Birds Gather Around Mountain Ash Trees in the Bitterroot
In the most recent Bitterroot Outdoor Journal, November 9, Bob Danley talked about how the food chain winds around a tree called the Mountain Ash. It is not native to our Western Montana area, but has done well when planted. It has an abundance of fruit that ripens from green to orange to red. Birds like the berries. Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings eat insects during the warm weather, but switch to fruit in the fall and winter. The large winter flocks find the Mountain Ash trees and settle in for a banquet (see photo).
That feeding location makes a nice target for a bird-eating falcon called the Merlin. Merlins winter in the Bitterroot, at the same time as the Bohemian waxwings. The Merlin eats dragonflies in the warm weather, but also takes down small birds like the house sparrow and an occasional Waxwing - Bob says about two birds a day in the Merlin diet. There's your food chain - Mountain Ash fruit, Waxwing birds, Merlin falcons. And see below for a photo of a Merlin, which used to be called a Pigeon Hawk. The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard weekly on KLYQ 1240 AM and klyq.com.