Sacajawea Audubon

Missouri Headwaters State Park’s program

July 30th Saturday, 7:00pm

Summer Speaker Series - Free

Amy Seaman: Bird Conservation Associate with Montana Audubon Society“Why Missouri Headwaters State Park is classified as an Important Birding Area

Missouri Headwaters State Park, behind park office.

Bring a chair! Marshmallow roast to follow.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon 

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Volunteers needed to “Knock out Burdock”!

A Chickadee killed by Burdock

Join Sacajawea Audubon as we continue to work this summer to eradicate burdock from some of our favorite trails.  This nasty introduced plant has Velcro-like seed heads that entrap songbirds, slowly causing their deaths.  You may know burdock from brushing against it and getting the burs caught in your hair, your clothes, or your dog's fur.  Lucky for us this plant is a short-lived biennial. If we can keep a stand of burdock from setting seed by clipping off the seed heads early, it will eventually die out.

Audubon volunteers will be leading work groups to clip the seed heads throughout the summer and WE NEED HELP!  Join us if you can at any of these dates and locations:

  • July 28 - The “M” Trailhead
  • July 30 -   East Gallatin Recreation Area (meet at the beach)
  • August 3 - Drinking Horse Mountain Trailhead
  • August 10 - Story Mill Community Park  (park along Story Mill Road just south of the Story Mill)
  • August 13 -  Sypes Canyon Trailhead
  • August 16 - Gallagator Trail (meet on Garfield Street where it intersects the Gallagator Trail)
  • August 25 - Sourdough Trail in Bozeman **Evening Meeting time: 6 pm ** (meet at Gardner Park trailhead on Gardner Park Drive)

We will meet each morning at 7:30 am. (EXCEPT Sourdough Trail which is a 6 pm evening event!) Bring pruning clippers if you have them and wear gloves, long sleeves and long pants, all of fabrics that burs won’t adhere to.  Plan to work for an hour or two.  Whatever time you can afford.  With your help, we will "Knock out Burdock"!

Contact Paulette Epple at    or   580-6186  for more information.Or contact Janne Hayward at 587-6124 to help her remove burdock from other smaller sites, dates negotiable.

IMG_7239 (1)

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SAS American Kestrel Project Update

Kestrel nestlings (L. Harris)

Kestrel nestlings (L. Harris)

Paulette Epple checking a nest box.

Paulette Epple checking a nest box.

Paulette holding a female kestrel after banding.

Paulette holding a female kestrel after banding.

Back of a female kestrel wing.

Back of a female kestrel wing.

Female American Kestrel

Female American Kestrel

Lou Ann Harris holding a recently banded female kestrel.

Lou Ann Harris holding a recently banded female kestrel.

In 2013, Sacajawea Audubon began installing kestrel nest boxes around Gallatin Valley with the help of the American Kestrel Partnership (AKP).  This international project was in response to long-term population declines of kestrels in North America.

No boxes were used by kestrels in the first two years of the project.  Then in 2014, SAS Project Leader Paulette Epple found 3 active boxes.  Success!  In 2015, there were 2 active nests.

This year there are 8 active nests. The AKP also requested that we band the nestlings/adults and collect body feather samples as part of the American Kestrel Genoscape Project.  The genetic data from the feathers will be analyzed to understand the migratory connectivity of kestrel populations and how the connectivity changes with climate.

Lou Ann Harris, who is a licensed bander, received the necessary permit modifications to band kestrels and collect feathers.  On June 27th, Paulette and Lou Ann checked 6 boxes with the hope of catching an incubating female.  They did indeed catch 3 females in the box and banded them.  Once the nestlings reach the age of about 18 days, the team will band them and collect the feathers.

This has become a very exciting conservation project for Sacajawea Audubon!  It's so rewarding to know that our efforts are making a difference.



Birdathon Awards Party – Time & Location Change

Birdathon Party

Calliope Hummingbird nestlings (L. Harris)

Calliope Hummingbird nestlings (L. Harris)

Time and Location Change

We have changed the time and location of the Sacajawea Audubon Birdathon Awards Party!  We will meet at 5:30 p.m.Thursday, June 30th at MAP Brewing, located at the south shore of the East Gallatin Recreation Area on Manley Road.  We may be upstairs in the mezzanine, or if it's too hot, we will be on the patio.

