Nature News from Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Nature News from Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem originates on from Leslie Heeks-Stoltz.

Equinox is around the corner and the first bear sightings are happening. West of the park, a friend has seen a grizzly for over a week, but the first confirmed sightings reported by the park have been this week. This is always an indication of changing seasons. Time to start carrying Bear Spray on forays into the backcountry.

Another arrival indicating spring is springing is the arrival of Mountain Bluebirds. The sight of these bluer than blue flying gems just makes one happy! The Mountain Bluebird is a small thrush. It is six to seven inches long (smaller than a robin) with a wingspan of ten to thirteen inches and a slender, black beak that is well adapted to its predominantly insectivorous lifestyle.

Male Mountain Bluebird

Click on the above link for the song of the Mountain Bluebird with an Olive Sided Flycatcher call at the very end. Once you get the link, scroll down to audio line.

The brilliant blue of its wings and tail (males have entirely blue wings and tails, females are more gray/brown with only the edges of their wings and tails colored blue) is the source of its name.

Female Mountain Bluebird with nesting material

The bluebirds return to their northern ranges in March or April to establish their mating territories. Bluebirds eat insects (about two thirds of their summer diet) and fruit. They primarily forage for their insects on the ground rather than snapping up them up in flight (like tree swallows). They are frequently seen “hovering” or “kiting” over a spot in search of the perfect snack. Bluebirds prefer grassy fields and scattered trees for perching and nesting. Edge habitat between grasslands and forests are preferred habitats. . Nesting boxes have augmented nesting success and the increase of bluebird populations the past few decades is, in part, due to these nest boxes.

In the spring, when snow is still piled up in the NW corner of Yellowstone, it’s often possible to ski along the river far up to distant meadows. It’s common to see Bluebirds, standing on the snow on the river bank, picking insects from the surface of the snow!

What a sight; that blue on white!

You’ve heard the term “Bluebird of Happiness”. This sums up what a Bluebird symbolizes for many people and cultures. They are the subject of many myths and legends. We can all benefit from the Bluebirds as they return!

Bluebird of happiness

Be like the bluebird who never is blue, For he knows from his upbringing what singing can do. Cole Porter

The bluebird carries the sky on his back. Henry David Thoreau

The Vernal Equinox

The Vernal Equinox occurs in just 2 days. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Vernal equinox or  spring equinox occurs when the Sun crosses or passes the equator line, heading toward the northern hemisphere.. This marks the start of spring in the northern half of the planet. After this date, the Northern Hemisphere begins to be tilted more toward the Sun, resulting in increasing daylight hours and warming temperatures. This year the Spring Equinox happens on March 20!

Equinox sun is over Earth’s equator.

Above is a neat description by the daily update from Deborah Byrd who started this in her time with the McDonald Observatory.

The earth orbiting around the sun once a year

To us, the vernal equinox brings new beginnings and nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere… Many cultures celebrate spring festivals, like including Easter and Passover. The March full moon is sometimes called the Worm moon and it happens this year on March 28. As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear. This is just in time for the Robin’s return.. The more northern Native American tribes knew this Moon as the full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter

Can you feel the Sun getting stronger? The longer days bring high temperatures In some areas, crocuses are popping. Trees, shrubs are budding as well. These are all sensitive to temperature and day-length, too Since ancient days, people have used them as indicators of when the weather is right for planting.

So like the Bluebird’s return, the Spring Equinox symbolizes new life and new beginnings…find some time to celebrate this in your life!

Wishing you all the best as we experience more light!