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.

columbian ground squirrel
Columbian ground squirrel venturing out. (Bob Danley photo)
A Yellow-pine chipmunk, blending in among the rocks. (Bob Danley photo)
sagebrush buttercup
So far, leaves only for the Sagebrush Buttercup. (Bob Danley photo)

READ ON: See the States Where People Live the Longest

Stacker used data from the 2020 County Health Rankings to rank every state's average life expectancy from lowest to highest. The 2020 County Health Rankings values were calculated using mortality counts from the 2016-2018 National Center for Health Statistics. The U.S. Census 2019 American Community Survey and America's Health Rankings Senior Report 2019 data were also used to provide demographics on the senior population of each state and the state's rank on senior health care, respectively.

Read on to learn the average life expectancy in each state.

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