January 2023

Bird Sightings for January 2023

We (Beth Hill, Marge Wilson and Jan Wilson) drove a total of 176 miles on a day that went from partly cloudy to partly sunny to mostly sunny. It was 30-40 degrees (mostly 30-32 degrees) with wind that wasn’t noticeable. There was more snow on the ground as we headed north, but plenty of open ground. We were surprised to see so few raptors for the amount of ground covered. There were Bald Eagles at strategic spots – Tiber Dam and Carter Ferry where there was open water, waterfowl, etc. Golden Eagles were on prairie areas as were the Rough-legged Hawks and Prairie Falcon. We commented that Sanford Park and the VFW campground should be explored in spring, summer and fall.

The detailed report can be viewed here:  https://ebird.org/tripreport/100087

What has been remarkable about local birds in January has been how un-remarkable they  have been.  Here in  Great Falls once the ice melted at Giant Springs and the hunting season ended the waterfowl seemed to be somewhere else.  There were countable numbers of all the winter ducks from Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and even Mallard Ducks.  There has been a pair of Pied-billed Grebes that have been spending the whole winter around the spring.  Off and on several Ruddy Ducks show up.  One can almost always find 5-15 Hooded Mergansers and a handful of Common Mergansers.  At the bird feeder there are almost always Black-capped Chickadees flying in and out and a mob of House Finches.  There is at least a pair of Downy Woodpeckers that know where the suet block is located.  Beth Hill

Bald Eagles have suddenly been showing up in numbers since January 23 when Beth Hill saw NINE sitting on the ice near the refinery at one time.  They quickly flew off.  The next day 5 were observed.  Beth continued to see Bald Eagles daily on walks along the river in the area between Garden Home Park and Black Eagle Dam.  On the 28th she saw 5 Bald Eagles (and a raven or crow) below the 15th St bridge and not much later Marge Wilson reported 9 Bald Eagles.  On the 30th there were at least 9 hanging around the Garden Home Park area not far from the boat ramp.  They were coming and going all morning.   At times 8 could be seen at once, but adding up the “white heads”, “dirty white heads” and “non-white heads” there were at least 9.  With all the different head colors there were all age classes coming and going.  As well as 2 ravens.

Wendy Kamm was out on January 26 in Fort Benton and found a lone Greater White-fronted Goose.  It had an extensive “white front” around the bill base and did not appear to be a domestic Greylag goose.

Has winter brought any interesting or different birds to your feeder or your walk routes?  Let Wayne Phillips know by contacting him at:  mtwayne@gmail.com.

Bird Sightings for December 2022

Dec 14, Marge Wilson saw a strange looking bird at Giant Springs late Sunday. She shared a picture during our meeting Monday (Dec. 12) evening. It had a white blurry patch on the side of the face. I wondered is it a?… Tuesday morning and afternoon we spent a lot of time watching a Longtailed Duck feeding at Giant Springs. That is surely what she saw. I hope it hangs around so we can see it during count week and even better on the 17th. Beth Hill

Dec 14, Hi folks I just got a report of a very large group of birds in a field area beyond the Buffalo Jump (near Ulm) that sound like they are snow buntings. It would be outside our area but keep your eyes open. – Arla Eckert

Dec 15, We have a Longtailed Duck for count week. Hope she sticks around to be found on Saturday. – Beth Hill

Dec 15, We have a Slate-colored Junco for count week. – Richard Mousel

Dec 18, Good morning! Here are the species to look for to add to UMBA’s CBC count week: Gadwall, Greater Scaup, Barrow’s Goldeneye, No. Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Mourning Dove, Hairy Woodpecker, Mt Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch,Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Red- poll. Happy frigid hunting! – Nora Gray

Dec 18, For count week: Barrow’s Goldeneye, California Gull. – Beth Hill

Dec 18, I saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk in my feeder area for count week. – Velda Baltrusch

Dec 18, we have a hairy woodpecker joining us every day. – Marjorie Everson

Dec 22, whether you took part on the 17th or just looked out at your feeder, even if you watched birds well outside the Great Falls count circle, would you share your sightings?

My highlights might be actually seeing the Longtail Duck on count day, not just count week. The classic Rough-legged Hawk that soared overhead that we saw through the leaves of the park was thrilling. Yes, leaves. Some of the big cottonwoods at Giant Springs are still holding their leaves. A California Gull was add- ed to count week and I saw it twice during the week, not on count day. – Beth Hill

Susan DeBacker – from Duck Lake (near Glacier Park) reported 47 Snow Buntings, 12 Black-capped Chicka- dees, 2 Mountain Chickadees, 1 American Crow,3 Black-billed Magpies, 1 Hairy Woodpecker and 1 Downy Woodpecker. She saw the same birds all of count week.

Knaphus’s (near Ulm) reported that among their count week birds was a Goshawk hanging around the wind- breaks for several days. A Northern Shrike haunted the feeder area after the cold settled in. It caught at least one House Sparrow.

Dave Shea (near Choteau) had very little activity around his place. No Common Redpolls this year, a few House Finches, many House Sparrows. He has seen Black-billed Magpies, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Rough- legged Hawks and Bald Eagles.

Jeff McPartlin took a drive around the countryside during count week and saw 2 Gyrfalcons, Rough-legged Hawks, Golden Eagles, Merlins, Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, a Prairie Falcon and an American Kestrel. He said that where he normally would see thousands of waterfowl in some warm water canals (never freeze over) he saw no birds. There were MANY Canada Geese in fields between Fairfield and Choteau.

Dec 25, Needing to get outside for a daily dose of fresh air I walked along West Bank Park trail even though almost the entire river between Central and 9th St bridges is frozen. I started off with hearing the rapids call notes of a Merlin. It was quickly located high in a large cottonwood tree. Maybe it had been around for some time since there were only a few chickadees visiting the feeder today. Later I found a Mandarin Duck with the 155 Mallards at the water treatment outflow. That was a first. Surely it came from a local backyard flock. – Beth Hill

Dec 26, It is so much easier to be outside watching birds the past two days. It is still mostly geese and mal- lards. There had been thousands of geese that had been spending the whole day near Garden Home Park must have been out feeding (finally) because there were fewer than 100. That gave the Common Golden- eye and Barrow’s Goldeneye a chance to swim in their favored waters. One surprise was a Mandarin Duck. I saw it Christmas Day at the outlet of the water treatment plant. Today I saw it halfway between the rail- road bridge and Central Ave West bridge from the River’s Edge Trail. It was surely an escapee from a local backyard flock (like the geese and domestic ducks that show up now and then). And yes – lots of dead geese. I counted about 60 between Sacajawea Island and Garden Home Park. – Beth Hill

Dec 26, Folks walking along the southwest portion of Rivers Edge Trail early Monday (12/25) spotted what appeared to be geese standing immobile, with their feet frozen in ice. By dusk, several were crumpled over, confirming they hadn’t made it. – Peter Johnson

Dec 31, I carried my spotting scope and counted dead geese from West Bank Park to Garden Home Park. I spotted 85. I didn’t count dismembered geese (there weren’t many). They are scattered about frozen in the ice in various postures. Watching the ill geese everything is consistent with the highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu) that has been devastating the poultry industry this year. It’s still around. Beth Hill (Send your bird sightings to Wayne Phillips (mtwayne@gmail.com) or join the UMBAbirdshare group and share your observations there.