Bitterroot Outdoor Journal – Spooky Nature
Last week, we were still recovering from our early snowstorm in the Bitterroot Valley and neglected the Halloween holiday on our Bitterroot Outdoor Journal. But, Bob Danley has, indeed, noticed some spooky things you can easily encounter out in the woods.
First, a little bird that is very good at killing other birds and even red squirrels and voles - the Northern Pygmy Owl. This little guy is only the size of a normal Robin and weighs about three ounces. Yet, it sits and waits (see above) for a likely victim - such as a house sparrow or pine siskin, some of its favorite meals. They don't migrate and you can find them in the winters here in Montana. It's a dangerous predator. By the way, if you hear some songbirds making noise, they might be "scolding" a pygmy owl and warning others away.
A very strange thing to see in the woods is something that looks like a human ear. That's its name - Wood Ear and the fungi is brown and rubbery, growing on dead conifer wood and is shaped like an ear (see photo below). Creepy.
Oakmoss Lichen, by themselves, look like they should be adorning a horror movie set. This light green plant can be found on tree trunks and has flattened branches that reach up to five inches in length. It can add branches as it ages, but only one branch per year, generally. A light green fungi that lives on tree trunks, mainly. It belongs in a mad scientist film. (photo below) In fact, it might be in a few of them.
We're not trying to scare any one with our featured tree - the Grand Fir. It's a beauty, is only found in the Pacific Northwest and can be between 100-200 feet tall with bark of flat grey plates, but not deeply furrowed like Douglas fir. Their cones are found on the uppermost branches, unless a squirrel chews one off. Of course, you can scare yourself in the woods with a little imagination, a bit of wind, a hooting owl and a dark path into the unknown. Just make sure you listen in Wednesday mornings at about 7:45 a.m. on 1240 AM, www.klyq.com and on the free KLYQ app on your cellphone.