centennial Valley of Montana. The Centennial Valley says “home” to me with the expansive views it offers of not only the valley but the Centennial Mountains and the Lower Lake and beyond.

I wonder what birds and animals I will see on my next visit. The Sandhill Cranes will call in the morning and Red-tailed Hawks will be in the trees. The Swainson’s Hawks will soar in the sky and their young will perch on fence posts and learn how to hunt.  I hope that this year the Short-eared Owls will nest in the valley again. Savannah Sparrows will singing from bushes and fence rails and the Tree Swallows and Mountain Bluebirds will fight over nest boxes.

Hopefully I will see the Yellow-bellied Marmots scurrying around on the rocks and the other large and small creatures of the valley including Moose, Elk Mule Deer, Ground Squirrels and Chipmunks. The air will buzz from the wings of bees and dragonflies will flit about. Butterflies will sip the nectar of the abundant wildflowers. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is a glorious place to be.

Centennial Mountain rock faceCentennial Mountain rock face – Nikon D300, handheld, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 320,  Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 200mm, natural light

I can hear the Centennial Valley beckoning to me even as I sleep and I don’t mind a bit.