Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cool, wet spring day in western Montana

Typically, these wet, cold weather spring days are pretty good for concentrating, and as a consequence, finding a diversity of bird species ranging from common to rare. Although no rarities found today on Lee Metcalf NWR, it was pleasant methodically searching for something different. Only one new species for the year, Bonaparte's Gull, found today...on Pond 5 of Lee Metcalf NWR. Good numbers of swallows around the wetlands (see embedded photos). Photos produced by digiscoping.

Also captured a Red-naped Sapsucker via camera/scope.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A visit to Bass Creek Recreation Area, just south of Florence, Montana (foot of the Bitterroot Mountains) provided early spring color in the form of Compton tortoiseshell (Nymphalis vaualbum). This butterfly is a member of the Nymphalidae family (5,000 species worldwide), some of the world’s most eye-catching butterflies. The upper side of the wing is very colorful while the underside is cryptically colored for camouflage. Tortoiseshells, in particular, are known their fast and erratic flight. This species is identified by white spots on both the forewing and hindwing. Adults hibernate over winter in tree crevices or logs. Compton tortoiseshell habitat consists of openings and edges of forest. Aspen, birch and willow are important foodplants for larvae. Range maps indicate this species is somewhat restricted to northwest Montana.
Already (?) second butterfly species of year! Have you seen any yet?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cold, blustery spring morning in the Bitterroot Valley. Observed group of tree swallows perching in Siberian elm catching morning sun rays, video follows.

There are about 81 species of swallows/martins worldwide in the Hirundinidae family; on all continents except the Arctic and Antarctic regions. All North American species are primarily insect eaters, excepting the tree swallow which eats a quantity of vegetable matter...wax myrtle berries being a favorite. A study done by F.E.L. Beal in 1918 discovered that Diptera (flies) comprise ~40% of animal food taken.