A Few Dragonflies

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Ruby meadowhawk taking a break.

Dragonflies have interested me since my early childhood (and still ongoing) fascination with dinosaurs. So many of the illustrations in my myriad of dino books included swampy scenes with huge dragonflies swarming around, looking like fighter planes or helicopters. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that the insects in those illustrations weren’t really dragonflies as we know them, but very distant ancestors.

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A Season of Bees

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Tris Hoffman’s wonderful article A Very Special Bee (published here earlier this spring) prompted me to finally get serious about being able to identify a few of the plethora of native bee species we see here in the West Valley area of the Flathead. It’s an ongoing process, but with Tris’ help, iNaturalist, and other local and online sources, I’ve been able to catalog the following species this summer. It’s the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, given that Montana has more than 20 species of native bumblebees (not to mention the native sweat bees, miner bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, and others) but it’s a start.

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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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White-lined Sphinx Moth

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

White-lined sphinx moths (Hyles lineata) are one of over a thousand varieties of sphinx moths, most of which occur in tropical zones. This one is common throughout most of Central America and North America to southern Canada. Hyles lineata is a type of hawk moth, but they are often called hummingbird moths because they resemble hummingbirds in appearance, size, and actions. They are generally common here in the valley, although their population numbers and locations vary from year to year.

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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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Late Spring

by Pat Jaquith

pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Linnea borealis (Twin flower)

Spring is in full swing! Everywhere you look, something is bursting with color, singing exuberantly, or growing so fast you can almost hear the cells expanding! I could almost hear the bells ringing as I lay in the damp grass looking at a patch of Twin flowers! Here are some of my favorite images taken in the third month of Spring.

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