Mid-Spring

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Dandelion with Sweat Bee, Ant, and another bee 5.07.17

Busy as a bee! The pace of changes becomes fairly frantic in May. Lawns are “greening up”, perennial plants are showing color giving insects something to come out for; birds are arriving now that there are insects they can feed to growing hatchlings; the soil has warmed up and dried out enough to be worked so farmers are out there early and late… read on for more pictures and notes about this cascade of events!

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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.  

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Early Spring

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Mud season 3.16.17

Winter is melting into summer. Every day is a surprise: will the snow retreat today? or will we experience a fall-back into freezing temperatures and even get some snow? When will we see some green in the in the cold, black soil of fields that were sown last fall? When will we see the first-of-the-year (FOY) Sandhill Crane? Who can guess correctly the day of ice-out on the potholes? How many geese, ducks, swans fit in the one open pool? Are those trees really starting to blossom? Will I be able to leave that heavy coat home? Read further for some of my FOY’s!

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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.

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Mountain Chickadees

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org


Mountain Chickadee at feeder 1.28.21

Spirited, social, active, acrobatic, gregarious, friendly. Maybe I should add ‘compassionate’- see the story below! Watching these little birds as they bounce along on the airwaves on their way to the bird feeder in the morning is mood-lifting. Always on the alert, head switching back and forth, they sound the first alarm when something of concern approaches.

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Tree Creepers

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Certhia americana (Brown Creeper) on Larch tree 2.01.21

Certhia americana is the only North American member of the Certhiidae (Treecreeper) family. Thanks to its long, thin tail, it measures 5.25 inches, but it appears to be about the same size as a Pygmy nuthatch, with which it could be confused. “A prisoner of the forest, the creeper seems unable to escape the gravitational pull of the tree trunk on which it creeps, ever upward” writes Bryan Pfeiffer. They live in mature coniferous forests, not wandering far afield.

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Bark Acrobats: Nuthatches

by Pat Jaquith

pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

White-breasted Nuthatch browsing the bark headfirst 4.27.16

We hit the jackpot on Nuthatch species– well, almost! Three of the four Nuthatch species in the US live here! We have Red-breasted, White-breasted, and Pygmy Nuthatches. While each has a favored tree species, our mixed forests are great places to see all of them. Nuthatches grab a seed, wedge it into a bark crevice and hammer it open as if using a hatchet – thus, their curious name! They are well-equipped for gleaning insects and seeds from all directions. Their clawed feet hook into bark providing sure traction as they cruise up, down, and around looking for food. While our environment provides everything they need, they are frequent visitors to bird feeders, gardens, and water holes, making even more opportunities to observe their acrobatic talents.

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