The Christmas Bird Count numbers showed Bob Danley an interesting fact - the Hamilton area has not recorded American Robins in the last three years of the late December survey. However, Missoula and Stevensville counts included robins in all three of those years. In fact, in 2018, the Missoula number was 162. In this week's Bitterroot Outdoor Journal, Bob suggested that a concentration of Mountain Ash trees in the Missoula valley might be the reason. The tree provides food for robins, and both Cedar Waxwings and Bohemian Waxwings, which have also been in short supply during the winter in Hamilton. This past year, however, both waxwing varieties were found in the Hamilton Christmas count. So, the research will continue.

Another unexpected observation this week - Bob saw a cloud of the midges near the Bitterroot River. The aquatic insects are usually in little low-flying clouds (see photo below), and most people run into them (literally) in the summer. But there are species of midges that hatch almost year round, including this month, apparently. The big difference between midges and mosquitos - mosquitos bite.

Bob noticed some tracks in the snow, leading him to see a little rabbit (see photo below). It's the Rocky Mountain Cottontail, about 14 inches long with that 4-inch hindfoot that helps the little guy hop. In its tracks in the snow, the hindfoot track is always ahead of the front feet. The Rocky Mountain Cottontail is different from other cottontails because it has hair-lined ears and no black hairs on the back. Now, to their legendary rabbit mating practices - the cottontail mates from February to July and has five litter per year - each with 3 to 8 youngsters. They're everywhere, they're everywhere! One last thing - this rabbit can actually climb and can be found occasionally in junipers.

Bob's report can be heard Wednesdays about 7:45 a.m. on KLYQ 1240 AM radio, at www.klyq.com and on the free KLYQ app on your favorite cellphone.

Mountain Cottontail rabbit. (Bob Danley photo)
Winter midges in Bitterroot. (Bob Danley photo)

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