Monday, March 23, 2015

2nd Wildflower Species for 2015

3" tall Douglasia in flower 

Pictured is Douglasia (Douglasia montana), a cushion plant of the Phlox family. It blooms early in the spring season. "Cushion" plants usually grow in alpine sites where wind and poor soil challenges plants; natural selection response is short structure. In this case, there's no need to scale a mountain to see this in action, simply go to Missoula Waterworks Hill (  Accessed by foot up an initial somewhat steep slope. Because of this foothill orientation it is exposed to sunshine early in spring; so it is also great spot for other early wildflowers. I finally had blooming plants on my third try (March 22).

Below is a short mp4 (shot with Nexus 7 tablet) of this site on March 2 (note windy wintry conditions :-) The plants grow on the left side of the trail...looks very barren for this video:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Drizzle...Great Birding Conditions

Rain concentrates birds, the questions become can you figure out where and can you deal with it. Early spring is perfect for birding in a drizzle/intermittent downpour. Cool and wet drives birds to the food.
Low cloud deck drizzle this morning
Insectivores like swallows will be closely over water sources hawking hatching aquatic invertebrates. Robins will be working short grass areas for earthworms. And waxwings will be visiting fruit bearing trees. Had a mixed flock of ~300 Bohemian and Cedar using neighbors' European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) trees. It is a wonder every time I see these large flocks; in sum, the calls of these birds might resemble rusty whistles :-)
Cedar Waxwing eating fruit
The sounds not only attract my attention, but also birds that prey on them. Yep, within a short period of watching a Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up.
Sharp-shinned Hawk in Ponderosa Pine near European Mountain Ash
This is likely the same bird seen and photographed on January 1. Yes, if you can protect your camera gear excellent photos can also be had. Please reflect on the animal ethical in behavior :-)