The familiar call and those bright red shoulder patches are present again in our landscape with the return of the Red-winged Blackbirds. As I look at the Range Map by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on their All About Birds website I see that their summer range in Montana corresponds very closely to the normal pattern of the Arctic air that enters the state in winter and suggests to me that may be the reason why they don’t winter here.
It’s two weeks late this year and so far I’ve seen only the one, but there will soon be many more Yellow Bells dotting the hillsides in western Montana.
Fritillaria pudica (‘pudica’ in Latin means ‘bashful’) are found only in the eleven western-most states, skipping Arizona, and the two western-most provinces in Canada. They are perennials from small bulbs. The bulbs were harvested and eaten by several of the native Indian tribes.
Just below my house the Clark Fork River flows between the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and the Cabinet Mountains and there is a deer trail there through the dense willows just above the river. My tracks can often be found on it too.
Several days ago as I followed that little trail I noticed something on the bank just a few feet from the water. It was a curiosity, but I didn’t push through the willows and down the bank for a closer look. It is common to see odd things wash up on the shore.
It was still there today, curiosity finally got the best of me and I did investigate. When I reached down and turned it over, I was a bit surprised at what I saw (I removed the name from the photo):
Half a mile down stream there is a rapids and at the upper end swift water flows out to the white water in the middle of the river. I carried it there, respectfully relaunched the vessel and watched to assure that it made it completely through the rapids.