Catching Up

It’s already late April, so I feel like there is a bit of catching up to do. Like most years, the first American Robins showed up around the first of the month, though they are not yet waking us with their noisy early morning mating songs. As the snow melted, conveniently just at the end of the ski season, the year-round juncos started frequenting our driveway seeking exposed insects and gathering grit for digestion. (I often watch them through our picture window, inspiring this blog’s title.) About a week ago, I heard the first spring song of one of my favorite birds: the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. These birds are practically invisible—I’ve only seen one a couple times in my life—but their song is huge and unmistakable. Listen for it throughout the summer.

Yesterday we also spotted a Bald Eagle carrying an impressively large branch towards a nest south of our house on the steep forested slopes. There are eagle nests there nearly every year, which is not surprising considering the ample dead snags and proximity to the abundant Gallatin River.

On April 20th we were visited by a pair of Sandhill Cranes. I was so glad to have my kids with me on my walk that day. The cranes were on the pond with the more regular mallards and geese. As we approached, they lifted off with a racket and we got a great view of their size—a six-foot wingspan is pretty striking from 50 feet away!

Speaking of the pond, the mallards and geese continue to hang out in pairs daily, though we probably won’t see ducklings or goslings for another month.

April 17th we saw our first butterflies: lots of Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and a Mourning Cloak. They flitted about for several days of >60 degree weather, but have since hunkered down again to wait out this latest cold snap. I expect to see some little blues with the next warm weather.

Somewhere mid-April we also saw the first crocus in our garden bloom. Though they aren’t native, their emergence reminds us to start looking around for the first blooms elsewhere in our environs. Sure enough, yesterday we found our first native wildflower, a little yellow buttercup, poignently on the anniversary of Dave’s mother’s death. The only other signs of wildflower life are the emerging leaves of a forb I have yet to identify. I’ll keep you posted…

The elk continue to visit the property, sending the dogs into a frenzy every time they notice. Last night there were about 30 on the hillside behind the house, looking pretty shabby as they shed their winter coats. We even spotted one male with little two-point antlers covered in spring velvet.

I think that gets us up to speed so far. Future posts should hopefully be short and sweet, with highlights from a few days rather than for a whole month. I hope I can point you to things to look out for, so be sure to get out yourself and let me know what you see too!