Three Gentians in the West Valley!

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

When I first heard the word “gentian”, it was in reference to a veterinary medicine that I needed to apply to a cow I was tending. It was called “Gentian Blue” and although I had little understanding of its role in healing my bovine, it was the most intense blue I had ever seen! Subsequently, my appreciation of the various hues of blue have been in reference to the blue of that medicine. It was many years before I moved to the west where I saw my first flower in the Gentian family, and I was amazed to learn that the green plant I saw was a Gentian! (Frasera speciosa). That one doesn’t grow in the West Valley, but here are some I have encountered here.

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Violet-green Swallows Raising a Family

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Violet-green Swallow (male)

John James Audubon described the diminutive (4.25″) Violet-green Swallow as “the most beautiful of all the genus hitherto discovered.” Indeed, there are few birds in our neighborhood that can compete when the sun illuminates the iridescent emerald green cape, amethyst and sapphire wings and back set off by a clean bright white belly, neck, and face. Read on for an account of one pair raising their young from a nest under the eaves.

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Great Spangled Fritillary Butterflies

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies on Musk Thistle (Carduus Nutans) 8..02.2020

The male of this species is bright orange and brown; the female is brown with a patterned cream-colored border. The host plant for the Fritillary caterpillars is the violet. That’s where the female will lay her eggs, so you may see her spending a lot of her 14 – 45 day life seeking out violets. The eggs hatch in 10 to 15 days. The caterpillar will feed on violet leaves and overwinter in the protection of vegetation near violets; in spring it will continue to munch on the new violet leaves until it forms a chrysalis. It goes through its final transformation in about 2 to 3 weeks before hatching out as a butterfly.

Bee? or Bee-Like?

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

As I write this on a rainy day in March, my mind is drawn to thoughts of spring, perhaps because just yesterday I was walking partly in mud, partly on ice, torn between the need for rubber boots or ice cleats. In a similar vein, in summer as I observe flowers and the insects that are drawn to them, I wonder whether I should beware of the stinger or relax and admire the industrious work of the flying creatures. In this article, I’ll share some helpful tips I have learned from researching that question.

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Woodpeckers in our Valley

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

3.08.21 Pileated Woodpecker work above Cliff Lake

Nobody has to ask, “What does a woodpecker do?” Only the Pileated Woodpecker does such a fantastic job of chiseling out their food and creating nests for themselves. Several species live in our area year ’round; some are migratory, and we see them in warmer months. Read on for stories about woodpeckers that I’ve observed in our area.

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Rabbit Tales

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Mountain Cottontail Silvilagus nuttallii 11.07.17

Over several years, I’ve been enjoying the company of small Mountain cottontails that have chosen to live near our home. Although I rarely see them when the ground is bare, I often see their tracks where I snowshoe or ski in winter. It’s their close proximity in winter that has given me the best sightings. I will share some pictures and tales of rabbit encounters in the following pages.

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Eye-Catching Foliose Lichens

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Elegant Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria elegans) 11.15.21

Brighter than the Blanket flower that grows nearby in summer, this rock-dwelling lichen is a long-time resident on this carbonate-rich rock. Exposed to the elements, temperatures that range more than 100 degrees, with no shade to protect it and no roots to find water, this lichen grows about .4mm per year. It has probably taken about 150 years to attain its current size. The following article describes some fascinating facts about this and some other foliose (leafy) lichens in our area.

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Meet a Few Pelt Lichens

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Worldwide, there are about 100 species of Peltigera in the Foliose group of lichens; there are 23 species in the Rocky Mountains. But here in the West Valley, the number is much more manageable! In the following article, I will give some pointers I found helpful as my exploration has evolved.

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A Bouquet of Lichens

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Many trees in our area are festooned with lichens of many types. This piece of a branch lay on the snow-covered forest floor as I walked in the Flathead National Forest in mid-November, 2021. What a bouquet! At least four different types of lichen share this short section of wood. Read on as I untangle a bit about them.
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Late Summer and Early Fall at Ray Kuhn’s WMA

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Late August, 2021 Wheat ripening under smoky skies

The historic Ray Kuhn’s homestead off Farm-to-Market Road between Kalispell and Whitefish is under MFWP management as the Kuhn’s WMA (wildlife management area). 100 acres of the 1556.5A parcel are leased for farming to improve the soil, control noxious weeds, and provide food and cover to benefit deer and upland game birds. In this article, you can read more about this public resource in our community.

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