Spring migration is on and the next Madison Valley IBA survey is scheduled for Sunday, April 30th. This count usually yields a good diversity of 75 to 80 species and is a fun opportunity to get out and see some of our favorite birds back in the valley. We should be seeing curlews, avocets, loons, grebes, pelicans, swallows, sapsuckers, wrens, sandhill cranes, and ospreys by that time.
Let me know if you would like to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 early afternoon.
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 of birders to participate. Come have a good time and learn something new.
April 16 Sunday: Owl Prowl
Leader: Tom Forwood 406-570-6432 email@example.com
Meet at the Museum of the Rockies at 7 PM. Some of the owl species we hope to hear, and possibly see, include Western Screech-Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-Whet Owl and Great Horned Owl. This is an evening field trip, so please dress for cold weather, including warm boots. Snowshoes are not necessary, but grippers might be helpful if conditions are icy. The location of the Owl Prowl is TBD possibly including several locations. 10 person limit
April 29 Saturday: Shields Valley Driving Tour
Leader: Forrest Rowland 814-573-1391 firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Options for half to full day) Visit Shields Valley’s birding hot spots. 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 6 Saturday: Headwaters State Park
Leader: Martha Collins 586-9478 or 579-0506 email@example.com
(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 13 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 near the peak of songbird migration, this trip should yield a huge variety of birds. Meet at Livingston Albertson’s parking lot, northeast corner at 7:30 AM for car-pooling.
May 13 Saturday: Middle Cottonwood Canyon
Leader: Brad Barth 406-640-2628 or firstname.lastname@example.org
(4-5 hours; moderate walking with some rocky terrain; 2 to 3 miles total) This is an opportunity to stretch your legs and look for some early arriving migrants in the Bridger foothills north of Bozeman. Middle Cottonwood has a mix of riparian habitat, mature north facing conifers, and relatively dry open south facing hillsides. We’ll be looking for species such as Western Tanager, MacGillivray's Warbler, Calliope Hummingbird, Lazuli Bunting, Green-tailed Towhee, Swainson's Thrush along the lower reaches of the canyon. 12 person limit
May 20 Saturday: Old Town Road and Milligan Canyon
Leader: Tom Forwood 406-570-6432 email@example.com
(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 21 Sunday: Triple Tree Trail
Leader: Lou Ann Harris 600-3585 firstname.lastname@example.org
(5 hour trip; moderately strenuous climbing 500 ft, 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, Swainson’s Thrush, and Western Tanager. This trip features perhaps the greatest diversity of any short hike in the Gallatin Valley. 12 person limit
May 24 Wednesday: East Gallatin Recreation Area
Leader: John Parker 406-586-5863 email@example.com
(4-5 hour trip; easy walking-two miles at most) There are lots of possibilities with this local area. Over 180 bird species have been seen in the recreation area. This will be 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 flycatchers, Warbling Vireo, Gray Catbird, several warblers, Lazuli Bunting, and Black Headed Grosbeak. 12 person limit
May 27 Saturday: Sweet Grass County Prairie Bird Tour
Leader: Beth Madden 406-224-1012 firstname.lastname@example.org
(The 5-6 hour driving tour should wrap up by early-mid afternoon) Celebrate the arrival of spring 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 feature 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 AM for car-pooling.
May 27 Saturday: Mount Ellis
Leader: Audrey Evers 218-742-7885 email@example.com
(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.
June 3 Saturday: Paradise Valley Driving Tour
Leader: Mitch Hurt 406-223-4919 firstname.lastname@example.org
(Options for half to full day) Visit Paradise Valley birding hotspots with local guides – spring creeks, prairies/hillsides, and possibly as far as Dailey Lake. The diversity of habitat covered on the trip, along with it being near the peak of songbird migration, should yield a huge variety of birds. Early on this trip we will visit a bird banding station along the Yellowstone River. Meet at Livingston Albertson’s parking lot, northeast corner at 7:30 AM for car-pooling.
