If the robins are back in the Bitterroot Valley, spring can't be far behind. In this week's Bitterroot Outdoor Journal, Bob Danley reports seeing robins in crabapple trees with flocks of waxwings. Robins usually go for smaller fruit, and Bob took a photo of a robin munching a crabapple, getting it to a smaller, more digestible size (see photo above). Of course, when a lot of little birds are gathered around, the predatory larger birds take notice. Near that crabapple tree, Bob saw a Merlin (see photo below) atop a tree, waiting for a chance to swoop down. Bob said if you see a flock of small birds suddenly take flight, look around for the predator that has spooked them.

On the ground, Bob spotted the early leaves of the Sagebrush Buttercup wildflower. It's one of 2,500 flowering plants that live in Montana. The buttercups will be visible early at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Viewing Area. By the way, brush up on wildflowers with the book "Wildflowers of Montana" by Donald Anthony Schiemann. Lichen this week - Horsehair Lichen (see photo below) - looks like it should be in a swamp, but is draped on tree branches, mainly in the higher elevations. March 3rd is UN World Wildlife Day. Check their website for more information. The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesdays during the 7:30 a.m. Bitterroot Morning newscast on 1240 AM KLYQ and www.klyq.com.

Merlin on a high perch. (Bob Danley photo)
Horsehair lichen. (Bob Danley photo)