This week's Bitterroot Outdoor Journal suggests looking at power poles. That's a favorite perch for hawks in the valley, as they survey the nearby fields for scurrying rodents. Bob Danley reported three main species of hawks - American Kestrel, Merlin and Prairie Falcon (photos below). In early afternoon, you can see them along roads in the open country. Some possible locations are the East Highway between Stevensville and Corvallis, Tammany Lane east of Hamilton, and of course, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. When you look at the photos, notice the general shape of the bird for easier identification.

By the way, results from the Christmas Bird Count in Missoula resulted in 15 species of waterfowl, 4 species of owls, 10 species of finches and 9 species of hawks. Some top counts were 658 Red Crossbill birds and 61 Bald Eagles. The eagles are often seen soaring in the mid-day in the valley. And always, you can see many, many Canada Geese in the fields and ponds of the Bitterroot every day and you will hear them overhead in the mornings and evenings - even at your own back yard. They're everywhere, they're everywhere!

Bob looks at the ground, too. This week, he found some lichen. The Frosted Rock Tripe is found on rock faces of canyons. Bob likes looking for lichen on the Bass Creek trail. The Frost Rock Tripe (photos below) are leafy looking, about 4 inches in a jagged round shape and are colored grey with white and green tones. Bob said that survivors in the wild have stayed alive by eating this type of lichen, though it definitely not recommended.

A reminder in this ever-changing winter weather - if you're heading out onto the trails, let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back. You don't want to have spend the night in the woods, looking for lichen to eat.

Falcons on poles. (Bob Danley Photo)
Frosted Rock Tripe lichen. (Bob Danley Photo)
Close-up of Frosted Rock tripe lichen. (Bob Danley Photo)

The 100 Best Places to Live on the West Coast