Please come and help us celebrate a successful fundraising effort and find out which teams won Most Species, Most Magpies, Most Raptors, Most Money Raised and more.  Sacajawea Audubon will buy your 1st beverage!


Madison Valley IBA Bird Survey – June 29th

Summer has arrived, all the birds are back, and now its time to survey our IBAs and document the breeding birds in the area.  We will watch ospreys with their young, waterfowl with their broods, and be challenged to count up all the warblers, flycatchers, swallows, orioles, grosbeaks and Sandhill Cranes.  Can you believe we actually counted 148 Yellow Warblers last year!  It will be a great morning of birding, hopefully ending by 1 or 2 pm.  This count will take place on a Wednesday, June 27th, to avoid the weekend recreationists on Ennis Lake.  Since daylight comes early now we will be meeting earlier too.  We will meet at the Ennis Pharmacy Café in Ennis and be ready to head out for the survey at 7 am   I believe the Café opens at 6:30 if you want a quick breakfast there.
If you can help, email Paulette at or call 580-6186.

It’s Time To Do Your Birdathon!

It's not too late to form a team and complete a Birdathon!  birdathon

Birdathon is the chapter's biggest fundraiser and over the past two years has raised over $7,000.  That's a lot of moolah to be used for our conservation and education projects!  It's easy to do.  Call up your favorite birding friends and form a team.  Each team should have at least 2 members.  Fill out a team registration form (Team Reg Form 2016 ) and send it in with a $50 donation fee to Sacajawea Audubon.  Then call up all your family, friends, hair stylists, insurance agents, yoga instructors, etc. and collect pledges.  They can pledge per species or a set amount.  Schedule a day to do your Birdathon between now and June 26th.  You can do a full day or half day.  You can bird in your backyard, or cover a 3-county area.  You can even do a Birdathon in another state!

There are all sorts of awards to compete for:  Most Bird Species, Most $$ Raised, Most Pledges, Most Magpies, Most Raptors, Carbon Footprint Award, Most Species in an Important Bird Area, Most Bird Species in a Half-Day, etc.  There will be a Awards Party at E. Gallatin Recreation Area on June 30th.  How can you pass up this much fun?

For more information, click on the "Birdathon 2016" tab on this website, or call/email Lou Ann Harris at 600-3585 or


Red-tailed Hawk (Lou Ann Harris)

Red-tailed Hawk (Lou Ann Harris)

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May 24th – Whooping Cranes: America’s Symbol of Survival and Hope

Join Sacajawea Audubon for a special presentation on the Whooping Crane.

WHCR jan 2015 territory dispute KE


Whooping Cranes: America's Symbol of Survival and Hope

 Presented by Elizabeth H. Smith, Ph.D.

Director, Texas Whooping Crane Program

International Crane Foundation


When:  Tuesday, May 24th at 7 pm

Where: Hope Lutheran Church, 2152 W. Graf Street in Bozeman


How does a species, reduced to a mere 21 birds in 1941, recover to over 600 today? Learn how this endangered species has faced unnatural hazards with natural instincts to survive. Become part of the world that we and cranes hope to coexist and thrive in.


Liz Smith is the Director of the International Crane Foundation’s Texas Whooping Crane Program, and has been conducting important research on cranes and their habitat in coastal Texas for over 20 years. Liz continues to expand her research on sea-level rise and storm surge effects on coastal habitat change, and promoting community advocacy for conservation planning and coastal protection.  These efforts are being undertaken with the specific goal of ensuring quality wintering habitat for the Whooping Crane as its’ populations continue to increase.


Most of Liz’s career has been focused on coastal Texas, and she has been nationally recognized in receiving the Coastal America Partnership Award for Restoration at Bahia Grande and Protection at Shamrock Island, EPA Award for Environmental Excellence in Wetlands, as well as regionally recognized in receiving the Conservation and Environmental Stewardship Award for Higher Education and Pathways to Success in Science Programs.

