Ground Squirrel Emerges to Welcome Migrating Birds
After hibernating about nine months, the Columbian Ground Squirrels in Montana are waking up and climbing out of their underground dens. Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal saw one near the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge this week.
The adult males come to the surface first and they start munching on plants. Their underground home is about one to two feet in size and the tunnels can delve down up to three feet.
Up above, the birds are making more and more noise as they return to add to the flocks that have been here all winter. The Spotted Towhee is usually hiding in dense brush, but you can hear its "Tow-hee" sound. The bird is about nine inches in length (photo below) and is black and orange with red eyes. It has white spots on the wings and on the tail corners.
In the trees along the Bitterroot River, you might see the Tree Swallow (photo below). It has a 14-inch wingspan and is iridescent blue with a white belly. It likes to perch on overhead power lines and has a "weet-trit-weet" call.
In the water at the Metcalf Refuge near Stevensville, you'll see the Northern Pintail duck (photo below). It's about 21 inches long with a blue-gray bill. The male duck is brown and gray and the female is mostly light tan.
A reminder from Bob - the county road goes between the major ponds at the Metcalf, with plenty of room for parking. Don't get out of your car! The birds are not bothered by the vehicles, but they get a little jittery when they see humans walking around. Sit and watch...and take some photos!
On the ground, you can see the Plitt's Rock Shield lichen (photo below). It's common on rocks at low elevations and can be up to eight inches in diameter and is greenish in color. Wildflowers are popping up, with Cous Biscuitroot making its appearance. It has many yellow flowers when it welcomes the spring, which should be any day for the blooming to happen.
Way up in the sky, the Full Moon for March is happening Friday night. One of the names for this month's moon is the Worm Moon. Other cultures call it the Sugar Moon, Sore Eyes Moon and Wind Strong Moon. Look up at night and check it out.
The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesday mornings at 7:45 a.m. on 1240 KLYQ AM radio and at www.klyq.com.