Bird Sightings for January 2024

Jan. 25 – It’s a first for me to see a Merlin up close. He left without dinner. Our backyard – Jan Wilson

Jan. 23 – Raptor Survey, South. I drove the south route today.  The weather was nice and the roads were pretty dry with a few spots of snow/ice that were almost always in shade.  I only saw 11 roughies today, but there were 5 Golden Eagles including the pair flying together (attached).  There was another pair sitting together in a tree.  4 Red-tailed Hawks outnumbered the single Northern Harrier.  Each Red-tail was distinctly different.  The one attached was a beautiful white underneath with a barely visible belly band.  12 total Bald Eagles still seems a little slim.  A single Prairie Falcon gave me a better show than the one we saw Saturday. Next trip – probably Thursday. – Beth Hill

Jan. 21 – Took a short walk near Giant Springs  and a drive East along the Missouri River for a couple miles. saw the cygnet trumpeters, several bald eagles, some soaring and a few feeding on fish on the ice, coots, Canada geese, a sharp-shinned hawk, goldeneyes, and were trying to ID a duck when Beth came along, glassed it, and said it was a decoy! there were finches and juncos and chickadees and sparrows at the feeder at Giant Springs and a flock of meadowlarks at the overlook at crooked falls! also saw several dead Canada geese here and there on or in the ice – Bev Axelsen 

Jan. 20 – Birding on old Hwy 91. I started at the Ulm bridge and saw a Bald Eagle in a cottonwood overlooking the river. Headed back towards Ulm and spotted 5 Pine Grossbeaks in residential tree. Next, I headed towards Cascade on old Hwy 91 and saw: a Baldie on a nest, 2 Rough-legged hawks, a Kestrel on a phone line, a Red-tail sitting on the railroad tracks. I stopped to photo him and he flew off down the track and landed again. Must have been good food opportunities there! – Jan Wilson

Jan 20 – Raptor Survey Full Trip Report Sun River-Simms. The day was mostly cloudy.  The temperatures warmed overnight from a steady zero at midnight to 30 at sunrise. Temperatures today ranged from 33-45 degrees.  The roads started with a mix of snow, ice and dry pavement changing to slush on gravel roads and mostly dry pavement.  Winds were SW 10-15 mph.

We saw 6 Rough-legged Hawks on the short drive (5 miles) along Vaughn Frontage Rd before we were even at Vaughn and HWY 89.  Rough-legged Hawks certainly were abundant for the first time this winter.  What was more surprising was the huge number of Mallards in a grain field just north of the Sun River and in a spring fed creek.  Multiple thousands.  We saw large numbers take off several times when a raptor flew over the group.  It appeared they were feeding on rows of grain left behind.  There were geese as well, but they were far outnumbered by the mallards.  The Ferruginous Hawk and Western Meadowlark were two highlight birds.  – Beth Hill

Jan. 20 – We had a couple nice surprise birds today, including this meadowlark.  A ferruginous hawk was another highlight, besides the 40 some odd “roughies” that we saw on today’s winter raptor survey route. – Beth Hill

Jan. 20 – my photog friend was at Giant Springs today as well as out here where he watched the Golden Eagles (that Jan Wilson also photographed today). Dave saw two swans out on the river near the trestle past Giant Springs. and 17 bald eagles feeding on fish. there was a cormorant on the edge of the river on the ice. I did not leave the house today so have to live vicariously via y’all that did brave the melting snow and mud! lots of pheasants out here along with the usual birds at the feeders. – Bev Axelsen

Jan. 20 – Golden Eagles at Gibson Flats. A pair of golden eagles were perched on the rock ridge that overlooks Gibson Flats. there’s a nest nearby that they’ve been using for the past few years. good to see them in the area again. – Jan Wilson

Jan 19 – the eagles are feeding on a new carcass along the county road east of us northern flickers are checking out the thistle, sunflower, and suet feeders with the little birds – Bev Axelsen 

Jan. 18 – Have three bald eagles out in the cottonwood and a golden eagle at first I thought it was an immature bald, but it is much larger than the baldies lots of pheasants around – Bev Axelsen 

Jan. 18 – We have about 20 GC Rosy Finches at the feeders this morning.  We have had 6 for the entire cold snap but a bunch more showed up today. – Kitty and Kris

