by Pat Jaquith
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!
Yellow-rumped Warblers usually begin the parade of warbler species because they are able to digest berries as well as insects. I encountered a mixed flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers feeding in Hawthorns where presumably they could find insects on the bark as well as some dried pomes from last fall. There are two sub-species of Yellow-Rumped Warblers: Audubon’s has yellow throat; Myrtle (above) has white throat. The Myrtles generally move farther north for summer; Audubon’s sometimes summer in our area.
Deer go through a big transition in spring. Their digestive system reverses the changes that enabled digesting woody forage of winter to enable them to process tender greenery from which they get nutrients for growth. Thick, dark (for absorbing heat in winter) coats give way to tawny lighter coats. Birds make good use of clumps of shed hair in the building of nests.
Blackbird males – both Red-wings and Yellow-headed – arrive before the females. They establish and defend territories awaiting the arrival of females; then the competition for mate selection begins. The Yellow-headed Blackbirds’ songs are distinctive and definitely can be heard above the chatter of all the birds in a wetland site!
Strawberry plants bloom and produce fruit early. I found this one in a sunny opening near Bowser Lake in the State Lands off MT 424. This variety is quite unique to the northwest part of Montana: note the long white hairs on the edges of leaves. The fruit will ripen in mid-June; if you are fortunate to find one red, ripe, and glossy, you’re a lucky one! The flavor of wild strawberries certainly is a treat. But knowing that I have access to other food, I try to limit myself to just one and leave the rest for birds and animals whose cupboard I am raiding.
Cold-blooded reptiles bask in sun to warm up. The thunder of my footsteps startled this one into trying to hide in deeper foliage at the edge of the footpath.
Parsley species are the host plant of The Anise Swallowtail. They lay their eggs on this plant; when the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the leaves and other parts of the host plant. Each species of butterfly has its obligate host plant(s) where their offspring find nourishment.
Canada Geese get a quick start on nesting and raising goslings. They are about the first to bring their little ones out for swimming lessons.
The middle month of spring is an exciting time, filled with many obvious changes in all forms of life. Enjoy!