Phenology Report for Late May 2015


It’s raining again this morning. Over the past week, we’ve had around 2″of rain fall – one day giving us a full 1/2″. Talking with neighbors, they say that May is often the wettest month – with either lots of snow or rain. But they also agree that this is an unusual amount.

So that means the snowpack is back in the high country and the hills are greening up like crazy. That should keep the fire season at bay some.

About a week ago, I noticed the Western Bluebirds going in and out of the nest box in our yard more often. I do believe the chicks have hatched. Mike spotted a Western Tanager last week near Buffalo Bill Reservoir. We’re also seeing tons of Chipping Sparrows, and the Horned Larks are back as are the hummingbirds. At a neighbor’s house we watched some Calliopes feeding.

And a Kestrel shows up usually once or twice a day here to hunt – they are such beautiful birds. I’ve actually seen three or four on the power lines between the Wapiti Post Office and the Yellowstone Valley Inn when going back and forth to town.

The Chukars have not been seen for a few days here at our house – need to ask the neighbor if she’s seen them. But the Golden Eagles are back to hunting around the houses here – and we think we’ve found their nest, but it’s a bit far to see very well with binoculars. At some point we need to invest in a really good spotting scope.

Most of the deer are gone at this point – but a couple of them keep occasionally showing up, but nothing like we saw earlier in the month. Many are down lower on the valley bottom. The bucks have their antlers about half way up their ears at this point. We did see an unfortunate car vs deer incident the other evening – nobody won. The deer (looked pregnant) didn’t make it and the car looked pretty much totaled, but the people looked ok. Someone from Illinois most likely on their way to Yellowstone. A plot twist they didn’t expect.

They are reworking the road between the Wapiti School and the National Forest to try and mitigate this some – sloping the shoulders much more to make them easier to see. Next year they plan to work on the section from the School to the Post Office. The waits aren’t too bad now that the tourist season is in full swing.

Neighbors heading into Yellowstone report seeing lots of wildlife – bears at Mary Bay and Mt. Washburn, moose around Pahaska, elk and deer, and of course, bison.

Flowers are blooming – had a whole bunch of Arrowleaf Balsamroot on our property ready to bloom, but the deer came through one night and nipped off most every single blossom. Also seen have been Flax, Nuttall’s Viola (the little yellow ones), Evening Primrose, Indian Paintbrush, Larkspur, and Northern Sweetvetch. I need to get out to a few spots to do a check (such as at Sylvan Lake and Cub Creek for Glacier Lilies).

In town, the crabapple and apple blossoms as well as the lilacs were not very good this year. The dry winter took its toll on the plants. But this rain should help the garden perennials out. Heard that Northern Gardens hasn’t been very busy with the colder and wet weather – once the weather warms up, I’d bet they’d sell out quickly. Now is a better time to get there with a good selection. While we don’t have a yard here, I do want to pick up a few plants for a couple of containers. Hoping to get in before the weather breaks.

And summer does appear to be on the horizon of the weather forecast with a prediction of at least partly sunny and temps in the 60s starting for next weekend.

I apologize for the lack of photos here – overdid it with various work and my right shoulder seized completely on Friday night. Back to at least being able to type on the ipad here.

Be Outside | Let Nature Refresh You

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  • Diana
    May 26, 2015., 12:24 •

    Janet, I always enjoy your phenology reports! All the names and animals and plants are so familiar and make me a little homesick, though I love living here in NW Montana now. We've had a warm and extremely dry spring, following a winter with 50% of normal snowpack, so wildfires are a big concern this summer. The first wave of wildflowers are mostly gone in our woods: Glacier lilies, Oregon grape, early blue violets, kinnikinnick, wild clematis, serviceberry and wild strawberries. Pussy toes have been blooming as well as heart-leaf arnica and false solomon's seal and we're starting to see Alberta penstemon, mariposa lilies, death camas and wild roses. Around the house we see calliope hummingbirds, ravens, chipping sparrows, robins, Townsend's solitaires, Western tanagers, juncos, red-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, flickers, mountain and black-capped chickadees and great horned owls. The whitetail deer have dispersed somewhat but a doe and her yearling hang around and the doe should be giving birth any day if she didn't last night; we saw her near dusk and you could see some of the outline of the fawn through her abdomen. A hen wild turkey we call "Petunia" hangs around the general area and likely has a nest. Steller jays and gray jays are pretty quiet and hidden, but they are occasionally seen. We sometimes see osprey, bald eagles, a vulture, and a couple kinds of hawks fly over. It's been a couple months since we've seen bobcat, mountain lion, coyote or weasel sign and no fresh bear sign yet this spring. We hope to go to Glacier Park this week, though the road isn't completely open through it yet. Hope you dry out soon (send some rain up here!). It must be very green there right now. Diana

    • Janet
      May 26, 2015., 19:44 •

      Sorry to hear this moisture hasn't made it up to you, Diana - would be glad to send you some if at all possible. The Wind River Canyon is closed from mud slides - has some of the best photos and write ups I've seen yet. I also spotted Lupine blooming today - figured it was out there, but just have been inside far too much. None of our wildflowers are very tall this year. I also spotted more balsamroot with empty flower bud stems today. They must be at the 'tasty' stage for the mule deer. And we have a spot to check for a carcass - Golden Eagles hanging out in an unusual spot. Will let you know what we find.