Jan 17 – I had a immature gray crown rosey finch hanging out under my thistle feeder this morning. First one for me. – Wendy Kamm

Jan 17 –  I had a immature gray crown rosey finch hanging out under my thistle feeder this morning. First one for me. – Wendy Kamm

Jan 16 – had to go take a look at Gt Springs today to see what it looks like at -25 or so. Lots of frosty geese & mallards.  Feeder was still pretty full and I was surprised there were just a few finches, a flicker, and a chickadee or two around it.  I thought it would be swarmed. Needless to say, I didn’t stay long.  Stay warm….   – Steve Leathe

Jan 12 – Mealworms are popular. With mealworms in hand I stepped outside and presented my hand with the mealworms and an in a matter of a couple seconds had both a mountain and a black capped chickadee eat out of my hand. This is the first time I’ve done this this winter. It can work with sunflower seeds as well but generally not quite so quickly. – Richard Mousel 

Jan 11 – Our Feeders. There has been 3 Downy Woodpeckers at our feeders today, unfortunately a male is extremely greedy, we also have been getting a Flicker coming to the suet, the other day it was feeding for 45 minutes, it feeds on the suet feeder I attached to the top of our hopper feeder. The Chickadees both Mountain and Black-capped love the meal worms I put out multiple times a day. Unfortunately I haven’t seen the White-breasted Nuthatch in a couple of weeks, have a couple of Red-breasted though. A few hours later: I now have a guest looking for a hot dinner. A Sharpie. – Rich Mousel

Jan 11 – Acciptiter Identification. Here is a blog that may help you out – – Beth Hill

Jan 10 – River Freezing. I made a few stops to check out river conditions while out doing weekly shopping before it gets sub-zero.  The co-op section of river had a lot of “ice cubes” but still hundreds of goldeneye and mallards.  The river between Central Ave and 9th St bridges was 99% ice filled.  I could see a few mallards at the water treatment outlet. I went an extra few miles to check on the Giant Springs bird feeder (yes, it was empty).  I filled it with the rest of a 25 pound bag and put in 2 new suet blocks.  I noticed that safflower can fall through the bottom hardware wire.  Not much, but it did come out.  It will get eaten.  There were over 1000 mallards in the area of the spring.  Several hundred geese and a handful of goldeneye and buffleheads.  There was a fair amount of ice flowing in the river here as well.  (I didn’t go down to the dam). It doesn’t take long for a feeze-up to develop. – Beth Hill

Jan 8 – Snow Geese. Saw 200 to 250 Snow Geese flying south over our place about 10AM. – Kitty and Kris

Whoa – that’s a large number for this time of year. – Beth Hill

WOW  we have about 300 Canada geese in the adjacent wheat field and I thought that was a fantastic sight!  Hope they don’t pull up the green wheat. – Bev Axelsen

Jan 8 – We have 6 Gray Crowned Rosy-finches at the feeder this morning. – Kitty and Kris

Jan 3 – FOY Meadowlark this morning about1/8 mile north of the T intersection of 10 Mile and River Road. – Kitty Knapus

Jan 3 – I had the female red crossbill at my feeder again 2 days ago. I got a really close look at it, and there is no mistaking that beak. I saw it about a month before that, but nothing until Monday.  I don’t know what it is doing in a prairie river town. – Wendy Kamm

Bird Sightings for Nov 2023

Nov 28: We saw a flock of 40 Sandhill Cranes just west of our place yesterday. They were headed south. – Kitty Knaphus

Nov 22: Bev Axelsen sent a photo of 30 waxwings in her tree.