June 3 Saturday: East Gallatin Recreation Area
Leader: Andrew Guttenberg 406-451-5427 email@example.com
(4-5hour 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. This will be 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 flycatchers, Warbling Vireo, Gray Catbird, several warblers, Lazuli Bunting, and Black Headed Grosbeak. 12 person limit
June 4 Sunday: Spanish Creek
Leader: John Parker, firstname.lastname@example.org
(until mid afternoon; 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. We will spend much of the morning birding along the road focusing on the grasslands and forest edges. Once at the trailhead there is an interesting juxtaposition of habitats, which support an interest mix of birds. In one direction the trail borders the wet willow riparian area along Spanish Creek, while going in the other direction, the trail climbs through dry open slopes. 12 person limit.
June 6 Tuesday: Sourdough Nature Trail
Leader: Adele Pittendrigh 599-5086 Adele.email@example.com
(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 neotropic birds nesting here are Northern Waterthrush, American Redstart, and Black-headed Grosbeak. 8 person limit.
Please join us at the 2017 Montana Audubon Bird Festival in Great Falls, MT.
Contact Montana Audubon at (406) 443-3949 or go to www.mtaudubon.org
Come join the fun.
June 17 Saturday: Mission Creek
Leader: Robin Wolcott 581-5418 firstname.lastname@example.org
(until 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 18 Sunday: Rocky Mountain Rd Bluebird Trail
(1/2 day) 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. 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 23 Friday: Montana's Nightjars at Lewis & Clark Caverns
Leader: Tom Forwood at 406-570-6432 email@example.com
(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 24 Saturday: Kelly Canyon and Battle Ridge
Leaders: Ron and Cheryl Farmer 586-3987 firstname.lastname@example.org
(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. 12 person limit
June 9-11, 2017 Great Falls, Montana
Time to begin making those summer plans! Montana Audubon’s Wings Across the Big Sky Festival, co-hosted by Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon , will be held June 9-11, 2017 in Great Falls. We invite you to spread the news and enthusiasm so we can all enjoy a fantastic celebration of 40 Years of Montana Audubon. Included in this year’s activities are amazing field trips scheduled both Saturday and Sunday. These include excursions to the Rocky Mountain Front, Benton Lake, Kevin Rim, the Highwood and First Peoples State Park, among others, with the anticipation of seeing a varied array of species and habitats, as well as some education on surveys and conservation issues.
Festival headquarters will be located at the Best Western Heritage Inn. This venue will provide excellent opportunities to display our 40 years of history, Saturday afternoon presentations by Montana Audubon past and present programs, an outdoor barbeque to kickstart the anniversary celebration and this year’s festival, our keynote speaker, and a Saturday evening banquet dinner.
Each month we will continue to feature developing news on the 2017 Bird Festival. Registration will begin in March. Stay tuned!
For more information contact Montana Audubon’s Bird Festival Coordinator, Cathie Erickson: email@example.com.
2016 Christmas Bird Counts
On Saturday 17 December, Bozeman conducted its Christmas Bird Count. It was cold, with a temperature range of -27 to -5; the good news was that it was a sunny and calm day. 32 people took part in the count, with another 8 feeder watchers.
Amazingly after 78 CBC’s in Bozeman, three new species were added to the cumulative species total. New to the count this year were Northern Shoveler, Eared Grebe, and Long-eared Owl. Other notable birds were Lesser Scaup seen for only the fifth time and American Coot seen for the seventh time. During count week Virginia Rail and Pacific Wren were seen, which have only been seen on count day once and twice, respectively. The big miss of the count was Brown Creeper, which could be chalked-up to everyone keeping their ears warm.
New high counts included Ruffed Grouse-10, Red-tailed Hawk-81, Northern Pygmy Owl-2, Black-billed Magpie-1184, Common Raven-194, and Bohemian Waxwing-5578.
The Ennis Christmas Bird Count took place on December 14th. The conditions for the Ennis count were considerably milder then the Bozeman count, with temperatures ranging from 6 to 25 degrees under mostly cloudy skies. 21 people participated on the count, plus 3 feeder watchers.
The 54 species seen on the count was somewhat lower than has been seen in recent years. We had new high counts for Canada Goose-2050, Great Blue Heron-5, Eurasian Collard-Dove-159 and 2 Mourning Doves which tied a previous record. This was the fifth sighting of Rusty Blackbird and Virginia Rail. Five goldeneyes remained undifferentiated. Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Bald Eagle, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee and House Sparrow are the only species that have been observed on all 57 counts.
20 people spotted 56 species and over 15,000 individual birds on the Three Forks count, during a day with temperatures ranging from -8 to 28 degrees.
