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The year in Nature

The year in Nature

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The year in Nature
The year in Nature

Mark the calendar to catch these natural wonders outside your windowTo these New Year's resolutions be true:

To celebrate the fury of each passing storm and the bounty of the full moons that wrap themselves around the month of January.

To welcome the change of seasons, spring's first smell of skunk, the birth of white-tailed fawns in June, autumn's lingerings.

To laugh and cry and carry on in the out-of-doors. To meet nature and bless it and pay homage.

To mark your days by the hatch of river bugs and the before-dawn songs of baby birds.

The calendar that follows is a starter list, a compilation of wonders-outside-your-window courtesy of the late naturalist-writer-radio commentator Kim Williams, astronomer Dave Friend, naturalist-journal writers Will Kerling and Carol McQuade, and artist Susan VanRooy.


1 Â The year is new and the moon is full. Make a wish.

3  Earth reaches perihelion  its closest approach to the sun  91,400,000 miles.

5 Â Crawl back under the covers. Today's is the latest sunrise of the year: about 8:22 a.m. in Missoula.

6 Â Look for granddaddy longlegs and spiders traversing the snow surface.

9 Â Give a hoot. Learn how to capture, band and measure long-eared owls during Five Valley Audubon Society's first field trip of the year. Meet at 9 a.m. in the parking lot of Adams Field House.

11 Â On this day last year, Will Kerling spied two pileated woodpeckers in the cottonwoods in Greenough Park. Go see if they're still there.

15 Â On this day, Carol McQuade saw a robin on Humble Street in Missoula.

18 Â And on this, more than a thousand Bohemian waxwings stuffed themselves full of ash berries, delighting Missoula birdwatchers (and, no doubt, themselves).

27 Â The moon passes in front of the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus, in the early morning.

31 Â Once in a blue moon, and in the first month of the last year of the century, the moon is again full. Wishes do come true.


2 Â Of this you can be sure, on this and nearly every Groundhog Day. Yellow-bellied marmots, western Montana's version of groundhogs, will sleep for six more weeks.

9 Â Study butterflies on the Internet, and dream of summer's warmth on your face.

18 Â Venus, Jupiter and the moon are close together (on the western horizon) in the early evening sky.

20 Â How many elk can you count on Missoula's North Hills? On this day last year, there were 100.

21 Â Let's celebrate the third Sunday in February as did Kim Williams. Search for signs of spring: an optimistic ant, a chickadee calling, a robin on Waterworks Hill, a big V of geese.

23 Â Jupiter and Venus are very close together in the early-evening sky.

26 Â Run out in the back yard and see if the aspen leaves are opening.

28 Â It is time for the rough-legged hawk to fly north. So long, old friend.


1 Â The moon is full tonight. Some Indian tribes called this the Worm Moon, because earthworms are beginning to stir in their underground burrows.

2 Â Mercury reaches its highest point in early-evening sky; also near Venus and Jupiter.

5 Â Mercury comes closest to Jupiter in the early-evening sky.

11 Â Go quietly to Waterworks Hill, and look for pink Douglasia Montana blooming on the ridgeline and yellow-bellied marmots sunning on south-facing rocks.

13 Â Jim Brown is taking Auduboners to visit winter residents and early migrants in the lower Mission Valley. Why don't you tag along?

17 Â Look up. On this day last year, Will Kerling walked out his front door and witnessed 50 tundra swans flying north.

19 Â Saturn, Venus and the moon are very close together in the early-evening sky.

20 Â Spring is here. The vernal equinox is at 6:46 p.m. (MST). Every point on the planet is provided with equal amounts of daylight and night light today.

21 Â Look for sagebrush buttercups at Fort Missoula.

31 Â Now we know, this is the year of magic. Another blue moon.


1 Â No fooling. Western whites have c

racked their chrysalides.

3 Â Listen and smile. The first spring thunderstorms are brewing.

8 Â Ospreys are back at Maclay Bridge. Call your hello.

10 Â Hunt for pasqueflowers on Blue Mountain.

14 Â The tulips are blooming on the east side of City Hall.

16 Â Mercury reaches its highest point in the early-morning sky.

17 Â Take a trip to the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. Can you find 31 species of birds? How about wood ducks?

18 Â Western garter snakes are emerging from rock walls. Wiggle your hello.

24 Â Mars reaches its closest approach to the Earth, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise.

28 Â Make a bouquet in your memory. Glacier lilies are blooming in Pattee Canyon.

30 Â Tonight, the moon is full. Look for buttercups in moonlit meadows.


1 Â Mercury and Jupiter are close together in the early-morning sky.

1 Â Five Valleys Audubon Society goes to Brown's Lake, with commentary by Jim Brown, to watch waterfowl and raptors. Everyone's invited. You, too.

5 Â Western pine elfin butterflies are doing low aerial dances. Female red admiral butterflies are laying eggs on nettles.

6 Â This time last year, Will Kerling found snow morels bigger than softballs. Can you?

9 Â Get out of town. Go watch white pelicans circle feeding at Holter Lake.

13 Â Mercury and Saturn are close together in the early-morning sky.

16 Â Baby house finches are leaving their nests.

18 Â Now's the time to learn birdwatching. Virginia Vincent leads an introductory trip along the Kim Williams Trail.

21 Â The moon passes in front of the bright star Regulus in Leo, in evening.

29 Â The moon is full. Listen for the chorus of birds that sings before sunrise.


