Just Passing Through – Birds in Bitterroot
The migrating birds are all around with the official start of spring only days away. Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal noted an increase of species in Ravalli County - 113 at last count. They include turkey vultures, snow geese, greater white-fronted goose, sandhill crane, ring-billed gull and both tundra and trumpeter swans (photo above). The best place to catch a glimpse is the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge ponds next to the refuge office. Just sit in your car and enjoy the arrivals and departures.
Bob saw some Eurasian Wigeons near Missoula. The duck-sized birds are from Asia and have only been seen in Montana since the 1980s. The male has a dark rufous head color with a creamy forehead and gray body (photo below).
No butterflies spotted yet. Bob says as the daytime temperatures head into the 60s, you might have some luck. Check muddy areas in the sunshine. Three species are going to be making their fluttering flights in the next a couple of weeks.
Lichen of the week is the cowpie lichen (photo below). The description - not a cowpie, but more like dog poop. It's common on thin soil over rocks in sunny meadows. When you look closer, it appears like a mini-volcano.
Bob saw a beaver swimming at Maclay Flat. You can see a beaver dam at the Wildlife Viewing Area of the Metcalf Refuge. The swimming style of the beaver is different from the muskrat. If you only see the head above the water, that's probably a beaver. If you see the whole body, including the tail, (photo below) that's a muskrat. Trivia for the week - a beaver can gnaw down a 5-inch diameter willow in three minutes. (Apparently, someone set a stopwatch to one of the busy guys). The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesday mornings at about 7:45 a.m. on KLYQ 1240 Radio and www.klyq.com, along with the free KLYQ app on your cell device.