Nov 21: I was out this morning for a sunrise shoot on the road to Widow Coulee. 8 swans flew by low, but not close enough for photo. Light was low so I couldn’t tell if they were Tundra or Trumpeter. – Jan Wilson

Nov 21: saw two northern flickers as I left our place this a.m. songbirds weren’t awake/at the feeders, yet! took a drive to Armington and East looking for the turkeys we saw last week saw about 14 of them but I think more where in front of the barn away from the highway and/or in with the equipment parked by the barns. saw three bald eagles – the first one was in a tree near a big nest at Memke’s East of Great Falls. did see a flock of Cedar Waxwings near Monarch and a couple of Clark’s Nutcrackers and several mountain chickadees near Neihart. lots of ravens and magpies everywhere and lots of deer. – Bev Axelsen 

Nov 20: Cranes by sound. – Kitty Knaphus

Nov 18:  Winter raptor survey report from the Fairfield bench: – Beth Hill

Nov 15: Michelle and I visited Benton Lake not too long after sunrise this morning.  It may have been 30 degrees but the wind was 0 mph at first – the lake surface was like a mirror.  By 9 am it was picking up and warming.  It was wonderful listening to the 60 plus Tundra Swans whooping (recall that they were once named Whooping Swans).  They were next to over 120 Snow Geese.  Mallards outnumbered everything else (put together).  A smattering of other ducks included Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, just 10 Coots.  There were 2 or more Northern Harriers always in sight flying low over the marsh and grassland.  What a nice way to spend the morning. – Beth Hill

Nov 13 There were 4 of us in the car Saturday.  The temperatures ranged from 40-50 degrees.  It was mostly cloudy all day.  The wind started out SW 15-18 mph then increased to gusts past 30 mph after 11:15 am.  Whether fewer birds after that was due to the wind or time of day is impossible to determine.  We saw one large group of antelope laying down in a field (it was very windy at that time) – there were over 55 counted.  It was surprising to see a Pied-billed Grebe in a channel of the Smith River just before we got to Eden Bridge.  The water was about 6 inches deep right where it was holding.  There were nice looks at several of the Red-tail Hawks and the single Rough-legged Hawk.  A first year Red-tail landed on a fence post with a ‘gopher’ and proceeded to do some eating while we watched.  After a few bites it took off.  The eBird report here:  – Beth Hill

Nov 12:  1 Red Crossbill, 1 Redpoll, 1 A. Goldfinch, 1 Pine Siskin, 27 House Finches.  /// 19 Tundra Swans, lots of Canada Geese and about 300 Sandhill Cranes.  The cranes were all lifting off in small groups and flying south.  This was in a stubble field about 7 miles from our house. /// Still have some swans in the field, along with lots of Canada Geese.  Also 2 adult Bald Eagles on the Osprey nest at the Ulm FAS. – Kitty Knaphus

Nov 12: just returned from a nice drive today with friend, Suzette. saw a vulture soaring above Riceville Road near where we could see Tiger Butte; saw two dozen turkeys under the trees near the Sluice Box that walked right up to the vehicle; saw 50 turkeys a few miles from Armington Junction; and was surprised to see a small flock (about a dozen) cedar waxwings in the trees along the road where we turned to drive into Belt!  – Bev Axelsen 

Nov 7: With the addition of suet, peanut and seed blocks have had an increasing variety of visitors, in addition to House Finch and Sparrow we’ve had numerous Black-capped Chickadees several Mountain Chickadees and  both Red-breasted and a White-breasted Nuthatch and today 3 Downey Woodpeckers. – Richard Mousel

Nov 5: This has been an interesting fall in Fort Benton.  At my feeder, besides the usual house finches, house sparrows, downy wood peckers, black capped chickadees and flickers, this week saw a mountain chickadee, red and white breasted nuthatches and a female red crossbill. – Wendy Kamm

Nov 4: Velda and I drove the Sun River-Simms WRS route this morning.  The weather really wasn’t bad, a little breeze.  A misty rain for about an hour.  We were able to find a number of raptors.  A surprise was a late Western Meadowlark.  We watched a Golden Eagle get harassed by a pair of magpies over the rim of one of the benches, then it came up with what looked like a 8-10 inch long stick about 1- 1.5 inch diameter.  Then it dipped below the rim and we didn’t see it again.  Nest building?  A little later we watched a non-adult Bald Eagle flapping wildly on a tree top.  It flipped upside down, flapping and hanging on (or stuck?) on the branch.  Then it took off.  It landed on the top of another tree and flopped around again and this time it flew off with a branch.  That explained it.  It was gathering nest materials.  Or maybe just practicing because it then dropped it.  It was, after all, not an adult (traces of white in head and tail). There were several Rough-legged Hawks.  Several Northern Harriers. One nice Harlan’s Red-tail (it was really dark, no red, no bars or belly, but we could clearly see yellow legs (not feathered).  We were surprised to see as many kestrels as we did.  The route is about 65 miles long and it took 4 hours to complete (we did take a 30 minute detour mid-route to visit with a friend, that time was not included). Trip report here: – Beth Hill

