Monday, May 28, 2012

Observing Small Birds...Related by Taxonomy

Western Montana is home for North America's smallest bird, the Calliope hummingbird (Stellula calliope). I have found it in forest openings dominated by shrubs. Hearing a "zing" (display vocalization) is a clue to its presence. Of course, having a feeder up is an easier way to view this animated puff of feathers. I captured video of an adult male coming to our feeder in Lolo, MT on a rainy day; call note and flight behavior are highlights:

Rainy weather is an important component to finding the Black Swift (Cypseloides niger) especially at the headquarters of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. The first time I checked off this species was at Ouray, Colorado; saw a small black dot thousands of feet above my head. Not a quality view for sure. At Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, a better experience can be had IF the weather cooperates, i.e. light drizzle and cool. These conditions were in place yesterday:
Yes, the two other swift species (Vaux's and White-throated) can also be found at the same time and place if the inclement weather is in place. The hardest to find of the trio is White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis). A better and easier place to find this species and without a rain requirement is here, west side of Missoula, MT off of Mullan Road:
Park at "P", look south/southwest across the Clark Fork River at two rockfaces as shown in this video:

Simply scan the skies above and in front of rockfaces for flying swifts; this is a bit of a challenge as research has determined these birds fly in excess of 100 mph! It's a great challenge...go out find something good :-)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Scanning...the Skies and the Ground

The last half of May in western Montana is a time of cool/wet conditions. True to form, here's a video from our Lolo porch this morning:

So instead of going on a 'field trip', I've processed some photos and video from the past couple of days for your reading, viewing pleasure. Staying home sometimes has its advantages, found two first of year butterfly species from our yard: Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides) and Boisduval's Blue (Plebejus icarioides):
Purplish Copper

Boisduval's Blue
Looking at the ground yesterday, spied a Sticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum) in bloom in a small native plant patch along Marcure Road west of Missoula:
Sticky Geranium
Just east of Marcure Road is Loiselle Road, this gravel road was immediate to somewhat degraded native pasture...though sufficient for usage by a pair of Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). Check out the following video of these birds in flight; compare with the excellent written description of flight found in the default reference material (Hawks in Flight [1988] by Dunne, Sibley and Sutton):

Monday, May 14, 2012

1st 2012 Odonate Field Trip

Visited Florence Bridge Fishing Access Site for first dedicated 2012 effort to find odonates here in western Montana. Wasn't disappointed as I observed a spreadwing, several American Emerald, several "Nobo" Bluets (abdomenal tip out of focus for identification purposes), two unidentified darners, and a couple of Pacific Forktail. Had great fun in searching and photographing. This fishing access site has an asphalt path for easy wetland access and is small in extant for thorough coverage. Good birding can be had here also. Here a couple of photos:

American Emerald (Cordulia shurtleffii)

Pacific Forktail (Ischnura cervula)

Northern or Boreal Bluet (Enallagma sp.)