Two species, Cackling Goose and Hooded Merganser, were seen for the first time on the Ennis count. Remarkably, new high counts were achieved for 15 species of birds on the count. Some of the notable new high counts were Northern Harrier-22, Rough-legged Hawk-86, and Canyon Wren-5. It was only the sixth time Short-eared Owls have been observed on the Three Forks count.
A sure cure for spring fever is lots of early spring birds! The primary focus of this trip will be the migrating waterfowl at Ennis Lake. At this time of year the ducks will be at their dazzling best in full breeding plumage, and usually in great abundance. Along with the waterfowl, this trip will provide a good opportunity for finding other early migrants such as Sandhill Cranes, Tree Swallows, and Mountain Bluebirds. It is spring in Montana so be sure to be prepared for the weather, with plenty of warm layers of clothing for a day out in the elements. We will return to the museum mid afternoon, so bring a lunch and snacks. This trip will meet at the Museum of the Rockies parking lot at 8 AM Saturday April 1st. After arranging for carpooling, we will head for Ennis Lake at 8:15. There is a 15 person limit for the trip, so sign up early. Contact Vic Fesolowitz at 539-8251 to reserve a spot.
"The guided hike will be lead by Assistant Park Manager Tom Forwood for those who are new to bird identification. The hike will leave at 9:30am and will go for approximately 3 hours. Guests are welcome to download the E-bird app for their phones so that they can record they species they see on the walk! Also as a reminder, the cave is not open until May and the gate to the top visitors center is currently closed, but guests are welcome to stay following the hike to wander about the trails and look for birds themselves."
The goal of this project, started in 2011, is to establish 5 nesting pairs of Trumpeter Swans in the restoration area within a 5 -10 year time frame. On occasion 30 to 50 swans (marked and unmarked) have been observed near O'Dell Creek in the Madison Valley during winter and approximately 10 in early summer; no nesting to date, but birds have been seen in pairs in the spring. On August 1st, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks released 5 cygnets on O'Dell Creek. Sacajawea Audubon has been a partner in this restoration project for a number of years.
Photos courtesy John Parker
Madison Valley IBA Survey
The birds are on the move again with Ennis Lake serving as an important stopover for large numbers of migrating waterfowl, loons and grebes. You never know what else we may find in the Madison Valley. On October 15th (Saturday) we will conduct one last survey of the Madison Valley IBA and its always a fun time to put your bird watching skills to a good use.
If you can help, contact Paulette Epple at 580-6186 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information to follow.
Friday night kicks off at the Museum of the Rockies with keynote speaker, Marco Restani of Montana Audubon, who will present a talk on Avian Migration. Saturday and Sunday's events begin at 10 a.m. at both Saddle Peak and Jim Bridger Lodge at Bridger Bowl. There will be LOTS of family activities including: Build a Bird House, Binocular Target Blitz, Face Painting, Nature Journaling, Sketch a Bird, Raptor ID with Steve Hoffman, interpretive walks with MOSS, and live raptor presentations. There will be an up-to-date raptor count board at the Montana Audubon/Sacajawea Audubon booth for you to see what birds are being seen up at the Bridger Hawk Count site. Bridger Raptor Fest is FREE and a great family-friendly, community event. So grab the kids & grandkids, (but please no dogs) and come up to Bridger Raptor Fest!
**We need VOLUNTEERS! If you would like to help out at this year's raptor festival, please contact Loreene Reid at (406) 600-6666.
For more information and festival schedule, go to: www.bridgerraptorfest.org/current_events
Ennis Lake Waterfowl
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Trip Leader: Mike Vivion, 406-210-8071 email@example.com
Meet at 7:45 am at the Museum of the Rockies. Carpool and leave at 8 am.
This date should catch early migrant waterfowl and an assortment of other birds, including migrating raptors and passerines. Ennis Lake is one of the premiere staging areas for waterfowl in southwest Montana. Some birds will still be in alternate plumage, offering some interesting identification challenges. Large numbers of waterfowl should be present. Bring a lunch, since we’ll be out till at least mid-afternoon. Weather can be a challenge, so bring warm clothes and rain gear in case.
Participants limited to 16
To reserve a spot on the trip or for more information please contact the trip leader.