Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28 was predicted to be a wonderful day weatherwise. Knowing that I had not seen a mountain bluebird or any winter finch yet this year made me decide to go "up" Highway 12 to Lolo Pass (~6th trip this way!...don't know if qualifies as ignorace or determination). Counted 9 Steller's jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) on the road shoulder on the way to the pass; am guessing they were getting "grit". 1st stop of day was abrupt about 25 miles from Highway 93...a large wet meadow (guessing about 6/7 football fields long and maybe 4 wide) when I saw a Mountain bluebird (Sialia currocoides) perched on a fencepost. Made a u-turn and parked at a Lewis & Clark Trail interpretive sign/pull-off. Filmed the two male living turquoise.

Finished drive to the Pass. Stood in the parking lot for 15 minutes listening for singing/calling winter luck. Got back in car, stopped at highway listening for traffic coming out of Idaho (don't want to pull out in front of an 18-wheeler going downhill) and hear a crossbill singing instead of traffic. Parked, ran over to stop with video camera and captured the following footage (good sound, poor image) of ONLY one lucky can you get.

Smiling to myself, headed downhill. Made couple of stops. Heard ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbrellus) drumming along wooded streamside. Stopped at a wet meadow opening in the forest listening for fox luck, but take photos of granite rock (igneous origin) unique to lands at and above (underlain by the Idaho batholith) the Lolo Hot Springs. After appreciating the frozen flow of rock, went to the Lolo Campground. Heard fox sparrow (Passerella ilica) singing somewhat continuously...also a fine spot for finding chestnut-backed chickadee (Poecile rufescens). Last stop at Travelers' Rest State Park (!/pages/Lolo-MT/Travelers-Rest-State-Park/216753297384?ref=mf), sighted a Lewis woodpecker off a distance though diagnostic by flight/shape. A great day at 107 species for year and 91 species for month

Monday, March 22, 2010

First wildflower of 2010...

While searching the burn area of Blue Mountain (3/21/2010 at Missoula, Montana) for bluebirds and woodpeckers, found sagebrush buttercup (Rannunculus glaberrimus) in bloom on the dry east facing slope. Extensive information about this plant can be found at:

Did find western bluebird (Sialia mexicana) in numbers in the burn area. The birds were very vocal. Ralph Hoffman [Bent 1949] describes the vocalizations as "chu, chu, chu". Also in Bent, Grinnell and Storer described the song as "...simple notes uttered over and over again". Captured video, though dark, highlights a male/female with accompanying sounds of these birds.

Species not found on this trip or with any regularity in the mountains so far this year, evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), was found in the town of Stevensville by Deborah Goslin (3/16/2010). Made it to location on 3/19 and found the birds readily by listening. Video is here:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mount Jumbo and Snow Buntings

Climbed Mount Jumbo (elevation ~4600') on Sunday, March 7. Started at 11:30 am on a beautiful sunshiney day of 40+ degrees. Went up the Cherry Street trailhead in Missoula using the steep "L" trail for a gain of 1100 feet with the target being a group of snow bunting at the summit. Immediately spied horned lark in the grazed areas of native grasses. After 10 minutes or so heard a single snow bunting call. Walked closer to origination of sound, sat down near fenced pen area for sheep, and waited. Within 15 minutes a group of 10 snow buntings flew by (within 50 yards) calling real good looks at the birds...stunning black/white pattern. It is incredible to get these birds without going to the windswept frozen plains and serendipitously finding them in amongst swirling longspur or lark flocks feeding on minute seeds. So my thanks go to Paul Hendricks who posted his sighting of these birds on the Yahoo site of MOB.

Great views from on top. Wildflowers should be good in a while...some are greening up well. Thanks also to the citizens of Missoula for acquiring this land as open space not only for people, but for a great variety of wildlife also.

Get outside and take it all in...