Weather Cooperates for Views – Bitterroot Outdoor Journal
Spring officially is not here, but don't tell the Western Bluebirds. They have started arriving in western Montana and the Bitterroot Valley. Bob Danley of our weekly Bitterroot Outdoor Journal report heard and then spied a Western Bluebird in his back yard in Lolo in the past few days. The little bird is looking for insects and Bob noted the feeding behavior - where the little 7-inch-long bird plunges to the ground to grab an insect and then returns to its perch with its meal. The bird has a dark blue head and wings and orange chest (photo above). It winters along the southwest Pacific Coast and it's now coming back to Montana as spring arrives.
It's not alone. This year, birdwatchers in Ravalli County have seen 106 species of birds so far. That includes canvasback ducks, tree swallows, western Meadowlark and peregrine falcons.
On the ground, the little Yellow-pine Chipmunks and the Columbian Ground Squirrels are waking up from their winter rest times. Bob saw chipmunks at three different sites between Missoula and Stevensville. He saw a ground squirrel at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge near the historic Whaley Homestead. (photos below) Usually, you'll find the chipmunk in the forest and the squirrel in the grasslands.
Plants are not quite ready for display, but the Sagebrush Buttercup is gathering strength with its leaves out, grabbing some sunlight. There are 64 species of Buttercup and even though the word "butter" is in its name, don't eat it. It can cause blisters in the mouth and even handling it can cause dermatitis. Take a picture and leave it alone.
The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard every Wednesday during the Bitterroot Morning newscast at about 7:45 a.m. Enjoy the awakening natural world as we get into springtime. Oh, by the way, Daylight Saving Time is this weekend, March 14th.