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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Swallows in the Valley

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

If you drive past the West Valley Ponds at most any time of day from early spring to fall, you can see Swallows performing aerial acrobatics as they scoop up flying insects. We have several species of Swallows that find the West Valley a welcoming summer home with plenty of habitat for nests of various types and flying insects for food to sustain them and their growing offspring. Some of the swallows forage over open fields and meadows with low vegetation. In early spring, I often see all the species at the West Valley Ponds; early in the morning they line up on power lines until the lines sag. It’s a great place to learn what they all look like. Before long, they sort things out and move out to their preferred habitat for nesting.

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State Symbols in West Valley

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Over the years, the State has adopted plants, animals, stones, songs, and other artifacts as symbolic of Montana. Here are several that I have collected just because I found them interesting, beautiful, awesome, and wonderful. Only recently have I discovered that these have gained such stature. Scroll down to see if the images inspire a reaction in you!

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Those Awesome Calypso Varieties

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Little gnomes of the forest have misplaced their slippers in many locations. From the time I’ve spent looking at them, it occurs to me that in some past life I might have lost my shoes and feel compelled to continue looking for them! Orchids have been my favorite plant family for years, but I had never seen a Calypso bulbosa before arriving in the West Valley. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about them, and this year I’ve come to understand how some of those facts fit together. In this article, I will share my pictures and the information I’ve learned about two Calypso bulbosa varieties, one nothovariety, and a variant that I have found.

Calypso bulbosa var. americana (Fairy Slipper)
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