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2016 Spring Birding Classes with Ashley Martens

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)



Birds inspire curiosity and a sense of wonder.  Ever wonder who exactly is whistling “Hey Sweetie!” outside your window in the wee hours of the morning?  Or how to identify a bird based on a flash of yellow feathers? Or what the little brown bird in the woodpile is called?  Or why she’s there in the first place?  To help you answer all of these questions and more, Sacajawea Audubon Society is offering a BEGINNING BIRDING WORKSHOP and -- *new this year* -- an INTERMEDIATE BIRDING WORKSHOP, as well as the return of the INTRO TO BIRD LANGUAGE workshop.

All courses will be taught by Ashley Martens, an experienced birder, naturalist, and outdoor educator.  Ashley’s approach to teaching birding engages all of your senses to tune in to what you see, hear, and love about the wild birds around us.  Contact Ashley at or 208-883-4998 for more information and to register for all classes detailed below.



Participants will be introduced to the basics of birding through 3 evening classroom sessions and 3 field trips to a variety of habitats in the valley.  We will cover bird families, common birds in our region, and what to look and listen for when seeking out the identity of a bird.

Classroom Sessions: Thurs eves April 28, May 19, and June 9       6:30-8pm        Hope Lutheran Church

Field Trips: Saturday mornings April 30, May 21, and June 11      7-10am            Various Locations

Cost:  $95 for Sacajawea Audubon members; $115 for non-members. Please make checks payable to “Sacajawea Audubon Society” and mail to Ashley Martens at 42 Hitching Post Rd., Bozeman, MT 59715.

Maximum 8 students.  Supply lists will be provided upon registration.




This is the perfect class for birders who want to boost their birding skills up a notch and start studying more details of plumage, bird behaviors, and more sight and sound identification tips.  We will spend some extra time on common families of birds in our region that can be challenging to identify such as warblers and sparrows.  We’ll meet 2 evenings in the classroom and take 2 field trips to hone our skills.

Classroom Sessions: Thurs eves June 2 and 16         6:30-8pm        Bozeman Public Library

Field Trips: Saturday mornings June 4 and 18          7-10am            Various Locations

Cost:  $70 for Sacajawea Audubon members; $90 for non-members. Please make checks payable to “Sacajawea Audubon Society” and mail to Ashley Martens at 42 Hitching Post Rd., Bozeman, MT 59715.

Maximum 8 students.  Supply lists will be provided upon registration.




Birds are the true messengers of the forests. They can tell us if there's a fox hiding in the brush, a person about to run down the trail, a sharp-shinned hawk about to fly through.  Come learn the ancient art of bird language in an introductory class taught by naturalist Ashley Martens. We’ll learn the 5 voices of the birds as well as some alarm patterns.  Then we’ll head out for a short “bird sit” to look and listen for those voices.  Bird language can inform us on a much deeper level what is going on in the forest.  Awareness of bird language also inevitably leads to a deeper awareness of self. (How do birds respond when YOU move through the woods?)

Monday, June 6th  6-8pm at the Sourdough Nature Trail (Gardner Park Trailhead).

Cost:  Free for participants in our other workshops, $5-10 donation for others to support Sacajawea Audubon’s growing educational programs.

Maximum 12 students.  No supplies necessary.


Ashley Martens True Nature Education

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Important Bird Area Surveys Scheduled – Birders Needed

This past winter has just been declared the warmest winter on record for the United States. On March 5th volunteers conducted a survey of the Madison Valley IBA and noticed the effect. The warming trend had certainly played out in the Madison Valley with little snow remaining on the valley floor and Ennis Lake already one quarter open. In-spite of strong winds that kept many of the songbirds down and less visible we had the highest number of species (43) for any of our counts this early in the month. The number of individual birds seen for an early March count was also the highest ever due to the large number of waterfowl on Ennis Lake.

Some other highlights and observations: The number of Bald Eagles seen (64) was about double the average! They were concentrated on, and around, Ennis Lake, probably feeding on the waterfowl present. Only 1 Rough-legged Hawk was seen. It seems they left early due to the mild winter. Early migrants found included Tree Swallows (3), Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mountain Bluebirds, and an American Kestrel. The most unusual bird seen was a Green-tailed Towhee which wintered over at the El Western Motel and has been coming in to their feeders.

