Lake Frances Field Trip

Four of us headed out on the morning of the 15th not knowing just what we’d see, but there has always been something special. No exception today. A smudge of a rainbow over ‘the front’ greeted us as we got near the Valier exit. High winds were whipping the lake to a froth until nearly 11 am. No problem for Dan, Velda, Beth and special guest Sage. We were able to get out to the island and proceeded to walk around the circumference. We were able to spot: Coot by the thousand, American Wigeon, Black-bellied Plover (2), Mallard by the hundred, Northern Pintail, Western Grebe, a Clarks Grebe, Eared and Horned Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Buffleheads, Common Raven, Black-billed Magpie , Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Rock Pigeon, Ring-bill Gull, Canada Geese, an immature Bald Eagle, one Greater Yellowlegs, a Red-tail hawk, Starlings, Northern Flicker, Eurasian Collared Dove and of course Common Loons. Around near the lighthouse we added Ring-necked Pheasant, House Sparrow, Horned Lark, Green-winged Teal, 4 White-winged Scoter (a male with female or young), and a hundred more Common Loons!! Continuing a loop to go past Priest Butte Lake we added more: Ruddy Duck, Canvasback. At Freezout Lake we saw an empty lake but managed to add a few more birds to the day: American White Pelican, Vesper Sparrow (saw the white outer tail feathers) and a nice long look at an American Pipit. There had to have been more than 130 loons on the water we were able to scope and there was a lot of water that was too far, into the sun, glare…just how many were there? Great trip, great birds, great car buddies.

Native Plants for Birds

I am exicted to see the new initiative from Audubon – it has its own website and it’s all about planting native plants for birds whether it is a pot, a plot or a whole lot.  As it gets developed you will be able to get suggestions for plants for your area.  UMBA already has a few materials developed to give some ideas about native plants that are good for birds and our part of the state.  We will work on getting those added to the Audubon database.  Here is a short video to get you started.

Surveying Malmstrom Air Force Base

The security forces were alerted.  Saturday morning 9 curious “birders” took to the fields and residential areas and “industrial” areas to take a fall survey of birds present on Malmstrom Air Force Base.  We noticed the security vehicles and some stopped to check and see what we had been seeing.  There was a lot of walking – we each walked from 5-7 miles in the 4 hours we were searching.  The conditions were far from ideal – cloudy and windy with winds steady at 25 mph gusting to at least 35 mph.  We learned a lot about how we can improve the process for subsequent surveys – we all agreed one fall survey is not enough.  We hope to coordinate to complete at least seasonal surveys.  It was fun to explore an area infrequently accessed by birders.  We could have used more people and more time to do a more thorough survey but we still had an impressive list of birds seen.
In no particular order:  Brewer’s Blackbirds and Starlings (close tie for the highest number), White-crowned Sparrows, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Mallard, Western Meadowlark, Northern Flicker, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, Black-billed Magpie, Rock Pigeon, English House Sparrow, House Finch, Horned Lark, Common Raven, American Crow, American Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, Dark-eyed Junco, Ring-necked Pheasant, Northern Harrier, Great Horned Owl, Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Killdeer, Black-capped Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Mountain Bluebird.
​Stay tuned for a winter survey!

Thain Creek Field Trip Report

It was sunny and calm on the 13th of August – quite a change from some of our recent field trips. We set out for Thain Creek after visiting with some gentlemen that were driving a nice looking Ford Model T out to Monarch for the opening of the restored train station. It holds 10 gallons of gas. Trips have to be planned carefully. It didn’t take long before we were pulling off to the side of the road to check out “bird!”. Along the Highwood highway it was primarily Swainson’s and Red-tailed Hawks. One Swainson’s was a dark adult – according to Sibley’s the combined dark and intermediate morphs are less than 10 percent of the population, more in the far west. Once we hit the gravel road the real fun began. From this point it was another 2 hours before we reached the Thain Creek trailhead – a lot of stops to get out and take closer looks.