Sacajawea Audubon

Madison Valley IBA Bird Census – April 26th

LongbilledCurlewHi Birders,

The birds are coming back!!  April 26th (Saturday) we will conduct a bird survey on the Madison Valley IBA.  This is an exciting time in the valley with up to 20 species of waterfowl on Ennis Lake, 52 Common Loons counted last year, large flocks of avocet and of course lots of Sandhill Crane and Long-billed Curlews around.  If you can help, email Paulette at or call 580-6186.  We will meet at the Ennis Pharmacy Café in Ennis by 7:45 am.  Come early if you would like to eat breakfast there.  We should be finished by 1 pm.

Please note that there will also be a Headwaters IBA survey the next Saturday, May 3rd.  Martha Collins will be sending out an email soon with all the details.  So as you plan your weeks ahead consider joining one, or both, of the surveys.  It will be fun to be out birding as we gather important data to track long term trends on the IBAs.

Yours for the birds,



Headwaters IBA Bird Census – May 3rd


“Wings Across The Big Sky” Bird Festival – June 6, 7, 8

                  15th Annual Montana Audubon

Artwork by Andrew Guttenberg

Artwork by Andrew Guttenberg

               Wings Across The Big Sky Festival

June 6-8, 2014

Bozeman, Montana

Our 2014 Bird Festival is coming to the spectacular Gallatin Valley! Get ready to register and plan for this highly anticipated annual event, co-hosted by Montana Audubon and Sacajawea Audubon Society, our partner in Bozeman.  Online registration is now available at 

The festival is sure to please as Sacajawea Audubon kicks off Friday with light hors d'oeuvres and a evening program starting at 4:30pm. The rest of the weekend is filled with a diversity of expertly guided field tripsSaturday's Keynote Address by John Marzluff, Ph.D (co-hosted by the Gallatin National Forest), Saturday's dynamic presentations, and other activities for all of you actively engaged bird enthusiasts out there!J Marzluff

John Marzluff will give the Keynote Address, Gifts of the Crow, a foray into what he describes as millions of years of cultural co-evolution between humans and crows. Join us as Dr. Marzluff describes humans' ongoing connection with these mischievous, playful, social and passionate birds! If that isn't enough to bring you over, his crow research was used in the documentary "A Murder of Crows" and his Raven research was featured in PBS's NATURE, "Ravens"! Further, Dr. Marzluff's research has been highlighted in the New York TimesNational GeographicAudubon, and National Wildlife. He is currently a Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington, has authored over 120 scientific papers, and leads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Recovery Team for the endangered Mariana Crow.

Field trips are already filling up, so plan to register right away! Each field trip will generally be leaving the GranTree at 6:00am.  Saturday trips will return at noon, in time to see our great presentations and keynote. Sunday trip end times are generally more variable so be sure to read the descriptions closely. Participants should come prepared with their binoculars, rain gear, comfortable shoes/boots, camera, a two-way radio if possible, water and personal items. Sack lunches are available as part of your registration fee for both days. Please note that some field trips are offered both Saturday and Sunday, while others are offered only one day.

Festival Online Registration

Our Saturday presentations will get you fired up to conserve birds and their habitats as we learn from a variety highly regarded researchers, conservationists, and bird aficionados!

2014 PresentationTopics
Montana's Osprey and Toxins
Sage-Grouse conservation
Bird migration in the Middle East
A new "Field Guide to Birds in a Changing Climate"
Bridger Raptors
Birds, Beetles, and Burns

This year there is an exciting new Special Raffle for a chance to win a Texas Coast Birding Extravaganza trip! It is a premium package (valued at over $4,000) for four adults, that includes two full days of birding with local experts and three days of luxury accommodations near downtown Houston! The dates are set for April 14- 17, 2015, so get excited! This package was generously donated by John Whitmire and Susie Maclin.

In addition, there will be a Bucket Raffle, a Dessert auction, and opportunities to camp or explore Bozeman.

Finally, we know our festival travels are not without an impact! Montana Audubon is striving to become carbon neutral, and as part of a close to home solution to help offset our carbon footprint, we are starting a seed fund for solar panels at our sunny Education Center in Billings. Donate any amount, note "solar" on the donation, and we promise to turn those dollars into clean energy!

The festival headquarters and lodging will be at the Best Western Plus GranTree InnBozeman. Rooms are $99 per night and can be reserved by calling 406-587-5261. Mention that you are with Montana Audubon to get this special rate, and take time to thank them for being a supporter of our local Audubon Society!

Mark your calendars, stay tuned for details, and a big THANK YOU to our many sponsers!



Time to Spring Forward – What Birds to Look For

Osprey pair - Photo by L. Harris

Osprey pair - Photo by L. Harris

Springtime has arrived in the avian world.  The species drought is over!  Already bluebirds are being seen, gulls are returning and Sandhill Cranes have shown up.  It’s time to get out there and start birding in earnest!

