Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Migration - Junco "Fall Out"

Forth day of Spring, by calendar, and a group of migrant Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis oreganus) landed in our part of the neighborhood (Lolo, Montana) to refuel. Or maybe the overnight snow made them stop flying, true to their nickname of "snowbirds". I estimate 75 birds involved. Lucky to get a couple photos of some of the birds flocked up getting grit on the road shoulder.

Probable that they are somewhere in your area during this period of March. These birds are common coast-to-coast during migration. The subspecies differ enough at times, places to assign a subspecific identification...a real fun birding challenge (my "call to action" for you), especially for those of you living in the American West. A recent G+ post on this subject.

Failed to get video of the action...birds were actively singing/calling. Watched the action from kitchen window as I sporadically washed dishes...good show :-) An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) expressed how the morning was going (bottom photo).

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon form)

Junco picking up grit on road shoulder

American Robin foraging in snow

Monday, March 17, 2014

Moss...Wildlife-Wise a Bit O' Green for St. Patrick's Day

Instead of creating a traditional door wreath of moss...I photographed moss for my wee bit of Irish heritage. Went to Fort Fizzle (Lolo National Forest) and immediately found the clumps of green (moss) exposed from the receding snow.
Moss form and color is somewhat variable along with the substrate (rock, wood, soil) moss grows on. Taken together the elements are great subject material for macrophotography. From a biological point of view moss is difficult to identify. In many cases, one needs a compound microscope to view leaf tips (they are only one cell thick, wow!!!) to discern cell pattern. Alternatively, moss produce spores (very small also) from capsules which may also render an identification. No matter, they are beautiful in form and color. The photos below are all unidentified moss (for now) that caught my eye. Enjoy, Happy St. Patrick's Day...

"May the best day of your past
Be the worst day of your future
(posted from

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Exploring and the 1st Butterflies for 2014

Sixty One degrees Fahrenheit and partly sunny today; first warm day (wahoo!!!) this spring. To celebrate I took a wildlife watching trip to Bass Creek NRA to find birds, butterflies, lichen, moss, wildflower (in no particular order though I strongly felt some butterflies could be on the wing). My objectives: a) to use my cameras and  b) be an explorer because " everything is interesting" (check out this great book, How To Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith).

Arrived to find much snow still on the ground (immediate photo below) in shaded areas, but south facing slopes had large patches of exposed ground. Advanced up the trail and found my special spot, yep where several trees have "sap wells" (2nd photo below) a magnet for early season leps. No sap and no butterflies (lone Steller's Jay [Cyanocitta stelleri "sheking" up a storm]), so I retreated to the sunny slopes near the trailhead. Within a couple of minutes spied two Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) on "scat" (bottom photo). Great find for me, 15 days ahead of last years first-of-year sighings.  Working slope further flushed a Comma, likely a Green. Finished off my exploration with photos of 3 different mosses, may take quite a while to identify (rookie status).  It was great fun...try it for yourself :-) 
Bass Creek NRA trail in March, snow blanketing ground
Bass Creek NRA landscape

Early Season Food Source for Butterflies
Sap Wells
Mourning Cloak Utilizing Scat for Early Season Food/Minerals
Mourning Cloak on Scat