If you would like to put your birding skills to good use, join us on our next IBA surveys. We’d love your help!


June 18th – Headwaters IBA                Contact Martha Collins – (579-0506)

June 29th – Madison Valley IBA        Contact Paulette Epple – (580-6186)


Ennis Lake (L. Harris photo)

Ennis Lake (L. Harris photo)



2016 Spring Birding Field Trip Schedule

2016 Sacajawea Audubon Spring Birding Series

Green-tailed Towhee (L. Harris)

Green-tailed Towhee (L. Harris)

Participants in all trips will meet at the front parking lot of the Museum of the Rockies at 6:45 AM and depart at 7:00 AM unless otherwise noted. Car pools will be arranged at the museum; an offer to help with gas to the person driving is always appreciated but not mandatory. Dress for the weather; good footwear is a must as field trip conditions are not always dry.  Bring any food or beverages that you will need during the course of the trips, and some of the longer trips might require that you pack a lunch. Turn off your cell phones and keep unnecessary conversations to a minimum.  Some field trips are limited to a certain number of participants. Contact the trip leader for more details about any trip, and to sign up for the trip. We encourage all skill levels or birders to participate. Come have a good time and learn something new.

 April 23, Saturday: Shields Valley Driving Tour    

Leader: Forrest Rowland  814-573-1391  (Options for half to full day) 

Visit Shields Valley’s birding hot spots with local guides.  The array of habitats visited will range from dense riparian, lush agricultural, shortgrass prairie, and sage flats at lower elevations, up through mixed Douglas Fir and Pine forests to high-elevation Sub-alpine Fir, depending on road conditions. We will also spend plenty of time birding Cottonwood Reservoir , which will surely be loaded with waterfowl and shorebirds at this peak time of year.  Meet at the Clyde Park Post Office parking lot, at 7:00 AM for car-pooling.


May 7, Saturday: Paradise Valley Driving Tour

Leader: Mitch Hurt  406-223-4919   (Options for half- to almost full day)

Visit Paradise Valley birding hotspots with local guides – spring creeks, Yellowstone River, prairies/hillsides, and Dailey Lake.  The diversity of habitat covered on the trip, along with it being the beginning of songbird migration, should yield a huge variety of birds.   Meet at Livingston Albertson’s parking lot, northeast corner at 7:30 AM for car-pooling.


 May 8, Sunday: Headwaters State Park

Leader:  Martha Collins   586-9478 or 579-0506  (1/2 day trip; easy walking)

The Headwaters area includes a variety of habitats, including sage/grassland and riparian, so anything from waterfowl to sparrows can occur.  One of the unique features of the Headwaters area are the limestone cliffs, which support several cliff nesting species such as Prairie Falcons and White-throated Swifts.  The park, which is situated along the Missouri River corridor, is an ideal location to observe early spring migrants. Those wishing to meet at the Headwaters area contact the trip leader.  15 person limit.


 May 14, Saturday: Old Town Road and Milligan Canyon

Leader: Tom Forwood  570-6432   (1/2 day trip; mostly driving with light walking on roads)

This trip begins along the cottonwood bottomlands of the Jefferson River, and then abruptly moves into dry greasewood/sage scrubland habitat.  Birds along this section will range from Dusky Flycatchers and Bullock's Orioles, to Sage Thrashers and Brewer's Sparrows.  The route then cuts through the arid limestone cliffs of Milligan Canyon.  Canyon Wrens, Rock Wrens, and Spotted Towhees frequent this dry landscape.  Golden Eagles and Pinyon Jays are also a possibility along this portion of the trip. 15 person limit


 May 14, Saturday: Sweet Grass County Prairie Bird Tour

Leader: Beth Madden  406-224-1012  (5-6 hour driving tour till early-mid afternoon)

Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day on the prairies!  We will follow an approximately 40-mile driving route through prairie and agricultural landscapes north of Big Timber.  Past trips have yielded curlews, cranes, raptors, and prairie songbirds from Bobolinks to longspurs.  Stops at wetlands will yield water birds.  Meet in Big Timber (Big Timber is 63 miles east of Bozeman on Interstate 90) at the Town Pump located at I-90 Exit 367 at 8:00 a.m. for carpooling.


