Turkey Vultures Ride High on Hot Air
About mid-morning you see them - the larger hawks are soaring in circles overhead as hot air rises in "thermals" that act like elevators for the birds. Often, the birds use the thermals to gain altitude on their migration over the mountains such as the Bitterroots. Many of the larger birds such as Red-tailed Hawks are migrating south now, according to Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal. He's included photos (below) to help you identify the high guys.
With fall approaching, sightings of butterflies are a little tough, but you can find Painted Lady and Purplish Copper (photo below) butterflies near the Rubber Rabbitbrush or around mud puddles on trails. Dragonflies include the Spotted Spreadwing (photo below), which is about an inch and half long and can be seen near shrubs like snowberries. One of the places Bob suggests is the Wildlife Viewing Area of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Stevensville. That's always a good place to see lots of birds and other fliers.
In the woods, Bob spotted a Dyer's Polypore mushroom (photo below), which damages conifer trees by causing brown rot. But it's also used for coloring wool. Along the trails, you might disturb a harmless little Gartersnake. The Terrestrial Gartersnake (photo below) will probably try to get away as fast as it can. This time of year, it's looking for a den site.
Bob also reminds the public about bears. The black bears are all over the place, looking for food to fatten up for the hibernation period. If you come across a bear, leave them alone (always a good idea). One of Bob's websites is a regularly updated blog. And you can hear the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal on 1240 AM KLYQ radio and www.klyq.com on Wednesdays at 7:45 a.m.