With that in mind I’ve compiled a list of the returning species and their earliest dates of arrival based entirely upon Madison/Gallatin County eBird records.  Anyone who can better the existing record in 2014 (limited to this list of birds in Madison and Gallatin Counties only) and enter it into eBird (see below) will be a “winner”.  We will print a list of the “winners” in our newsletter and on the website, and give special recognition to those individuals at our meeting.  What could be better than recognition, fame, and notoriety?  So time to get off of the sofa and get out there and start looking at what’s in your yard, down the street, across town or at Ennis Lake.

*If you are not familiar with eBird, it’s an online database for bird sightings entry that is VERY user friendly.  It provides an opportunity to record the birds you see, keep track of your bird lists, explore dynamic maps and graphs, share your sightings and join the eBird community while you contribute to science and conservation.   If I can do it, so can you!  Just go to their website, create an account and voila you’re an eBirder!  The instructions are pretty simple but be sure to record accurate information regarding date, time and location of your sightings.  Just go to to get started.

- Robin Wolcott


Birds to Watch for in April

April arrivals (and departures) in Madison and Gallatin Counties

Based solely on current eBird data.


Common Loon – April 1

American Avocet – April 1

Caspian Tern – April 1

Swainson’s Hawk - April 4

Say’s Phoebe – April 4

Greater Yellowlegs – April 9

Williamson’s Sapsucker – April 10

Long-billed Curlew – April 11

Violet-green Swallow – April 12

Sage Thrasher – April 12

Yellow-rumped Warbler – April 12

Yellow-headed Blackbird – April 12

Blue-winged Teal – April 13

Black-necked Stilt – April 13

Horned Grebe – April 13

Tundra Swan departs – April 15

Brown-headed Cowbird – April 15

Red-necked Grebe – April 17

Loggerhead Shrike – April 18

Sora* – April 19

Pacific Wren – April 19

Vesper Sparrow – April 19

Barn Swallow –April 20

White-faced Ibis – April 21

Willet – April 21

Marbled Godwit – April 21

Savannah Sparrow – April 21

White-crowned Sparrow –April 21

Franklin’s Gull – April 22

White-throated Swift – April 23

N. Rough-winged Swallow – April 23

Pied-billed Grebe – April 24

Western Grebe – April 24

Solitary Sandpiper – April 24

Lesser Yellowlegs – April 24

Burrowing Owl – April 25

Spotted Towhee – April 25

Spotted Sandpiper – April 27

Bank Swallow – April 28

Cliff Swallow – April 28

Rock Wren – April 28

Swainson’ Thrush – April 28

Chipping Sparrow – April 28

Brewer’s Sparrow – April 28

Grasshopper Sparrow – April 28

Rough-legged Hawk departs – April 29

Wilson’s Phalarope – April 29

Common Tern – April 29

Gray Catbird – April 29

Calliope Hummingbird – April 30

Lincoln’s Sparrow – April 30


* Occasionally overwinter.  New arrivals only!




April 14th Program – “Merlin Magic in Helena”

Merlin  (photo by D. Ellison)

Merlin (photo by D. Ellison)

Merlin Magic in Helena

During the spring of 2012 and 2013, Dan Ellison watched merlin pairs nesting on the east side of Helena.  His observations provided photo opportunities of nest preparation, catching and delivering prey, feeding chicks and encounters with a variety of adversaries.  This program will focus on merlin behavior in the urban environment, nesting activities and protection of the nest and chicks.  Dan's presentation is based on observations on 90 consecutive days in 2013 including daily notes and photos.

This program will also feature an educational display with live raptors including merlins, presented by Lisa Rhodin from the Montana Wildlife Center in Helena.

Dan Ellison grew up in the Bitterroot Valley, graduated from the Naval Academy and served on active duty for 26 years as a Navy pilot.  After returning to Montana in 1999 and settling in Helena, he worked in state government including Chief Financial Officer at MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks.  He also served on the executive committee with Montana Trout Unlimited.  In 2009 Ellison was elected to the Helena City Commission.  His personal time is spent fly fishing, bird watching, and photographing wildlife.  He is a life member of Trout Unlimited and belongs to several other natural resource conservation organizations including Audubon, National Wildlife Federation and the Yellowstone Association.

The Sacajawea Audubon Society meets the second Monday of the month (September through May) at 7:00 p.m., at the Hope Lutheran Church, 2152 W. Graf Street (off of South 19th) in Bozeman. We invite the public to attend our meetings and participate in our field trips.

