May 26-June 1, 2024

Passing through spring and heading for summer

western bluebird
Nest duties for a male western bluebird. Photo by David Lukas

This week's string of warm, pleasant days were welcomed by all living things, human and animal alike.

Week in Review

With the arrival of a single common nighthawk on May 31, all of our local breeding birds are finally here, and it feels like every bird in the valley is singing, nesting, or raising babies right now. Birds are already in full song by first light and by the time the sun rises they are swooping back and forth between their nests and favorite perches.

tree swallow
A male tree swallow guarding his nest box. Photo by David Lukas

In our yard, the baby bluebirds and tree swallows are busy making a loud fuss, while two male house sparrows are fighting vigorously over our last empty nestbox.

Are the birds active in your yard as well?

spotted towhee
Male spotted towhee in a cloud of midges. Photo by David Lukas

And birds aren't the only critters making babies right now, because it looks like at least some baby turtles are already emerging from their nests! Keep your eyes open for these tiny babies because a lot of them have to cross roads to reach water and they could use your help.

baby turtle
It's hard to believe how small these baby turtles are! Photo by Dana Visalli

This is also a busy time for insects, including the first dragonflies and damselflies of the year (see below for more on this).

belted whiteface
We have three species of whiteface dragonflies in the Methow Valley and based on a single row of cells in the wing, I believe this is a belted whiteface. Photo by David Lukas

It also fun to see if you can spot one of our many robber flies, which are fierce hunters in the fly family. These big fast-moving flies hunt down and suck out the juices from other flying insects, so they're always exciting to watch. If you're as interested in these flies as I am, there's an entire Facebook group focused on identifying them.

robber fly
A robber fly with a smaller fly. Photo by David Lukas

Finally, there are many flowers out, especially in forested areas. You can still find fields of balsamroots if you head to higher slopes, such as the open hillsides along the Driveway Butte trail.

Arnica may be the most abundant flowers in higher forests around the valley right now, they especially love areas that have burned. Photo by David Lukas

Observation of the Week: A New Guide to the Damselflies of the Methow Valley

See if you can identify this damselfly using the new guide. Photo by David Lukas

Our first damselflies of the year appeared two weeks ago, and the first dragonflies were out this week. So, in celebration, I want to share a very special resource that I've spent months working on!!!

vivid dancer
Female vivid dancer. Photo by Dennis Paulson

We are incredibly fortunate that renowned dragonfly and damselfly expert Dennis Paulson (author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West) has generously shared his photos with Methow Nature Notes, along with a list of species that can be found in the Methow Valley! I have been organizing these into a permanent online resource that we can all use to learn these amazing insects and this guide is now available.

CLICK HERE to access the new damselfly guide. You can also access it from the Methow Nature Notes website.

Western Forktail
Western Forktail with its identifying marks highlighted. Photo by Dennis Paulson

My plan is to produce both a damselfly and dragonfly guide with Dennis's photos but it's an incredibly time-consuming task, so after months of effort I've only finished the damselfly guide. When I have a chance to complete the dragonfly guide, I'll share that with you as well.

On final note, please consider making a donation or upgrading to a paid subscription to help support the time and energy it takes to run the Nature Notes newsletter and Facebook page, and to create special content like this damselfly guide. Thank you!!!