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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A Western Bumblebee

By Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Ever since reading Tris Hoffman’s excellent post on the Western bumblebee (read it here: A Very Special Bee), I’ve been on the lookout for a specimen that I could photograph. Today, I found one jamming it’s head into the emerging blossoms of a crabapple tree in our yard. Here are the photos—read Tris’s post for information about it’s scarcity (the West Valley area is still a good place to see them) and ways to increase their numbers.

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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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