 May 15, Sunday: Mount Ellis

Leader:  John Parker  586-5863  (4-5 hour trip; moderately strenuous walking, 3 miles)

This slow-paced hike of approximately 3 miles, will explore a number of habitats on State and Forest Service lands, including grassland, aspen meadow, and conifer forest edge.  At this time of year many of the nesting birds, such as Calliope Hummingbirds, Red-naped Sapsuckers, Dusky Flycatchers, Orange-crowned Warblers, and a wide variety of sparrows will have arrived on their territories.  Along with terrific views of the Gallatin Valley, the wildflowers on this walk will likely distract you from the diversity of birds.  12 person limit


 May 21, Saturday: Triple Tree Trail

Leader:  Lou Ann Harris  406-600-3585  (5 hour trip; moderately strenuous climbing, 500 feet elevation gain, 4 miles)

As this trail climbs the hillside it passes through a number of habitats, and transitional edges between them.  At the bottom of the mountain, grassland quickly gives way to brushy deciduous habitat as the trail crosses Limestone Creek, where Ruffed Grouse, Calliope Hummingbirds, and Lazuli Buntings are some of the birds to expect.  The trail then ascends through Douglas Fir and lodgepole pine forests with a wide variety of nesting birds, including Cassin's Vireo, Swanson's Thrush, and Western Tanager.  This trip features perhaps the greatest diversity of any short hike in the Gallatin Valley.  12 person limit


 May 21, Saturday: Paradise Valley Driving Tour

Leader:  George Kelly  406-220-0282  (Options for half-to almost full day)

Visit Paradise Valley birding hotspots with local guides - spring creeks, Yellowstone River, prairies/hillsides, and Dailey Lake.  The diversity of habitat covered on the trip, along with it being the peak of songbird migration should yield a huge variety of birds.  Meet at Livingston Albertson's parking lot, northeast corner at 7:30 a.m. for carpooling.


 May 22, Sunday: East Gallatin Recreation Area

Leader: Brad Barth 406-640-2628 or   (3-4 hour trip; easy walking at most two miles)

There are lots of possibilities with this local area. Over 180 bird species have been seen in the recreation area.  We will be searching at near the peak of migration, so we hope for some surprises.   With a pond, riparian habitat, limited grassland, and mature cottonwoods we hope to see good diversity of what Gallatin Valley has to offer.   Species may include several Warblers, Lazuli Bunting, Gray Catbird, Warbling Vireo, Black Headed Grosbeak, Osprey, and flycatchers.  The walk will be at a leisurely pace with lots of stops to listen.  Bathrooms are nearby throughout.  12 person limit 


➢ May 28, Saturday: Mission Creek

Leader:  Robin Wolcott  581-5418 

(Till mid-afternoon; mostly driving with light walking on roads)

In the rolling prairie just east of Livingston we will seek McCown’s Longspur and Long-billed Curlew. Along Little Mission Creek we will watch for riparian species, then search for residents of the spruce/fir forest. On our return along Mission Creek we could find a Cordilleran Flycatcher or a Golden Eagle. Over 130 species have been seen along this route including Sprague’s Pipit, Upland Sandpiper, and Green-tailed Towhee.  Spectacular views, abundant wild flowers, and wildlife make the trip through the northern foothills of the Absaroka Mountains a trip to remember.  After leaving Bozeman, we will reconvene at Albertson’s parking lot in Livingston at 7:30 AM and then leave from there at 7:45 AM Car-pooling is essential.   14 person limit


  June 3-5:  Please join us at the 2016 Montana Audubon Bird Festival in Missoula, MT

Contact Montana Audubon at (406) 443-3949 or go to www.mtaudubon.orgCome join the fun.

