Golden Day

The Mission Mountains, Mission Valley and town of St. Ignatius as seen from Red Sleep Mountain on the National Bison RangeYesterday I enjoyed a golden day. Along with my mom, dad and son, I made my second trip over Red Sleep Mountain at the National Bison Range of the year (the road opened last weekend). It’s amazing how much a place changes in a week during the spring. Last week there were yellow bells and shooting stars in abundance and a sprinkling of larkspur. The arrowleaf balsamroot flowers hadn’t quite opened yet. Green-up was in progress but not yet well advanced. Yesterday the green-up was much further along, the slopes were golden with arrowleaf balsam root & fennel-leaved lomatium and dotted purple with larkspur. I noticed that lupine has started blooming on Waterworks Hill on the north side of Missoula, so I imagine that if I were to visit the NBR again next week I’d see lupine and probably wild hyacinth added to the wildflower bouquet. The blooming of the bitterroots appears to be a little ways off but this heat wave might accelerate that.

arrowleaf balsamroot centerI was surprised to learn, upon closeup examination of the center of an arrowleaf balsamroot flower that it appears to be populated with flowers within flowers.

I saw my first northern parula, a warbler that is usually seen in the Eastern US but occasionally shows up in the west during migration. What a pretty bird! He was hanging out in the tree tops singing his heart out. Good thing he was singing or I would have never been able to spot him — I had to follow his voice and even then it was difficult to find him.

I also saw my first three bears of the season — all black bears. We saw two young black bears, one cinnamon and one black, together near the summit of the Red Sleep Mountain drive. We surmised that these were the cubs of the same description that we saw in that area last spring. Looks like they were probably recently dis-attached from mom.

cattail pond & Mission MountainsDown at the cattail pond by the fenced pasture the malemale yellow-headed blackbird singing his heart out yellow-headed blackbirds were singing their little hearts out as they do this time of year when love is in the air as the setting sun turned the cattail pond golden and lit up the Mission Mountains.

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