In the second part of our salute to Christmas colors in nature, Bob Danley presents the Red Crossbill - the male is red and the female is yellow (pictured above). It's an interesting bird that has a beak that helps open pinecones for its preferred seeds. It is nomadic, looking for pinecones, and it can nest any time of the year - even in February. The bird is found in the area throughout the year with the largest number in Missoula back in 2001, when Christmas Bird Count observers spotted over 300.

Bob has a bit more information about this year's Christmas Bird Counts. The Hamilton count will be happening, but they're not accepting any new participants, due to COVID-19 concerns. The Stevensville Christmas Bird Count will be accepting those who'd like to be on the count. Call Dave Lockman at (406) 381-7679 for more information. Bob has not seen any updates on the Missoula Bird Count.

Back to colors, the Red-osier Dogwood is a shrub that grows to about 9 feet and can be found in moist soils and streamsides. It produces white-to-bluish berries. (photo below).

Bob noticed a porcupine in a tree recently at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. They are often found on the refuge and not many other places in the Bitterroot. You can see a brown blob near the tops of cottonwood trees (photo below), where the adult porcupine eats the cambium layer of the tree's branches.

We had a conversation recently about the difference between mushrooms and lichen. (photos below). Here are some differences between Crust Lichen (left) and Crust Fungi (right).

Lichen on the left and fungi on the right. (Bob Danley Photo)

Crust lichen produces food internally with a partnership with algae. It is much smaller than fungi and reproduced by spores and propagules. They get water from the air and their root-like structures hold them to the substrate and grow everywhere.

Crust Fungi, meanwhile, get their food from other plants in a symbiotic or parasitic relationship. They have lots of different growth forms including puffball, morel, cup, truffle and more. They reproduce by spores and they get water from soil, wood and organic material and only grow on soil, wood and other organic material.

Dogwood shrub. (Bob Danley Photo)
Porcupine in Bitterroot tree. (Bob Danley Photo)
Porcupine. (Bob Danley Photos)

The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesdays at about 7:45 a.m. on KLYQ 1240 Radio in Hamilton and on www.klyq.com and, of course, that KLYQ cellphone app.

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