Nov 2: About noon we were coming home from a trip to town.  We had seen 19 Swans along with about 300 Canada Geese feeding in a stubble field on our way into town so we stopped there to look again.  The swans and geese were still there but we also spotted a group of 20 Sandhill Cranes.  We got out to watch them and over the next 15 minutes we watched group after group of cranes lift off from further back in the field, where we couldn’t see them on the ground.  We counted 302 cranes.  It was a nice show.  Could be our last cranes of the season. – Kitty Knaphus

Nov 2: Liz Larcom & I saw 270 Sandhill Cranes past Ulm on Saturday afternoon along with 4 swans flying overhead. The cranes were in a field with cows, Canada geese & mallards. – Nora Gray

Nov 1: We’ve been visiting Giant Springs this week since county roads are extremely mucky right now. /// I’ve found a group of 6 or more Pine Grosbeaks each day feeding on ash tree seeds.  They were in the main park but seemed to prefer the area below the interpretive center.  They call to each other quite a bit.  It’s interesting to watch them.  ///  Lots of birds moving through.  There are a lot of juncos and tree sparrows once it warms up.  Not huge numbers of ducks (outside of the coots) but a little bit of everything.  The first goldeneyes showed up today. ///  We located a Surf Scoter (white patch on back of the head) hanging out loosely with the rafts (200 plus) of Bufflehead.  We watched him a good while today until a duck boat came screaming downstream and every bird took off.  The Buffleheads came back but we lost track of the scoter.  –  Beth Hill

Nov 1: Yesterday’s Redpoll count was 26.  Also had a couple of Pine Siskins. /// There are still some swans at Ulm.  Four on the water at noon today and at least four more out feeding in the fields with the Canada Geese.  – Kitty Knaphus







UMBA’s 2023 Christmas Bird Count – Invitation

UMBA invites anyone interested in helping with this year’s census to come to the Monday, December 11, 2023 chapter meeting, 7:00 PM in the FWP Regional Headquarters conference room (4600 Giant Springs Road).

Nora Gray will assign participants to one of 10 area teams with experienced team leaders. Inexperienced birders can serve as spotters or the team scribe while learning to identify the birds. The leader packets will be given out at the meeting.

We also hope that anyone not in one of the CBC section car groups will count birds in their yards! You can email or call Nora Gray to report your yard Count Day findings by Sunday, December 17. Remember, “Count Week” is 3 days before & 3 days after “Count Day”. During Count Week, we count only species not see on Count Day, not numbers of birds in a species. If you have sightings on these additional days, please inform Nora! Count Day this year: Sat., Dec.16; Count Week: Dec. 13, 14, 15 & 17, 18, 19.

On count day – Saturday, December 16 – dress WARMLY, bring a thermos with a hot drink and a lunch, binoculars, a scope and a bird field guide (if you have them), AND a sense of adventure. Let Nora know the week before the meeting if you need to borrow a pair of binoculars. She has to go pick them up.

Most teams begin their count around 8:00 AM and finish between noon & 5:00 PM, depending on the weather and size of their count area. Check with your area team leader about where & when to meet Saturday morning.

At 5:00 PM Count Day, participants and other interested folks may join UMBA for the wrap-up session that includes pizza & salad in the FWP Regional Headquarters confer- ence room. Each area leader reports the number of species and birds seen that day and then gives highlights of that area’s sightings. UMBA will pay for CBC participants’ dinners; nonparticipants will pay $7 each. Please let Nora Gray know if you’ll join us for pizza by Thursday, December 14, so that we order enough!

In case of inclement weather, the dinner will be canceled, and the count will be held Sunday, December 17.