1 Â Search the sagebrush for western toads.

2 Â White-tailed deer fawns are born this week. Welcome, little ones.

5 Â Look for rock wrens on Whitaker Hill. Larry Weeks is leading the field trip, for Five Valleys Audubon Society.

9 Â Ruby-crowned kinglets are singing in the forest.

10 Â Venus reaches highest point in early-evening sky

14 Â Get up quick. Today's is the earliest sunrise of the year, about 5:42 a.m. in Missoula.

17 Â Get grumpy. The knapweed is starting to flower.

19 Â Go out in the rain and watch red-breasted nuthatches feeding their young.

21 Â Celebrate the summer solstice with a song. Summer beings at 1:49 p.m. (MST).

28 Â Today's is the latest sunset of the year, about 9:35 p.m. in Missoula.

28 Â And the moon is full. Be glad. And thankful.


1 Â Small frogs are hunting moths outside your window.

3 Â Up close, a male redstart warbler looks like a butterfly. It flutters so rapidly along limbs, hunting bugs.

4 Â If you're patient, you could see a great blue heron fishing in the "new" Rattlesnake stream in Greenough Park.

6 Â The Earth reaches aphelion, its greatest distance from the sun: 94,500,000 miles.

7 Â Bedstraw is blooming.

21 Â Have you ever had a raccoon waddle past your barbecue grill during dinner?

23 Â The white prairie aster is blooming in the foothills.

25 Â Young coyotes are learning to hunt.

27 Â Sometimes, the July full moon is called the Hay Moon because it gives farmers extra light to bring in fresh-cut hay.

28 Â Another reason to wake early: At 5:30 a.m. today, there's a partial lunar eclipse. About 40 percent of the moon is eclipsed.


8 Â Bird-watch in the mown hayfields at the state tree farm off Spurgin Road in Missoula. Last year, an immature golden eagle hunted mice there for two weeks.

10 Â Discover a "native" jewelweed plant.

12 Â Sleep on a mountaintop. Tonight's the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.

14 Â Mercury reaches its highest point in early-morning sky.

15 Â Those flying cigars gleaning insects are Vaux's swifts.

24 Â Take your sack lunch into the forest. See if your sandwich attra

cts gray jays.

26 Â The moon is full, and the corn is ripe. Blow a kiss to the Maize Moon.

31 Â There's a young bull moose hiding in the willows.


3 Â Pine siskins are feasting on wild sunflower seeds. In the garden, black-capped chickadees come and go with sunflower seeds.

7 Â Purplish copper butterflies mate in the garden.

18 Â Alfalfa fields are the feeding grounds of preference for nectaring butterflies.

19  Look for signs of summer's waning: foxes and skunks active in the evening and early morning, birds gathering and feeding for the flight south, spiders everywhere, swarms of fuzzy blue gnats and  our favorite  the smell of autumn in the air.

21 Â There's frost on the pumpkins. Ospreys have gone south.

22 Â Watch for warblers, yellow-rumped and orange-crowned, resting on maples, en route to warmer climes.

23 Â Proof that things always seem to even out in nature: the autumnal equinox is at 5:30 a.m. (MST). Autumn's arrival.

24 Â The Harvest Moon.

27 Â There's a Wilson's warbler in the lilac bush. Sing with him, for a little while.


3 Â Yikes. Cooper's hawks are chasing house finches in the neighborhood.

6 Â Red crossbills are using their crossed bills to snag seeds from ponderosa pine cones.

7 Â Coyotes are howling and chortling on McCauley Butte. The blue jays are back in Target Range.

19 Â Sometimes, those small yellow leaves are orange sulphur butterflies.

20 Â The peak of the Orionid meteor shower is tonight.

22 Â Ladybugs are collecting under rocks on Sheep Mountain, for the winter.

23 Â Jupiter reaches its closest approach to the Earth, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise.

24 Â Mercury reaches its highest point in the early-evening sky.

24 Â The Hunter's Moon.

31 Â Look for grasshoppers on grassy slopes, and goblins in the alley.


5 Â Saturn reaches its closest approach to the Earth, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise

8 Â Have you ever seen bobcat tracks in the snow?

13 Â Bird feeders are crowded: black-capped chickadees, mountain chickadees, Steller's jays and blue jays, goldfinches, juncos, a red-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, flickers and house sparrows.

15 Â Mercury crosses in front of the sun.

16 Â On this day last year, a dandelion was blooming in Missoula. Salad makings.

17 Â Go somewhere quiet and dark, and look up. Tonight's the peak of the Leonid meteor shower.

22 Â The moon is full and bright. Beavers continue their winter preparations at night.


3 Â Mercury reaches its highest point in the early-morning sky.

8 Â The darkness has arrived. This is the earliest sunset of the year, about 4:47 p.m. in Missoula.

12 Â Now's the peak of the Geminid meteor shower.

15 Â This December's is the 100th Christmas Bird Count by the National Audubon Society.

18 Â Said Kim Williams: "Sleep during the winter just like bears do."

22 Â Welcome the winter solstice at 12:44 a.m. (MST). The season of snowy days and cold, still nights is ours. "Stand outside at midnight," counseled Kim Williams. "Say to yourself: This is the longest night of the year and the shortest day. The world is heading toward light."

22 Â The last full moon of the 20th century. The Long Night Moon. Make a memory that makes you smile.

Thursday - 12/31/98
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