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.
The snow may still be lying deep in Gallatin Valley, but spring will be making an appearance before we know it. It will soon be time for our first Madison Valley IBA survey, this time on a Wednesday, March 8th. Raptors should be out in abundance and depending on the what the weather brings in the next three weeks, it will be interesting to see what early migrants are back in the valley. Hope you can join us for a morning out counting birds in the Madison Valley.
If you can help, email Paulette 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 noon or 1 pm.
"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."
Come join the fun on one of our area’s Christmas Bird Counts. The Christmas counts, started in 1900, are an opportunity for beginning and expert birders to get together and enjoy this holiday tradition.
Wednesday, December 14th
Compiler: Robin Wolcott (406) 581-5418
email@example.com email preferred
Meet at Yesterday’s Café in the Ennis Pharmacy, by 7:30 AM or sooner for breakfast
Saturday, December 17th
Compiler: John Parker (406) 586-5863
Meet at Perkins Restaurant, 2505 West Main, in Bozeman, between 7-7:30 AM
Sunday, December 18th
Compiler: Brad Barth (406) 640-2628
Meet at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, in West Yellowstone at 8:30 AM
Sunday, December 18th
Compiler: Sally MacDonald (406) 223-9167
Meet at the Northern Pacific Beanery, in Livingston between 7:00-7:30 AM
Sunday, December 18th
Compiler: Woody Martyn (406) 224-1476
Meet at the Yellowstone Grill, in Gardiner, at 7:00 AM
Monday, December 26th
Compiler: Tom Forwood (406) 570-6432
firstname.lastname@example.org email preferred
Meet at Wheat Montana at exit 274 at 8:30 AM or by 8:00 for breakfast
Wednesday, January 4th
Compiler: Tom Forwood (406) 570-6432
email@example.com email preferred
Meet at 8:30 location to be announced
For more information, contact the area count compilers. Please Contact the area compiler before the count, as this will give them the opportunity to plan and organize the count before the
Sacajawea Audubon 2016 Bluebird Trail Summary
Overall, 2016 was a productive year for Mountain Bluebirds. A total of 676 bluebirds fledged from nest boxes on our 6 monitored trails. 181 boxes were used out of 272 available. The remainder were used by tree swallows and house wrens.
Because of a relatively mild spring, the bluebirds began laying eggs over a week earlier than usual. Even a mid-May snowstorm didn’t slow them down. The Rocky Mountain Road trail had it’s earliest-ever nestling, found on May 4th.
On the Pass Creek Rd./Rocky Mountain Rd. trails, we banded a total of 310 birds, 268 nestlings and 42 adult females. We also recaptured 8 females, a couple of which had been banded as nestlings the previous year. It’s nice to know they are coming back to nest in their natal area.
Predation of nests was up from previous years. The Rocky Mountain Rd. trail had a total of 24 predated nests (up from 18 last year). The Pass Creek trail had 34 nests predated (up from 32 last year). The causes were varied: snakes, raccoons, weasels, kestrels & house sparrows. In fact one box was found to have a complete house sparrow nest built on top of a dead female bluebird.
One of the most interesting events of the nesting season was an epic battle between a resident male bluebird (whose mate and nestlings had died), and another bluebird pair for the occupancy of Box 70 on Rocky Mountain Road. The three birds were so engrossed in their fight that they were oblivious to our presence and even slammed into my car on two occasions. In the end, the new pair won out and successfully raised six fledglings. And we thought bluebirds were such gentle creatures!
We took a total of 22 people out on the bluebird trails this summer, including 10 on the June 12th field trip. Everyone loves to see those little bluebird nestlings and hold one in their hands.
The bluebird nest box sponsorship program was a great success, and we plan to do it again for 2017. Following is a complete report of the success (or failure) of each box, along with its sponsor. Please click on the link below for the full report.
Lou Ann Harris
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.
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.
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!
February 12 - 15, 2016
HOW TO COUNT THE BIRDS: Easy as 1–2–3!
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a 4 day event held every year in February. Bird watchers from across the world are asked to count and report the birds they see to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. Everyone is welcome—from beginning bird watchers to experts. You can count birds anywhere you find them --in your yard, your neighborhood, out on a walk, or at any of your favorite birding spots. Take as little as 15 minutes on one day or make it a whole weekend of birding. The steps are easy:
- Count birds anywhere you like for at LEAST 15 minutes or longer. Keep track of the kinds of birds you see and how long you watched.
- Make your best estimate of how many birds you saw of each species. For example, 4 Black-
capped Chickadees, 2 Northern Flickers. Huge flocks may be a challenge, but your best guess is still valuable
- Enter your list(s) online at www.BirdCount.org. You put in a new list for each time you count, whether it’s on the same day, a different day, at the same place, or at a new location.
Go to www.Bird Count.org to learn more about this valuable way you can contribute to bird science. Look for the “Submit Observations” button on the Great Backyard Bird Count website (or eBird). You can start entering bird lists after midnight local time on the first day of the count anywhere in the world.