A Very Special Bumblebee

by Tris Hoffman, Flathead National Forest Weed Coordinator
silversagebrush@hotmail.com

The Western Bumblebee is a species that was once common and widespread throughout the western U.S. and Canada.  For a variety of reasons, both known and unknown, populations of this bee are in serious decline.  It has mostly vanished west of the Cascades.  Thankfully, West Valley is a place (perhaps a refuge?) where the bees may still be found.  

Continue Reading →

The Three Musketeers of Wasps

by Tris Hoffman, Flathead National Forest Weed Coordinator
silversagebrush@hotmail.com

Walt Disney got it wrong:  The bald-faced hornet

When Disney adapted A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh into a cute animation, he made mistake.  If the “Bear of Very Little Brain” wanted honey, he should have looked for a large hollow tree. The illustrations in Milne’s original stories show Pooh climbing a large tree, but he is not going after the papery egg-shaped nest that the animated bear seems to obsess about.  Disney’s globular gray nest would never provide Pooh with honey, because that is a typical nest of a bald-faced hornet.

Continue Reading →

Barns are Noble

By Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

If you came here looking for the latest Harry Potter book, you probably should go to Barnes & Noble.

But if you came here because you, like me, can’t pass a barn without thinking about the stories behind it and the practical structural aesthetics of the building, then welcome. I have a thing for barns—old, new, and falling down.

This is just an uncommented photo essay—some images taken around the valley (and slightly beyond, in a couple of cases)—and not a history. But I hope that any readers that know anything about any of these barns will leave a comment and tell us a story.

This is part one of a photo essay of West Valley barns. Click here for part two.

Continue Reading →

Pileated Woodpecker

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America. (The ivory-billed woodpecker of the southeastern US swamps and marshes is larger, but it is considered “definitely or probably” extinct.) While pileated woodpeckers are not exactly rare in the valley–I’ve encountered them year ’round in the Happy Valley State Trust Lands and the Pig Farm State Trust Lands (see Locations)–they are infrequent visitors to areas of the valley with fewer trees and more houses. That’s why it’s such a rare treat to see one in the back yard.

Continue Reading →