u

ground squirrel
Columbian Ground Squirrel. (Bob Danley photo)
loading...

After hibernating about nine months, the Columbian Ground Squirrels in Montana are waking up and climbing out of their underground dens. Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal saw one near the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge this week.

The adult males come to the surface first and they start munching on plants. Their underground home is about one to two feet in size and the tunnels can delve down up to three feet.

Get our free mobile app

Up above, the birds are making more and more noise as they return to add to the flocks that have been here all winter. The Spotted Towhee is usually hiding in dense brush, but you can hear its "Tow-hee" sound. The bird is about nine inches in length (photo below) and is black and orange with red eyes. It has white spots on the wings and on the tail corners.

towhee bird
Spotted Towhee. (Bob Danley Photo)
loading...

In the trees along the Bitterroot River, you might see the Tree Swallow (photo below). It has a 14-inch wingspan and is iridescent blue with a white belly. It likes to perch on overhead power lines and has a "weet-trit-weet" call.

tree swallow on post
American Tree Swallow on a post. (Bob Danley photo)
loading...

In the water at the Metcalf Refuge near Stevensville, you'll see the Northern Pintail duck (photo below). It's about 21 inches long with a blue-gray bill. The male duck is brown and gray and the female is mostly light tan.

northern pintail
Northern Pintail in flight. (Bob Danley photo)
loading...

A reminder from Bob - the county road goes between the major ponds at the Metcalf, with plenty of room for parking. Don't get out of your car! The birds are not bothered by the vehicles, but they get a little jittery when they see humans walking around. Sit and watch...and take some photos!

On the ground, you can see the Plitt's Rock Shield lichen (photo below). It's common on rocks at low elevations and can be up to eight inches in diameter and is greenish in color. Wildflowers are popping up, with Cous Biscuitroot making its appearance. It has many yellow flowers when it welcomes the spring, which should be any day for the blooming to happen.

pitts rock shield
Pitts Rock Shield lichen. (Bob Danley photo)
loading...

Way up in the sky, the Full Moon for March is happening Friday night. One of the names for this month's moon is the Worm Moon. Other cultures call it the Sugar Moon, Sore Eyes Moon and Wind Strong Moon. Look up at night and check it out.

moon
Full Moon. (Mike Daniels photo)
loading...

The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesday mornings at 7:45 a.m. on 1240 KLYQ AM radio and at www.klyq.com.

RANKED: Here are the most popular national parks

To determine the most popular national parks in the United States, Stacker compiled data from the National Park Service on the number of recreational visits each site had in 2020. Keep reading to discover the 50 most popular national parks in the United States, in reverse order from #50 to #1. And be sure to check with individuals parks before you visit to find out about ongoing, pandemic-related safety precautions at www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Animals in Montana - Looking at You

View photos of Montana wildlife who have noticed that someone is taking their photo.