A flock of brilliant male Mountain Bluebirds returned to Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park on March 6, 2012. The state bird of both Idaho and Nevada, Mountain Bluebirds are a common sight in open areas of the American West, and a beautiful sign of spring coming to the mountains.
Some cool facts: Mountain Bluebirds form monogamous couples. The males arrive first to scout out nesting spots, then the females follow to build their nests of woven grass, lined with fine grass, soft bark, hair, or feathers. The male sometimes acts as if he is helping, but he either brings no nest material, or drops it on the way. They nest in cavities in trees and snags, and frequently in nest boxes. Incubation normally lasts 14 days and the young will take about 21 days before they leave the nest. Both males and females fiercely protect the nest. They hunt from perches, and drop onto the ground to catch prey. The males can be seen singing from bare branches right at dawn, just when the sun rises.
Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place for birdwatching. The Park will start its’ Bird Walk program on April 1, 2012. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until June 16, 2012 a 90 minute walk will be conducted in the West Alluvial Fan area of Horseshoe Park. No reservations are needed – meet at 8 am in the West Alluvial Fan parking lot with your binoculars and bird field guidebook.
One of the most common questions I get on tours is, "Do the elk loose their antlers every year?" The answer is yes, the antlers of nearly all deer species (US deer include: mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, caribou) on the planet are annually deciduous. Or, in layman's terms, they fall off every year and then grow again. Mid-March is when bull elk cast off their antlers and within days of dropping, their new antlers start to grow.
Once those antlers hit the ground, they still play an interesting role in the ecosystem. Antlers are vital for small mammals as sources of calcium, potassium, and protein - which explains why you are not allowed to take them home with you as a souvenier of your visit to RMNP!
Written by guest blogger Jared Gricoskie of Yellow Wood Guiding. To book your own tour of Rocky Mountain National Park, visit YWGuiding.com.