MTPR

Field Notes

Sunday 12:55 PM, Tuesdays and Fridays at 4:54 PM

For keen observers, a walk to the grocery store or a hike up a mountain can inspire questions. Where do magpies nest?  Why doesn’t a spider stick to its own web? How do water striders keep from sinking?  Every week since 1992, Field Notes has inquired about Montana's  natural history. Produced by the Montana Natural History Center, Field Notes are written by naturalists, students and listeners about the puzzle-tree bark, eagle talons, woolly aphids and giant puffballs of western, central and southwestern Montana.

Interested in writing a Field Note? Contact Allison De Jong, Field Notes editor, at adejong [at] montananaturalist.org or (406) 327-0405.

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Why Spiders Appear To Bungee-Jump From The Sky

Sep 3, 2016
Flickr user, Hunter Desportes (CC-BY-2.0)

It felt like the perfect spot to see some wildlife. So I plopped down in the sun-soaked grasses among the widely scattered ponderosa pines and waited. I was squinting, or possibly had my eyes closed, and when my vision came back into focus I saw a visitor. One of the most creative, silent and lethal predators of the natural world was directly in front of me.

We were making our way down the Bitterroot River. I said to Chinook:  “I’ll be Lewis; you can be Clark.”  Then I reconsidered. “We’ll both be Sacagawea – since, historically, probably more than one Indian woman filled that role.”  Chinook wasn’t listening.  He was working hard to plow through water up to his belly and keeping an eye out for fish.

The Bonsai Opportunists Of Timberline: Krummholz

Aug 22, 2016
Flickr user, famartin. (CC-BY-3.0)

Winds lash the peaks. Snow pelts the ridges almost every month of the year. The warmest average monthly temperature is a mere 50 degrees F. The conifer forests of the high Northern Rockies appear hunched, twisted and bent. In fact, there’s a word for the dwarf form of subalpine tree species which in other environs would grow tall and straight: “krummholz,” which translated from German means “crooked wood.”

Flickr user, Ralph Arvesen (CC-BY-2.0)

Wish I may, wish I might…see a shooting star tonight. If increasing your chances for wishing on a falling star sounds appealing, then circle the nights of August 11th and 12th on your calendar and make a big list of wishes – for this is the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, when it’s possible to see a hundred meteors an hour. In fact, for 2016, a meteor “outburst” is predicted, which means that if you’re able to watch after moonset, from midnight till dawn on August 12, you could see as many as 200 meteors an hour.

Flickr user, Peter Stephens (CC-BY-2.0)

"Glacier lilies set standards in beauty and cultural importance. These charming flowers are the lights of spring, indicators of winter’s end, symbols of nutrition, yellow images of patience and longevity, and for me, a new and solid representation of pure human enchantment."

Flickr user, Ingrid Taylar (CC-BY-2.0)

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been on a river, at any time of year, and not seen a Great Blue Heron. They seem to stand as solitary sentries on the rivers of Montana, but also on rivers from Canada to South America.

Keith Williams (CC-BY-2.0)

My eyes open at 5:00 a.m. I see my breath billow towards the top of my tent as I sigh at the blaring intrusion of a battery-operated alarm clock. I must hustle if I want any shot at boiling the pot of water necessary for a hot breakfast. Fumbling around for my least stench-ridden set of clothes, the reality slowly creeps into my head: I am a field biologist.

'Field Notes': Flowers & The Fibonacci Sequence

Jul 4, 2016
Black-eyed Susan
Jason Hollinger (CC-BY-2)

It's summer, and wildflowers are dotting the hillsides and forests. You might find yourself plucking petals off those flowers, trying to determine if he loves your or she loves you not. If you're a hopeless romantic who repeats this ritual year after year, you will notice a happy coincidence — more often than not, he or she loves you. This could only mean one thing (besides that you're worthy of adoration). Empirically speaking, this means that more often than not, flowers have an odd number of petals.

Biodiversity Heritage Library (CC-BY-2.0)

This is a Field Note about greed. My greed.

Recently the dogs and I were out joyfully stretching our legs on a sunny, blue-sky late winter day. The dogs were far ahead of me across the grassy hills when I saw a fox! It saw me, too, but it just kept going about its business in the grass, poking around over by the gully. I know that gully.  It’s full of secrets, hidden under the downfall, in the hawthorne trees, or in woodpecker holes that riddle the twisted old aspens.

'Field Notes:' Reflections On Knowing A Wild Place

Jun 17, 2016
Allison de Jong

Montana has so much to offer for those who love wild places, and I’ve spent much of my time here exploring all the new spots I can in our lovely state. Yet there are a few places that I find myself returning to again and again. My favorite may be Glen Lakes in the Bitterroots.

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