02-13-14 Field Note

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02-13-14 Field Note

February 13, 2014

Jeff Clarke's Field Note describes winter weather, flocks of horned larks, and the first February sighting of an American pipit.

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Field Note February 12, 2014 By Jeff Clarke

A polar surge blasted the Bitterroot Valley last week. Temperatures fought to tickle positive digits. Frigid air froze and burst pipes, disrupting power.

The arctic freeze solidified the river’s surface. Coyotes took advantage of newly formed bridges to explore the island near the Clubhouse. I wasn’t as brave.

A few days after the cold spell waned, mother nature dumped several inches of snow on us. The snowstorm came with the wind and piled four foot drifts across the landscape. A couple days later it rained and 40 degree temperatures softened the the snow- typical Montana weather.

A flock of horned larks followed the freshly plowed roads in search of an easy meal.

I watched this non-descript bird run along the melted river bank and pluck small bugs from the sand. The bird crew let me know that the bird I saw was an American Pipit. According to MT Field Guide records, this is the first American Pipit documented in February.

February. The wild horses continue to hang out around the Orchard House. They come down into the yard at night and feed on the lawn. They leave large brown presents every time they visit.

The horses ventured into Partridge Alley and nibbled on some mullein stocks. Beneath the disturbed mullein was a black coat of seeds on the fresh snow. Each seed may last over 100 years in the soil. Some weeds are tougher than others to beat.

Lichens flourish upon bark of an aspen tree.

tree. Skittish ducks congregate on a small section of open water on Clubhouse Pond.

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02-10-14 Bird Field Note