Bitterroot Outdoor Journal – Autumn Exploration
Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal remembers this week's weather a year ago. Cold, wintery weather with freezing temperatures in early October 2019 - this year, not so much. Highs in the 70s until this weekend, at least. He says the hawk migration is continuing and he saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk (see photo above) and in the sky, a Cooper's Hawk. Most of the songbirds have left the valley, but waterbirds are gathering in places like the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge and up at Flathead Lake. Bring on the Coots!
Closer to the ground, there are eight species of butterflies that overwinter as adults. That includes California Tortoiseshell (Photo below) and other Commas and Tortoiseshells. Most are orange-colored on the upper wing. The Montana State Butterfly, the Mourning Cloak, has purple. They will winter in rock crevices, abandoned buildings and behind tree bark. Dragonflies are only flying on sunny days with temperatures above 60 degrees. They are cruising low to the ground (below your waistline). One of those is the Variable Darner (photo below). Most have wings perpendicular to the body and they look like a knitting needle with a huge end. And they fly silently. Compare them to grasshoppers, who have a definite flying noise and their landings can be described as "crash landings." Of course, they're well-armored for those landings.
Bob says the dry conditions have hampered mushroom growth, but you can see some Coral Fungi in the woods, on decaying conifer wood. The mushroom is about 4 inches tall and 3 inches wide with no cap or stem, but instead a series of vertical, spiked branches from a base. The color is orange-pink at the base, moving through a yellow color to green at the top. The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesdays at about 7:45 a.m. during Bitterroot Morning News on 1240 AM KLYQ, klyq.com and on the KLYQ app on your cellphone.