Blue Darner Dragonflies Are Busy in Montana
Skalkaho Pass, on the eastern side of the Bitterroot Valley, is where you can easily find the dragonfly of the late summer season - the Darner. There are six species of this family, including the Zigzag (photo above). Mud Lake is about a mile east of Skalkaho Pass and there is a wooden boardwalk over the boggy part of the lake, so don't stray off the trail. Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal says you can find Lake, Paddle-tailed, Sedge, Subarctic, Variable and Zig-Zag Darners there. There might even be some dragonfly mating going on.
Meanwhile, on the Bitterroot Valley floor, look around for flocks of birds, getting ready for migration. Bob noticed Chipping Sparrows and Eastern Kingbirds beginning to get together. Mostly, you are going to find birds near the Bitterroot River, where the insects and other food sources might be. The "Bitterroot River Important Bird Area" was designated by the Audubon Society from Lolo Creek south to Woodside Crossing, just north of Hamilton. He said 240 bird species have been seen there, with over 115 species using the area for breeding. There are about 2,000 such Important Bird Areas in the U.S.
Butterflies can be found around water sources like irrigation ditches with weeds that the little fliers like. The Purplish Copper butterfly likes the nectar of the Comman Tansy, which is flowering now. This butterfly is pretty small with orange-purple upper wing colors (photo below).
Wildflowers highlighted this week were from the Aster family - the Hairy Goldenaster, the Canada Goldenrod and the Sneezeweed (photos below). The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesdays at about 7:45 a.m. on 1240 AM KLYQ and klyq.com.