For the birds,

Nora Gray     781-4153

Bird Sightings for Oct 2023

Oct 21 Walked thru the pasture to the river just before dawn looking for Sandhill Cranes. There were about 50 feeding in the pasture the day before. But today they just flew over and never landed. Counted between 50 – 75 in small groups for about 30 minutes. Attached is a photo with an adult flying with a juvenile. – Jan Wilson

Oct 20 White-Breasted Nuthatch It’s still sticking around. – Richard Mousel

Oct 16 I received one more route to check out.  Tuesday looks to be too windy.  I was hoping to explore another winter raptor survey route Wednesday or Thursday this week.  Maybe Saturday.  The routes vary between 65 – 85 miles in length.  They all involve driving transects in an area that might host over wintering raptors.  The surveys are done in the months of December, January and February, once each month. – Beth Hill

If anyone is interested in exploring another route this week, let me know, and which day works best.  We’d be heading out about 8 am.  Where we meet up depends on which route is driven.  Expect to finish early in the afternoon.  Last week we finished an 80 mile trip at about 1:30 pm. – Beth Hill

Oct 16 there are about two dozen pheasants in the wheatfield adjacent to my pasture this a.m.  roosters, hens, and young I hope they don’t tear up the sprouting wheat – Bev Axelsen

Oct 14 We were totally surprised by the sudden dense fog as we got within 1/4 mile of Valier.  The fog lasted well past 11 am but made viewing the eclipse a weird experience.  We could see it easily because we didn’t have to fight the sun glare.  It also made viewing birds on the lake difficult at best until after 11 am.  Even so, there were quite a few loons.  We stopped at the lighthouse area first then visited it last when we could see better.  A couple of late birds – like the juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron and a pair of female Yellow Headed Blackbirds were a bit of a surprise.  The Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans were a nice addition.  The numbers of waterfowl on the water seemed low.  (Eureka Reservoir water level was extremely low).  We saw some cool birds and had a good time. Take a look at our trip report.

Oct 11 I had 3 mountain chickadees bouncing around when I took a neighborhood walk this morning.  A new neighborhood bird.  And some Canadian Snowbirds, oh wait, those are jets. – Beth Hill

Oct 14 Just had a new Yardbird, a White breasted Nuthatch. – Richard Mousel

Oct 09  It was a very good year with 421 Mountain Bluebirds fledged, the Tree Swallows were down a bit this year with 111 fledged. It was also a great year for Mountain Chickadees with a tally of 40 fledged and lastly we had 31 House Wrens fledge. Sure missed Dan Bennett driving, I hope his health improves, Thank you Dan for all the years you’ve driven, it sure helps. Another Thank you to Beth who drove me a couple times this summer. The total Birds fledged was 603 and the Mountain Bluebirds was 421. An excellent tally. – Richard Mousel

Oct 08 Just had a Mountain Chickadee visit our fountain for a drink. I’m very surprised to see one this early.  – Richard Mousel

Oct 07 This morning Velda and I took a practice run on a proposed winter raptors survey route on the Fairfield Bench.   We drove about 90 miles on the route itself.  It covered a good portion of the bench because of the back and forth nature of the route.  We made notes about roads that might be poor in wet conditions (quite a few).  We saw a few unexpected birds – a group of pipits on a power line, 29 killdeer in one pot hole that was drying up, a belted kingfisher, more starlings and house sparrows than you can shake a stick at and one flock of “black birds” that was actually more Brewer’s and Red-winged blackbirds than starlings.  Oh – and there were raptors, red-tailed hawk and northern harriers with a possible merlin (5 and 6 respectively).  One field had 3 harriers, the male was almost courtship flying with one of the two females.  2 more routes to check out before the snow flies.- Beth Hill and Velda Baltrusch

Oct 07 Great Egret second night seen at West Bank.  Probably could see from east river drive as well.  May be there other times.  I’ve just been there in the evenings. – Beth Hill

Oct 04 We have had numerous Pine Siskins, White-crowned Sparrows, Juncos and one lone RW Blackbird working on the sunflowers that I hung from the feeder poles in the yard.  Also had a flock of several hundred blackbirds swirling around a couple of days ago.  All we could observe of those were Brewers. – Beth Hill

Oct 03 I walked through a cow pasture that was on the Riverdale Ranch Conservation easement and flushed about 20 American pipits. I was headed towards the Missouri looking for Sandhill cranes when 5 flew over me. Did not see any on my side of the river but heard their sounds on the other side. Spotted a Bald eagle fishing. – Jan Wilson