In the May-June 2007 Audubon magazine is an item about the Colorado blue columbine, a pretty wildflower that will bloom here in about a month. In fact, white or cream or even a kind of purple as well. The item taught me that when one turns the blossum upside down, one "will see a circle of doves, drinking." Huh? News to me, but this piece, by Ted Williams, teaches that the word columbine derives from the Latin "columba" for dove.

Williams goes further: Look, he urges, at one of the spurs at the base of the five petals to "see if you can make out an eagle's talon. Double huh. The resemblance is thought to have given rise to the plant's generic name - Aquilegia - presumably from the Latin "aquila," for eagle.

Well, I hope a columbine flower will make its way to me and let me see if I can recognize these characteristics.

Of course, it's not unusual for people to "see" recognizable shapes in flowers. Sometimes the shapes inspire familiar names for the flowers. And sometimes with rather more imagination (or experience) that every one possesses.

Take dogtooth violet, for instance; is that the first thing that comes to mind about that nifty lily? Or, the umbrella plant ... from the suggestion - to some - of an opened umbrella by the cluster of flowers. Sugarbowls are in bloom now and apparently suggest that item of pottery. Another name is Old-man's whiskers. Go figger.

Steershead does figger. Takes a bit of spatial arrangement. The shootingstar rather looks like an aerial fireworks effect a pyrotechnicolor would be proud to simulate. I don't have the imagination to explain how the houndstongue got its nickname; its burs adhere all too well to dog fur, but tongue? Don't get this one at all.

Paintbrush and butter-and-eggs are easier to accept. Elephanthead is straightforward. Mules-ears refers to the flower's leaves. The dandelionflower, I was told as a youngster, has petals that look like the teeth of a lion: dent-de-lion. That's really reaching. For some reason, dandelions are vastly disliked and so are sumetimes referred to with unpleasant monikers. Too bad.

Also in the May-June 2007 Audubon magazine is a full-length feature article by Ted Williams on wolves and their recent restoration to the Northern Rockies. Williams makes the point, among others, that "all that stands in the way of [one of] the biggest success story in the history of the Endangered Species Act is ignorance and superstition." I would add, apparent deliberate ignorance of the animal.

The article is worth a read. Williams is a prolific writer and has included some remarks by our own Franz Camenzind, director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. And don't miss the Guest Shot in the May 2 News&Guide by our own Jack Turner, entitled "Is Historical Wolf Hatred Pathological?" Each of these authors has expressed profound views. ... not unlike my own.

Field notes: It's too soon to allow the luscious new green landscape to be your norm. To be simply accepted as commonplace. Gotta continue to marvel at the incomprehensible wonders of new leaf and blossom. For one thing, it hasn't been that long ago, and for another, well, it won't be long before ... oh, let us not go there. Just know that the mature green of summer is, somehow, different.

Then, there are those lingering twilights. Savor them.

Mid-May and all the species of birds that should be here seem to be. Some have just arrived, some have young, some are nesting and some are courting and selecting nest sites. These weeks in May are peak activity ones in our local bird scene.

New arrivals include yellow and yellow-rumped warblers, black-headed grosbeaks and Bullock's orioles. I haven't seen or heard of lazuli buntings, but I'd wager on their return. A varied thrush was seen on May 7 by Tammy Christel. Diane Hazen noted a handful of Eurasian collared doves; take careful looks at all doves these days. Katy Duffy saw collared doves at Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park.

Of particular note, and extremely rare, were Western bluebird (John Good), spotted towhee (Claudia Gillette) and sharp-tail grouse (Bill Dunn). No mention yet of Western wood-pewee (my personal sign of summer).

Pronghorns are back, having completed their long and hazardous migration from the Red Desert. (Fred Kingwill, Chuck Herz, many others.)

Deb Patla remarks that toad orgies are in full swing and that the chorus of frog and snipe calls and wing noises make a fine evening serenade.

Recent enjoyable nights and days and the Snake River is muddy with melt water. Shrubs should blossom soon (if not by the time this publishes) and even in this dry spell, balsamroot should soon brighten up the buttes.

© Bert Raynes 2007


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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