May is a visual month with color change, blue skies, wildlife, high water and lots of daylight. The color green describes the month of May. Plants awaken, start to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. Photosynthesis is the process of using sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce sugars or carbohydrates and how the plant makes its’ food. During this process oxygen is released and chlorophyll is formed. Chlorophyll is the green pigment that gives plants their color.
The landscape changes as the scenery brightens. The new growth pushes through the old vegetation and emerges with a brilliance of shimmering green. It’s glorious and if you stop to look, joy fills your soul. The energy of all the growth is hard to miss. Due to a thin valley snowpack and warmer temperatures, the color change happened earlier this year. It seems about 7-10 days earlier than average years. Snow still covers the peaks but at lower elevations, the valley is green, rivers rush with a torrent of sediment and debris, and wildlife can be seen in the meadows.
In the spring, leaves have a translucent quality, a shimmer of brightness. This green is brilliant, shiny like a kelly green. The leaf has yet to form the cuticle or waxy covering which will protect it. When they first start to grow, they are unprotected from sun and wind so brighter in color. As the cuticle forms, the color will become duller and darker. As leaves develop on Aspen trees, you can watch color dance up the hillsides.
As the Aspen leaves form, young bison and moose are born. May is birthing season. Energetically high will new life everywhere. The plants, young animals, melting snow: everything is changing. Growing, becoming. It’s a great time of year!
May is also the month of bear sightings. It’s the time to drive north in Grand Teton Park and look for all bears but especially the female grizzlies with cubs. With deep snow in the high country, bears are found lower in elevation. Female bears frequent the Jackson Lake Lodge, Oxbow Bend, and Pilgrim Creek area in Grand Teton Park. These areas offer good food sources but also protection from the male bears. Males seem to stay further from humans. If given the chance, they would kill the cub(s) so the female would enter the estrus cycle and be able to mate. Breeding season for bears begins in May and lasts until early July.
Sadly, a female grizzly was shot near Pinedale over the weekend. Buckrail It surprised hikers who claimed self-defense. She had two cubs. It’s the second death of a sow grizzly with cubs this month in Wyoming. Not good. Reproduction is slow for grizzlies since cubs may spend three years with the female and at least two. Bears are among the least productive mammals in North America. Hunting Grizzlies in 2018 may be a huge mistake. Being an iconic species for the health of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, bears need to survive and thrive for this amazing ecosystem to remain healthy and vibrant.
Warm temperatures continue. Trails are becoming dry. Lots to do out there. Summer is a couple of weeks away.
What’s in the woods
5/4- Highway 22- two mature bald eagles on power poles, deer browsing near Snake River Bridge
5/5- green leaves begin on Aspen trees- Josie’s Ridge
5/5- Josie’s Ridge- Pasque Flower, buttercup, bluebells, phlox
5/8- Grand Teton Park- bluebird day, herds of elk, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans
5/10- Aspens turning green
5/11- Atherton creek- sandhill cranes, herd of cow elk
5/12- moose twins in Wilson. Survived the winter without mom
5/12- rain in valley, snow in mountains
5/13- Craig Thomas Discover Center- yellowbell lily, spring beauty
5/18- Josies Ridge- Bluebells, Clematis, Groundsel, Pasque Flower
5/20- Maple Grove/Bear River, Idaho- Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Antelope Bitterbrush, Black Hawthorne, Serviceberry, Wild Hyacinth, Redtail Hawks, Caliope Hummingbirds, White Pelicans, Seagulls
5/31- Flat Creek- Serviceberry, Great Blue Heron
Lots of fun options in May. It’s a great time to hike on Snow King or Josies Ridge since snow has melted and flowers are blooming. Nice locations before the heat of the summer. Snow in most of the canyons in the Grand Teton Park but valley hikes are great right now so LSR preserve to Phelps Lake, Bradley and Taggert, and the Valley trail. Cache Creek is wonderful near town. Trails are still a bit muddy for biking but sun is in the forecast. Have fun and be prepared.