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!

Continue Reading →

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!

Continue Reading →

Galls: Growth on Plants

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Winter is a good time to spot unusual things when the leaves are off and grasses are dry and beaten down by snow. Sometimes it just takes a splash of color that you wouldn’t expect to draw your attention to an unusual growth. The galls in this article all are caused by different insects but are benign, that is, they usually don’t harm the plant they are on.

Continue Reading →

Lichens

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

One of my passions is wildflowers, but the growing season of wildflowers is pretty short here in the West Valley. I have turned to lichens to help fill the void in colder months; it’s a fascinating venture. Neither plant nor animal, lichens are plentiful around here. One source reports there being 2500 species in the Pacific Northwest. Fossil records date them as long as 400 million years ago. Lichens can be found on the ground, on rocks, and on trees – both decaying and healthy. When you go out looking at lichens, I strongly recommend taking a hand lens because some of their most interesting features are almost microscopic!

Continue Reading →

Pinedrops’ Three Seasons

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Pterospora andromedea (Pinedrops) early growth 7.03.20

Pinedrops, perhaps named for the sticky texture of its stem, makes its first appearance in woods and clearings near pine trees after many of the spring ephemerals have gone to seed. Its three stages of growth are so different in appearance it would be easy to overlook the fact that they are all the same plant.

Continue Reading →

Calypso Orchids

By Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Although most people think of orchids as tropical plants, Montana is home to 31 species of orchids, almost all of which are found in the western part of the state. In the West Valley area of the Flathead Valley, the orchid you are most likely to encounter is the beautiful Calypso orchid. “Most likely” in this case does not mean common–they’re still a rare treat to encounter on a hike.

Continue Reading →

Birds and Berries


by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Western Bluebird on ornamental Cherry

In spring and summer when birds are nesting and raising young, insects are prominent in their diets. The young fledge, and their diets tend more toward fruit, berries, and other high energy foods to fuel their needs for warmth if they’re staying here or energy for migrating.

Continue Reading →

Rocky Mountain Beeplant

By Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Rocky Mountain beeplant is native to the valley, although I seem to rarely encounter one. They are annuals, but they can grow up to 5 feet in a season. They are in the cleome family (Cleome serrulata) and are often cultivated in gardens. They are one of the most visually striking wildflowers in the area, as you will see.

Continue Reading →