June 12 – Arod Lake Field Trip Report
With Dave and Vivi Shea in the lead we made our annual June visit to Arod Lake. We always find something new and different even after I don’t know how many years (10?). We had 10 people make the trip. It was a cool pleasant day that was mostly sunny. It isn’t hard to find the colonies of nesting American White Pelicans, California Gulls, Ring-bill Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants. They are on islands in the lake. With a spotting scope we could see several age classes of each. The young cormorants were nearly the size of the adults, but still feeding by thrusting their head into a parent’s crop. Their nests are on little piles of hay. The gulls appear to just lay them on the ground in a scrape. The pelicans have a small pile of plant material. There were pelicans still sitting on eggs, some that were barely 24 hours old and others that were already developing their feathers. We watched as one unfortunate one day pelican was grabbed by a California Gull – and swallowed. We wondered how many new hatch birds (gulls, pelicans and cormorants) met the same fate. There are thousands of gulls (both California and Ringbill) and hundreds of pelicans. It can get noisy. We walked around the lake to the headgate before returning to our cars. We examined several teepee rings and various plants as well. What else did we have on our Arod bird list? Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Ring-necked Pheasant, Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Phalarope, Mallard Duck, Cliff Swallow, Red-tailed Hawk (1), Grasshopper Sparrow (1), Franklin’s Gull (3), Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Sora (1), Black-headed Cowbird, Horned Lark, Black Tern (3)(the first Black Terns we’ve seen in our many trips), Killdeer, Forster’s Tern (1), Long-billed Curlew, Willet, Coot, Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Canvasback, Pied-billed Grebe (1), Redhead, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, and Canada Goose.
4 of us from Great Falls decided to look for Chestnut Collared Longspurs that might be seen by driving “mud road” around Freezout Lake. We drew a blank there but did find a nice Lark Bunting. A “lifer” for 3 and a “FOY” (first of year) for the 4th passenger. 3 ½ hours later the bird list was nearly as varied as the Arod bird list. There were hundreds of Wilson’s Phalaropes and Gadwall. We saw a Sora take flight for about 20 yards. They hardly have appendages that you could call wings. There were more sparrows, teal, “brown ducks”, American Avocets, White-faced Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, pelicans, and a Clark’s and Western Grebe couple with a pair on kids on one parent’s back. The little heads would pop up off and on as we watched. It was a long day (although it seemed like minutes) packed with great birds, and great company.