The official arrival of spring is bringing the annual large migrations in Montana. Bob Danley of the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal said that those migrations can be "sampled" by driving over to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge near Stevensville.

The refuge is starting to host large birds such as Tundra Swans and Snow Geese (photo above). Of course, the snow geese "fans" are checking the reports from Freezeout Lake on the Front Range of the Rockies for the annual arrival of thousands of snow geese.

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Also at the Metcalf are increasing numbers of ducks like the Northern Shoveler, with its large distinctive bill. The males and females have very different colors and patterns (see photo below). Other birds seen around the Bitterroot Valley include two types of woodpeckers - the Red-naped Sapsucker and the Williamson's Sapsucker, both with different woodpecker "drumming" sounds. The Red-naped drumming starts fast and then slows gradually. The Williamson drumming also starts fast, but there are longer quiet stretches as the tapping continues.

northern shoveler ducks
Northern Shoveler pair on the pond. (Bob Danley photo)

The Horned Lark is a seldom-seen small bird - about seven inches in size. It's out along the weedy ditches and planted fields. It has a very horizontal posture when it's on the ground.

Speaking of the ground, Bob has seen some mosses greening up as the weather warms. There are about 600 species of mosses in the Pacific Northwest. They have no roots and absorb water. Just look around - you'll see some (photo below).

moss in spring
Moss (Bob Danley Photo)

Wildflowers are still a little shy, but Catkins are bulging on willows (photo below). The hairy covers will protect the flowers from the cold until they're ready to bloom. Have patience - spring is just beginning. Lots of activity is on its way in our natural world.

Catkins are early flowers. (Bob Danley photo)

The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesday mornings on 1240 KLYQ AM radio and and on that free cellphone app. Check one of Bob's websites for more information and photos.

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Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.