With all the snow on the ground, you might see more of nature by looking up. Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal was shoveling snow when he heard the distinct call of a Sandhill Crane. Looking up, he saw a migrating flock of the large birds in the northern Bitterroot Valley sky (see photo above). He said the cranes don't usually spend winters here - in fact, since 1979, the Christmas Bird Count has recorded them only 15 times. They are the most numerous Crane species and have huge breeding populations in the Beaverhead and Madison counties during the year. They can live 20 years. By the way, in the sky, you can see their outstretched neck, trailing legs, plank-like wings and a general gray color. Their call is a rolling "gar-oo-oo."

Down on the ground, you might be able to find some shelf fungi on tree trunks. One of those is the Red-belted Conk - very common and can be as big as 16 inches wide and 4 inches thick (see photo below). You'll see it as a semi-circle with a white rim, around a red-orange color and some black lines in there. It does weaken the tree, but doesn't kill it, Bob says.

Lichen are out there - cold doesn't bother them and you can find them on rocks, trees, etc. There are over a thousand different lichen species and common green one is the Common Freckle Pelt. There are 25 similar types. (see photo below).

Bob recommends a good book for those cold winter nights - "Mini Meadows: Grow A Little Patch of Colorful Flowers Anywhere Around Your Yard." It's a recently published book (2019) from Mike Lizotte. The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesday mornings at about 7:45 a.m. on KLYQ's Bitterroot Morning newscast on 1240 AM radio, at klyq.com and with the free KLYQ app on your favorite cellphone.

Common Freckle Pelt. (Bob Danley photo)
Red-belted Conk mushroom. (Bob Danley Photo)