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Fall 2013 Bridger Raptor Migration Study – Official Report

The official report of the Fall 2013 Bridger Mountains Raptor Migration Study is now available.  Read the full report:  MT Audubon 2014 Bridger Report FINAL


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March 10th Program – American Plains Bison: Rewilding an Icon

Photo by John Harris

Photo by John Harris

Join Sacajawea Audubon on Monday, March 10th for a program on the American Bison.  Jim Bailey is a retired professor of wildlife biology at Colorado State University, and will present excerpts from his recent book, American Plains Bison: Rewilding an Icon.  Dr. Bailey will review the status of wild bison in the USA south of Canada.  He will address three questions: What are wild bison?  What is the status of wild bison in the USA?  What can we do about it?  He will discuss the meaning of wildness, in contract to domestication.  Based on travels and interviews with bison managers, he will summarize the wildness status of 44 conservation herds of plains bison in the U.S.  His conclusions provide useful background for considering ongoing controversial issues of bison conservation in Montana.  Copies of the book will be available for sale and signing.


The Sacajawea Audubon Society meets the second Monday of the month (September through May) at 7:00 p.m., at the Hope Lutheran Church, 2152 W. Graf Street (off of South 19th) in Bozeman. We invite the public to attend our meetings and participate in our field trips.



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Owl Prowl – March 15th (date changed)

Great-horned Owl  (L. Harris)

Great-horned Owl (L. Harris)

Come join us for the annual Owl Prowl on Saturday, March 15th lead by Sacajawea Audubon board member, Peter Norlander.  Species we hope to hear (and possibly find) include Boreal Owl, Northern Saw-Whet Owl and Great Gray Owl.  The field trip will meet at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall parking lot (on Rouse). There will be a short discussion of owl lore prior to driving to the campground.  Dress appropriately for nighttime temperatures with warm clothing and waterproof boots.  You can bring binoculars and a flashlight. Snowshoes are required for this trip and there is an 8 person limit.  Please call Peter at (406) 222-4646 to sign up. 


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Raptor ID Workshop & Field Trip – March 7th & 8th


Northern Goshawk (imm.) - photo by L. Harris

Northern Goshawk (imm.) - photo by L. Harris

Raptor ID Workshop & Field Trip   Presented by: Steve Hoffman, Executive Director, MT Audubon and founder of HawkWatch International

Have you ever wanted to sharpen your raptor identification skills?  If so, this is the workshop for you! On Friday evening Steve Hoffman will provide a detailed discussion of the identification and natural history of all raptor species wintering in the Gallatin Valley. Steve’s illustrated talk will include a description of the many plumage variations (including subspecies and color forms, as well as age and sex variations) of the more common and observable species. Helpful behavioral clues will also be incorporated. Eagles, falcons and the “buteo” hawks (such as Red-tailed Hawks) will be emphasized. Participants will then go into the field on Saturday to practice their newly-developed skills. Steve’s presentation will be especially valuable for “intermediate” and “advanced” raptor watching enthusiasts, although beginners will also find this workshop quite helpful.

The Friday night presentation will start at 7 PM and last till 9 PM, in the Bozeman Public Library’s small conference room. 

Saturday morning’s field trip will meet at the Museum of the Rockies at 8:30 am, and leave at 8:45.  Be sure to dress for the weather and bring any necessary drinks or snacks for this 4-5 hour trip.  If you have a spotting scope that you can bring, that would be helpful.

There is a $30 fee and 20 person limit for the workshop and field trip.  Advance reservation and payment is required.  For more information and to make reservations please call John Parker at 586-5863 or email him at


February 10th Program – Mountain Bluebird Trail

Mountain Bluebird    (photo by L. Harris)

Mountain Bluebird (photo by L. Harris)













Who doesn’t love bluebirds?  The answer is to not miss our February 10th program at 7:00 p.m. featuring Sacajawea Audubon’s own Mountain Bluebird Trail citizen science project. Chapter bluebird trail monitors Lou Ann Harris, Janne Hayward and Diane Gresham will present a fascinating talk on the life cycle of the Mountain Bluebird in Montana and the history of the bluebird trail project in the Gallatin Valley.  Lots of great photos will be shown of bluebirds in all stages of their lives. Mountain Bluebird males will be returning in early March, so this is a perfect time to bone up on your knowledge of these beautiful and gentle birds.

Lou Ann Harris is a longtime Audubon member and currently serves as Vice President on both Sacajawea Audubon and Montana Audubon boards. She became involved in the bluebird trail through Mary Geis in 2007 and received her Master Banding License in 2010.

Janne Hayward is also an Audubon member and longtime conservationist in Bozeman.  She became involved with the bluebird trail through Lou Ann in 2010, and is now training to become a licensed bird bander.  She monitors 50 boxes on Dry Creek/Pass Creek Roads.

Diane Gresham joined Sacajawea Audubon in 2006 and has been very involved with chapter activities.  She has served on the Board of Directors and currently is the chapter Hospitality Chair.  Diane has been assisting Lou Ann on the bluebird trail since 2007 and logs all the data in addition to training to become a licensed bander.

The Sacajawea Audubon Society meets the second Monday of the month (September through May) at 7:00 p.m., at the Hope Lutheran Church, 2152 W. Graf Street (off of South 19th) in Bozeman. We invite the public to attend our meetings and participate in our field trips.

Photo by L. Harris

Photo by L. Harris

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