Montana Wolf

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ladybug, Ladybug

It is truly autumn; the equinox has come and gone. Frost crystals coat the morning grass. The air has turned sharp with a clearness that wallops the spirit. Wood Tick drives us into the mountains every day for a dose of awe. We recently traveled five hours in the high country and didn't meet one vehicle. Amazing, considering it is hunting season. It speaks to the scope of the woods in N. Montana, the land of endless Englemann spruce, lodgepole, fir, balsam and larch.

A few days ago we traveled slowly by ATV to the top of Meadow Mountain. A dilapitated wooden lookout tower loomed above treeline. Krumholz pine, gnarled and bent with years of wind and the gravity of heavy snows, gave hints of the winter to come. It took a moment to focus from the 360-degree view and settle into the warm rocks where I was perched. A Ladybug landed on my arm. Then another. The sun burst from behind the clouds and reflected off thousands of swarming wings. I was in the middle of a ladybird  migration!

No one knows the whys and wherefores. I'd only witnessed one other, in the foothills near Boulder, CO, over twenty years ago. Ladybirds fly from the lowlands to the highlands by the thousands and coat trees, rocks and bushes. The world turns orange as they burrow into crevasses and holes to winter and emerge with spring.

It is one of the world's spectacles. Like the bull moose that stepped in front of the pickup truck the next day. We sped up to get closer and he began to run up the two-track ahead of us. He did so for over a mile, allowing a once-in-a-lifetime look at his power-packed run as his 40-inch rack tore branches from alder that lined the road.  He took a sudden left turn down a steep precipice and instantaneously disappeared into a larch forest. All that remained was the crash of hooves and cracking branches. Ghost moose.

The forests brim with wood chickens (grouse), mule and white-tailed deer. Glossy, black bears frequent the damp ravines, fattening up for winter. Service berry bushes are neon yellow and the aspen are not far behind. The air smells of seasonal of transition; of cow elk in estrus.

"Ladybug Ladybug
Spread your wings it's time to take flight
Ladybug Ladybug
you better fly away home ...  "


  1. I'm posting this for a friend who can not post directly from her computer. She sent it through email and asked me to add. Please let me know if you have problems posting. Christina:

    From Carol:I used to see ton's of lady bugs emerging from under the snow, back in my spring back country telemarking days up Yankee Boy Basin, when I lived in Ridgway. Seeing all those ladybugs in the snow was a truely amazing sight.... carol

  2. Awesome images, Christina. We get to see so much through your eyes and words. The moose is amazing - with my eyesight it could look like it's coming toward me or running away. Looking forward to your description of the descent into winter there since it's so long since you've been in the snow and cold.