Bird Sightings for March 2023

Feb 28 –  Tuesday morning (2/28) when I made a quick trip out to the West Bank area the first thing I saw were 8 big, bulky, upright standing birds…. all Bald Eagles. They were a mix of all ages. There were 150 Canada Geese and more coming in to land at the tip of the big island even with the eagles standing around. It wasn’t long until one eagle took off, then another and then ALL the geese lifted off, soon there was just one eagle. There were some other people walking in the direction of the geese that may have triggered the mass exodus of geese and eagles.

Later that afternoon, my husband filled the feeder and stood still while Chickadees descended on the feed- er. He said he counted 20!!! Usually, we will see 4-6 at a time. – Beth Hill

March 3 While walking along West Bank this morning I heard a bird singing and not stopping. Could it be? Yes, it was a Song Sparrow. Usually, they aren’t singing non-stop along this section, there is at least a

little pause between phrases. I’ve heard a robin singing a couple times already. And the house finches have started as well. Sometimes it can be hard to hear them when we’ve had so much noisy wind. Beth Hill March 4 Decided to check out the Black Eagle Bald Eagles this afternoon with the scope. One on the nest the other standing watch. This nest has been in use for a few years now. They had a number nests before this one that did not last due to wind and in one case, I believe heavy snow and very low trees. Once the leaves come out you cannot see what is going on with this nest. – Arla Eckert

March 10 Snowing all day with visibility ranged from .5-1.0 miles when I was out walking. A pair of adult Bald Eagles were sitting shoulder to shoulder in a large cottonwood tree along the river near West Bank Park when I headed out and were still there 30 minutes later on my return trip. There weren’t many ducks out on the open river. I would have missed 10 California Gulls that floated overhead but one bird gave a single call that made me look up. – Beth Hill

March 11th – There was better visibility today. Snow depth ranged from 2-6 inches. I walked along West Bank trail again. There weren’t many birds since most of the open water was shrinking in size with the continued low temperatures. I looked up to see 6 objects “stuck” to the side of a power pole. What the heck!? It was 6 flickers. They were lined up all on one side of the pole (away from the wind). It is a popular flicker calling spot.– Beth Hill

March 12th – Another walk trudging through the snow. A couple pair of California Gulls were seen floating through the air (their flight is so buoyant). One pair was playing catch with a food item (probably a food item). Another pair was flying over parking lots (looking for leftovers?). Geese weren’t flying around while I was out. Warmer days are coming. The river won’t be frozen much longer. Beth Hill

March 17  – Nice sunny, mild, afternoon for a walk along the river at Giant Springs where I met Dan Bennett and Brenda, a birder new to Great Falls. We saw Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, House Finch, Townsend’s Solitaire, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Pied-bill Grebe, Mallard, Gulls, American Coot, Belted Kingfisher, and Canada Goose. – Wayne Phillips

March 18 – A sure sign of Spring…just had a beautiful Robin visit our birdbath for a drink, now a second one. The House Finch are turning a beautiful red and the Chickadees are starting to whistle. Still have a couple of Juncos visiting. We have our first Snowdrops blooming. Now a third Robin. – Richard Mousel

March 18 – We started the morning watching the Canada Geese pour off the river heading west while we wait- ed for anyone else to show up. Another bunch of geese took off, but wait – they were more Mallard size – but wait – flight formation was all wrong and besides they are white with black wing tips. There were a good 200 Snow Geese that took off and headed east. They are baaaack.

It was a long time before we saw our first birds of note and it was a group of 21 Sharp-tailed Grouse grazing in a field next to the road. They didn’t seem overly concerned about us staring at them.

Along Milligan Rd we picked up a sub-adult Bald Eagle and a single Red-tailed Hawk. Between Eden Bridge and Cascade all we could find was a Bald Eagle sitting in her nest and a Rough-legged Hawk.

The river road segment produced more – one group of 3 Bald Eagles (2 adults and a sub-adult) soaring high in the air. At another spot we had 5 eagles sitting in 2 trees along the road. One was a Golden Eagle without a doubt, 3 young Bald Eagles and the last we had to put down as Bald/Golden – (sub-adult in either case) – just so many branches obscuring the bird. Leaning toward Golden since it was sitting with the adult Golden. At “Curlew Corner” we thought we had another group of Horned Larks, but when a couple stopped on the fence wire we were more than delighted to see Lapland Longspurs. We stopped to get out and get a good look and listened to them singing to each other. Surely more than a dozen (several dozen?) bopping around. There were a couple Horned Larks in the group. There was a group of nearly 40 deer laying down on the op- posite side of the road watching us.

That was about it – one other possible Rough-legged Hawk. Just a couple Red-tails, more eagle than any-thing else put together. Some Canada Geese in fields here and there.

