A Spring Mountain Greeting

GLACIAL LILY, also sometimes called Dogtooth Violet, is the flower pictured. It is one off the very first blooms to show itself after the covering of snow melts from its mountain home. Whenever we’ve chanced to be on the Idaho-Montana continental divide, or in the Colorado Rockies, just after the snows of winter have permitted it, this flower, in full bloom, has always been there to greet us. It’s such a delightful and graceful flower that it’s difficult to pass it by without photographing it.

This inviting species consists of a beautiful yellow, nodding inflorescence connected to a 6 to 15”, slender stem. There are 3 petals and 3 sepals that curl back and upward and six stamens hanging down. The anthers are large and prominent. They range in color from yellow to red to white or purple. Other variations of this bud may be reddish. Two or three large, long, broad, lanceolate, basal, lily leaves extend from the plant’s base.

The plant sprouts from a long, starchy corm. Indians often used the bulb as a food source. The bulb is also a favorite of Grizzlies, who dig for it with their well-equipped claws. High in calories, the energy derived is important for the bear’s summer body weight increase.

As we often frequent high and wild areas, we come upon this plant frequently. It is usually found in dense patches of many individuals – an enticement to a bear. As it is usually cool after snow-melt, coming upon this flower will warm your heart with its charming design and bright color.

Glacial Lily

Glacial Lily

Dark-Eyed Juncos and “The Good Old Boys Club”

Testosterone works in several ways. It enhances male characteristics, sharpens the sex drive, and increases feelings of aggression. Its effect on Dark-Eyed Juncos is very amusing. Males in winter will form groups and force females and immature birds to the less desirable peripheries. It’s like they’ve formed a “good old boys club.” There will be a hierarchy within the group. The more testosterone produced, the greater the aggressive nature, and therefore a higher ranking.

A higher level of the hormone induces a more intense feather coloration – especially the white stripes down the sides of the tail. Testosterone makes for better singers, to match all the other extras. Females are more apt to select these males for pair bonds. However, they make poorer mates. They help very little with raising the brood, spending most of their time singing and displaying on their territories to other males. There is, however, a price to pay for all this glory – a shorter life span is the cost.

The Dark-Eyed Junco is actually a type of sparrow. This six inch species comes in several varieties. Slate-Colored, Pink-Sided, Red-Backed, Gray-Headed, and Oregon are some of the races. The Oregon Junco and Gray-Headed Junco are our most common types.

Juncos are widespread over the United States and are very common at bird feeders. The feeders need to be on the ground for them, as they are ground feeders. Lake Cleveland has a sizable population of Gray-Headed ones. The Oregon is more likely to be at feeders here in Burley, with an occasional Slate-Colored in winter.

You are driving on a forest road enjoying the things around you. You notice small birds flying across the road that are hard to see well enough to identify positively. However, if there is noticeable white in their tail, the probability is high that you are seeing Dark-Eyed Juncos.

(An Oregon Junco: Black head, rusty sides, white belly)

(An Oregon Junco: Black head, rusty sides, white belly)