Short Days Perk

One of the perks of these short winter days is my drive to and from work is right at sunrise and sunset. We have had some beautiful shows this last month. The light across the Bighorn Basin is hard to capture: It changes subtly, yet so quickly. Most of the time I just enjoy it, knowing I can’t really capture the scene since it extends from horizon to horizon, but here’s one of my favorites- so far.

cloud_peak_sunset

Black Tooth and Cloud Peaks Catching the Last Rays of the Day

The Pollinators are Here

The cherry trees are abuzz with insect activity. As one of the earliest flowers around my house, the cherry trees offer an early source of nectar to pollinating insects.

Cherry_blossoms_20150423_64

Insects represent 80% of the world’s species. There are over 900,000 species of insects. Worldwide, many scientists agree there are more unnamed insects than named. There may be 200 million insects for every human on the planet.1 Another way to look at that is 300 pounds of insect for every person!2

While pollination is a well known relationship between plant and animal, insect herbivory on plants might be overlooked (unless you are fighting earwigs, or some other insect in your garden), but insects may account for up to 80% of plant herbivory in terrestrial ecosystems. Only 10-35% is consumed by the grazing vertebrates we most often think of such as, cattle, sheep, deer, elk, moose, mice, rabbits, turtles, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, birds, etc.3

 

1 New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/18/movies/what-s-creepy-crawly-and-big-in-movies-bugs.html
2 Smithsonian Institute http://www.si.edu/encyclopedia_si/nmnh/buginfo/bugnos.htm
3 Price, P.W. 1979. Insect Ecology, 3rd Ed. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Spring Time in Wyoming

Regardless of the dry, dry weather. Spring is here. The first birds to return to my locale are the Mountain Bluebirds. They’ve been here for almost a month. Their cheerful deep blue and sky blue feathers are a treat to behold.As the summer progresses, we watch them dart and dive after insects. It’s satisfying to watch them feast on the mosquito population!

Western_Meadowlark

Photo by Kevin Cole, Flickr

The real harbinger of spring for many Wyomingites, however, is the state bird, the Western Meadowlark. It’s distinct song is the hallmark of warmer weather.

In honor of the changing seasons, I have replaced my header image with a photo of Phlox (multiflora?) the lowland version, Phlox hoodii, is one of the first native wild flowers to bloom.

Warm, Dry March

It seemed like March was really dry, but I’m in a new place, so I don’t have years of personal experience regarding March weather in this location. According to the maps below, my impression was correct. We had good snow cover all winter, then it was as if someone just turned the clouds off. Almost no discernible moisture in March.

Prepitation March 20154 Wyoming

Wyoming  less than 50% precipitation March of 2015

Most of Wyoming received less than 50% of the long term average precipitation in March of 2015 (upper left image)

Yes, Wyoming is Desolate

Keep Wyoming WildSometimes I’m a little miffed at the way people describe Wyoming. Words like barren, desolate, and god-forsaken have been used. I recently read a best seller where the protagonist walks through Wyoming and dismisses it with a few sentences as ugly and trashy. The author then goes on to spend pages and pages describing a well known Midwestern city, so I’m guessing we just don’t see eye to eye on what constitutes beautiful landscapes.

After my first burst of defensiveness, I realized I should be glad. If Wyoming was full of manicured parks with trees evenly spaced, bucolic ponds, and rolling lawns, multitudes would flock here. Then it wouldn’t be Wyoming. Lack of humans is one of Wyoming’s best features as far as I’m concerned. Not that I dislike humans, I happen to be one after all, but with humans come human endeavors in the form of roads, buildings, internal combustion engines and NOISE.

Noise is what I try to get away from as much as possible. Quiet is what I crave.

In the past I might have said I crave silence, but I’ve discovered there is no such thing, but a few times I’ve experienced something very close. Like the time my family and I were sleeping in the open air, not so much as a tree branch to obstruct my view of the half moon sky. I’d fallen asleep gazing at the stars, but a sound had stirred me awake. As my foggy mind cleared, I realized it was my son’s deep breathing a few yards away. It was the only sound, so it woke me up.

Another time I was out looking for arrowheads. I heard some unfamiliar, enchanting birdsong. It wasn’t loud, but it was very clear. I followed the song up the hillside to find the source. As I topped the ridge, I found myself looking down into a drainage 500 feet deep and the birdsong coming from a wide, tree shaded spot on the creek about 200 yards away. Wonderful Wyoming quiet.

So, yeah, Wyoming is barren and desolate if by that you mean 360 degrees of horizon can be seen; or you can spend a whole day and not see another person, or hear an engine; if your cell phone or iPad’s wifi doesn’t work on every square inch of land, or you have to plan ahead because if you have a problem, it might be a long time before help comes.

Desolate Wyoming

God bless Wyoming and keep it wild.1

 

1 www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/7118550051/