Sacajawea Audubon

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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