21 May 2007

Springtime Rambling

Today we are enjoying a blizzard, and a few days ago it was 80 deg F. Ahhh, springtime at 6,000 feet. Despite or maybe because of the extremes, it is a wonderful time of year.

On my mile and a half walk from home to work, I pass a great old apple trees. Now, I liked apple trees in Pennsylvania, where every abandoned farmstead and pasture is littered with them. Even on treks across seemingly remote places, it is common to come across a fine old hundred year old tree still bearing fruit thanks to regular pruning by bears.

Around Butte, though, apple trees are a little harder to come by. Most are stunted and in many years they do not even bloom. But there is a tree near Montana Tech that is sheltered from the harsh West winds and the cold North air. Last week I watched the flower buds develop:

And then the first few flowers opened--a real treat for our native humble bees:
And today, just before the blizzard blew it, it stood in all its full-flowered glory:

Like the apple trees and bees, the ants too are busy. I'm no E.O. Wilson entomologist, but I share his fascination for ants. There is an especially large old mound near my house, and they were swarming as the morning warmed (photo at right, below). The red colored soldier ants among them are fiercely aggressive. Several were nipping away on my bare ankles and legs as I poked a straw at the two in the righthand photo.

A fishing trip easily turns into an excuse to check out the latest wildflowers, like this prarie smoke, buttercup, phlox (two different kinds, I think):

The mule deer are feeding eagerly now on the new green forbs, putting on a little weight in preparation for fawning time:

And there were a few trout to be caught for the evening's supper:

And an elk on a ridge at dusk to wish me good riddance:

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