Marty’s photo of the day #3717: As a wildlife photographer, I’m naturally drawn to animals of the more exotic variety. But sometimes common animals, like this barn swallow and chick, are just waiting to show that they can be interesting subjects too.

While visiting Montana’s American Prairie Reserve earlier this month, Deb, Nellie, and I stayed in three very different locations. Our first night was in our tent at Buffalo Camp; our next two nights were in a cabin at Antelope Creek Campground; and our final two nights were in a beautiful yurt on the opposite side of the reserve. The idea was to start out rough and to get a bit more civilized as our stay continued. However, since water was always something we either had to bring with us or walk for, and internet and cell towers were always out of range, even our yurt required a bit of roughing it.

We all fell in love with Buffalo Camp, which was an open area of prairie with RV sites on one side and tent platforms on the other. The drive to get there required navigating fifty miles of dirt roads that I couldn’t imagine many people risking with an RV. So when none of them occupied the camp, I wasn’t surprised. What did surprise me was that no one showed up with a tent either. Yes, we had Buffalo Camp all to ourselves. It was heaven!

And yes, bison could walk through camp at any moment. We did some hiking while being careful that our dog, Nellie, didn’t step on any prickly pear cactus. Months earlier we bought her some protective booties in anticipation of the cactus, but Nellie panicked every time we tried to put the booties on her (she was a stray before we adopted her, and I’m guessing she had a previous bad experience involving her feet). Fortunately, Nellie seemed to naturally avoid the cactus—although that didn’t stop Deb and I from worrying that sooner or later she’d make a mistake, and we’d have to pull spines out from between her toes.

Highlights of Buffalo Camp included huge bison bulls, hilarious prairie dogs, a stunning sunset, and lying beside our tent drinking whiskey-Cokes while watching the most spectacular display of stars I’d ever seen. Montana is “Big Sky Country” for a reason, and here there were no electric lights for many miles and a new moon to boot.

Regarding today’s photo: During the heat of the day we spent some time in a small pavilion that shaded a few picnic tables. It was under there where I spotted this barn swallow nest. Two chicks occupied the nest, and if we sat real quiet, mom and dad would feed them. If you enlarge this photo on your screen, you can actually see the insect the chick is about to eat.


Photos and stories from our American Prairie Reserve adventure will continue tomorrow and for the next week or so.