 June 9, Thursday: Sourdough Nature Trail

Leader:   Adele Pittendrigh 599-5086  (4-5 hour easy walking)

After leaving the MOR parking lot, this trip will begin at the Gardner Park entrance.  The trail is an easy, level stroll following Sourdough Creek.   This trip is at the peak of the breeding season so we should see and hear a variety of flycatchers, thrushes and warblers.  Some of the nesting neotropic birds nesting here are Northern Waterthrush, American Redstart, and Black-headed Grosbeak.  12 person limit.

 June 11, Saturday: Spanish Creek

Leader:  John Parker,  586-5863

(4-5 hours; moderately strenuous walking on forest trail, with several hundred foot elevation gain)

This trip follows Spanish Creek through the Flying D Ranch, to the edge of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.  At the trailhead there is an interesting juxtaposition of habitats.  In one direction the trail borders the wet willow riparian area along Spanish Creek, where Willow Flycatchers and Lincoln’s Sparrows nest.  While going in the other direction, the trail climbs through dry open slopes where you can expect to see Green-tailed Towhees, Brewer’s Sparrows, and Lazuli Buntings. 12 person limit.

 June 12, Sunday: Rocky Mountain Rd Bluebird Trail

Leaders:  Janne Hayward  587-6124 , and Lou Ann Harris 600-3585

(1/2 day trip, mostly driving)

Get up close and personal with Mountain Bluebirds.  Join bluebirders Janne Hayward and Lou Ann Harris, as they check bluebird nest boxes and band adults and nestlings along Rocky Mountain Road and Pass Creek Road.  This is a rare opportunity to get an inside look at the lives of these amazing birds, including nest building, egg laying and raising young.  Due to the sensitive nature of the work, we are limiting these field trips to 8 participants

 June 18, Saturday: Kelly Canyon and Battle Ridge

Leaders:   Ron and Cheryl Farmer 586-3987

(1/2 day trip; driving and walking along gravel roads)

This trip passes through open fields, then climbs past dry juniper- covered hillsides, mature wetlands, mixed woodlands, and eventually reaches into the conifer forest.  Mountain Bluebirds, Spotted Towhees, Calliope Hummingbirds, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Western Tanagers are just a few of the species that we should see along this route.  After Kelly Canyon, this trip will continue up Bridger Canyon to Battle Ridge.  At this higher elevation a new suite of breeding birds makes this area home.  Williamson’s Sapsuckers, Brown Creepers, Swainson’s Thrushes are a few of the nesting species in this area.  Four car limit.

 June 24, Friday: Montana's Nightjars at Lewis & Clark Caverns

Leader: Tom Forwood at  406-570-6432  (2 1/2 hour; 2-3 mile walk)

Check out Montana's two species of Nightjar, the Common Nighthawk and the more elusive Common Poorwill. The park is known for some of its interesting breeding bird species and the Poorwill is one of the more unusual. We will walk up the park road for a mile or so at dusk to check out some of the arid country daytime species such as Mountain Bluebirds, Spotted Towhees and Rock Wrens. Once it gets dark we will look for high flying  Nighthawks and low flying Poorwills with the possibility for some owls and several bat species as well. Insect repellent, good walking shoes and layering clothing for changing conditions are recommended.  Meet at the lower Visitor Center parking lot at 7:30 PM.   15 person limit

 June 25, Saturday: Cherry River and Middle Cottonwood
Leader: Brad Barth 406-640-2628 or   (4-5 hours; moderate walking with some rocky terrain; 2-miles total)

On this walk we will travel to two different habitat types looking for diversity.  First we will travel to Cherry River looking for species such as Sora, several duck species, Yellow-headed Blackbirds,  kingbirds, Yellow Warblers and more.  Cherry River is more open country with Riparian habitat along the East Gallatin.  Then we will drive to the Middle Cottonwood Trailhead to look for species such as Western Tanager, MacGillivray's Warbler, Calliope Hummingbird, Lazuli Bunting, Green-tailed Towhee, Swainson's Thrush.  Middle Cottonwood has a mix of riparian habitat, mature north facing conifers, and relatively dry open south facing hillside.  We hope that these two locations will provide an interesting mix of species without having to travel a great distance from Bozeman.   12 person limit

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