Good weather. Good roads. A few good birds. Good company. – Beth Hill

March 19 – The house sparrows are looking for holes to nest in and they can and do think dryer vents fill the bill. Over the years I have had it happen two times. My vent cover had fallen off this year and I heard sounds coming from it. Cover the end with netting.–  Arla Eckert

March 19 – Today was a beautiful day, a little breeze and lots of sunshine and warm! I took Einstein out for a drive out to the Castle on Wilson Butte Road and back along the river east of Giant Springs. Only saw mag- pies, starlings, and Canadian geese today (and quite a few whitetail). – Bev Axelsen

March 19 – I heard a Western Meadowlark singing this morning at Giant Springs. Other signs of spring… American Wigeons were out giving their little squeaky quack. It can be heard for quite a distance. Northern Pintails are passing through. Song Sparrows are singing besides House Finches and Robins and Chicka- dees. Fewer Goldeneyes and Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Ring-necked Ducks and Canvasbacks. Add that to the big flock of Snow Geese we saw yesterday, it’s spring and it can’t be stopped for long. – Beth Hill

March 20 – The river between Central Ave and 9th St bridge was brimming with waterfowl this morning. Easy to view from either side of the river. Hundreds of Common Goldeneye, maybe 100 Scaup and Northern Pintails, almost as many American Wigeons. There was at least one Eurasian Wigeon. Redheads, Canvasbacks, Ring-necked Ducks, Common and Hooded Mergansers. It’s fun looking through them all. They may stick around or they may be gone by evening. There may be more with some possible snow overnight. – Beth Hill

March 21 – I finally carried my spotting scope (at Giant Springs). Not only to see the distant ducks on the river but to get a good look at the owl box. There were not many ducks on the river. I did see the very tips of the “ears” of an owl in the box. There was about a half inch showing of one, then another was blowing in the breeze and then the head turned. She is very low in the box, like last year when incubation started.

What else? A single Rough-legged Hawk (good chance it was migrating), a single Redtail Hawk (suspect it is the summer resident, it dove at the Rough-legged Hawk) and a single Snow Goose that decided to land among a group of California Gulls. Few waterfowl on the water today. I actually saw the Song Sparrows that were singing. I got a look at a Townsends Solitaire. They’ve been infrequent sightings this winter. – Beth Hill

March 23 I saw (the Townsend’s Solitaire) again (at Giant Springs) on the 23rd – it was singing ever so sweet-ly. Not the “johnny one-note” call. – Beth Hill

March 24 I took a trip to Freezeout yesterday and found the lake still all ice. Headed up the road that follows the ridge out into the fields and I found the snow geese. Got great views of them lifting off the field and feed- ing. Great views of the snow-covered mountains. That huge group of geese moved to another field and I moved on and found another huge group and just got parked and saw more flying with a Bald eagle following them. At this point most of the morning was gone. Checked out parts of the lake and headed to town for food. On the way saw one Golden Eagle sitting on top of a hill. Saw zero birds in Duffy’s grove. Had lunch and came back to the lake. Saw gulls, and found tons of geese on the ice. I think they were saying “where is the open water?” Enjoyed seeing them and took a run to the southern end of the main lake. Stopped at the gar- age grove and found 3 robins, one Great Horned Owl. Saw Ravens, 2 more Bald Eagles, a few Northern Pin- tails, and Mallards. Found one Bald Eagle on a nest and saw one Red Tailed Hawk and lots of European Star- lings and House Sparrows, did hear and see Western Meadowlarks. Oh yes saw Canada geese. In all my years of making the spring run to Freezeout this time of March I have never seen it this frozen. Did get to see Mike Schwitters and son for a little bit which was great. Not as many folks as normal enjoying the area. Also saw a few Horned Larks. – Arla Eckert

March 25 – After reading Arla’s post yesterday we were inspired to throw our gear in the car and head up there for a look before the next round of bad weather. After a brief search we found geese feeding in a field along Division Ln. It was a fairly large number when we first got there and as we watched several more very large flocks came winging in and settled down to feed. There were 15,000 reported for yesterday and I think all of them were in that field. We watched for 20 to 30 minutes, then about half of them took off in a noisy, awesome wave. After another 10 minutes or so the rest of them lifted off. It was a great sight to see and hear! First of the year (FOY) Redwing BB at our feeders Wednesday and FOY Meadowlarks singing yesterday. – Kitty & Kris Knaphaus

March 29 – I saw 2 Townsend’s Solitaire Wednesday at Giant Springs. One around the kids fishing pond, where I expect to see one in the junipers. The other was nearer the 3 explorer metal sculpture way up the trail. I finally found “dad” Great Horned Owl and no more than a half inch of one ear could be seen of “mom” in the nest box. And that was using a spotting scope. I’ve seen the Redtail hawk circling around her nest site the last couple visits. The chickadees were oddly quiet. But the starlings were flying around in a big flock of 50 or more! – Beth Hill

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