Early Birds – Robins and Bluebirds Arrive in Western Montana
If you've got one of those bluebird boxes along your fence line or in the backyard, get it cleaned out. Western Bluebirds have been migrating back, according to Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal. The little bird is deep blue with an orange chest (photo above) and is found along the Bitterroot River, looking for insects.
Another returning songbird is the Say's Phoebe, which is grey with an orange belly. (photo below). You can hear its call - a single syllable "pdeer" sound. It can be found on the valley grasslands.
Also making a return to the valley are the American Robins. Bob saw about 30 of them at Maclay Flat in Missoula. They were looking for berries. They'll start building nests next month. By the way, there are more Robins than any other songbird - worldwide estimates are 320 million robins!
Also up in the trees are porcupines. Two have been seen at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge by Stevensville. They are nocturnal, but during the day you might see one way up high in a cottonwood tree, chewing on bark. They'll look like a dark lump until you take a closer look with binoculars. Porcupines have about 30,000 quills and they live over 20 years.
Down on the ground, Bob saw more wildflowers getting ready for early spring blooms. He suggested studying up with "Wildflowers of Montana," a book by Donald Anthony Schiemann. Lots of photos to help you identify what you're seeing. Bob almost stepped on an unusual lichen - the Cowpie Lichen. It looks like dried white dog poop and is about 2 inches in diameter, looking like a mini-volcano (Photo below). It can be found on mossy rocks in sunny areas.
The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard on 1240 AM KLYQ and online at www.klyq.com Wednesday mornings about 7:45 a.m., during our Bitterroot Morning newscast.