Bird Sightings for Sept 2023

Sept. 29 We traveled on the raptor route and first thing we saw were several groups of Sandhill Cranes on left side of road (traveling towards Cascade) near the Lil Valley Ranch. Total numbers were about 50. By the time we got to Cascade we had seen 5 red-tailed hawks, 1 female harrier, 6 ravens, 1 golden eagle, 1 immature bald eagle, and a small kettle of Turkey Vultures up very high. – Jan Wilson

Sept. 28 Friend Suz and I stopped at West Bank Park. I have never seen so many starlings and blackbirds hundreds, maybe even a thousand or more!!! the power lines were sagging under the weight of so many birds. the roofs of buildings were covered with birds. the trees were full of birds. then they began forming murmurations! – Bev Axelson

Sept. 24 Neighbor said there were at least 500 yellow headed blackbirds yesterday. I just visited with her in person to make sure that is what she was describing. I just got home to  hundreds of starlings in the horse pasture and on fences, a couple dozen northern flickers, a few yellow headed blackbirds, and hundreds of sparrows some of which are white crowned. – Bev Axelson

Sept. 23 drove out to the Stockett Road hoping to see the Swainson’s, arriving there about 7:00 p.m. tonight saw one atop a utility pole, then another, then one in a tree and then when we looked closer at the tree there were dozens in it. so friend Suzette and I watched and photographed and then a cat came skulking across the road and jumped up on the cottonwood tree trunk which set at least two dozen Swainson’s flying out of the tree!  we watched them fly over the fields back and forth to the utility poles and then we noticed activity in the second cottonwood tree on the E side of the road. Suzette thinks there were about 50 between both trees; I’m guesstimating at least three dozen. – Bev Axelson

Sept 23 I led a group of about 12 neophytes, including a 4 and 6/ year old, on a walk around Giant Springs this morning.  It wasn’t supposed to rain.  Or even be 100% clouds, but it is what it is.  We saw the Great Horned Owl, thanks to Jeri’s sharp eyes.  He/she was hidden high, very high, up in a leafy tree.  We even got the 4 year old on it.  It was no more than a grey blob without binoculars.  Songbirds were pretty much inactive although we had one tree full of kinglets and 2 downy woodpeckers.  We managed to find several Wilson’s Warblers.  Down on the river we had 3 Great Blue Herons on the far side.  Everyone got a good look at a Belted Kingfisher as she flew about the fishing pond.  We may have seen 20 species altogether. – Beth Hill

Sept 23 we saw 2 fences lines full of Swainson’s, the first had only 8; the second had about 20. located on the Stockett road just off the hwy 87. About a mile on right. – Jan Wilson

Sept 23 The trees and shrubs have been busy with small songbirds this week.  We have had Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black Capped Chickadees, White Crowned Sparrows, Juncos, Ruby Crowned Kinglets and a Down Woodpecker.  We’ve seen good sized flocks of Brewer’s Blackbirds and separate flocks of Meadowlarks.  Yesterday there was a rather wet and bedraggled looking Kestral. – Kitty and Kris

Sept 20 Driving through Sun River about 6PM we saw at least 15 Turkey vultures roosting in one tree. After gawping at them a few minutes we moved on only to notice half a dozen more in another tree about 1/4 mile away. – Elaina Graham

Sept 19 Well, there are still Burrowing Owls at the jump.  I saw 5 or 6 for sure.  Bev A. had 6 to 8. Also seen, Turkey Vulture, eagle (non-adult, leaning towards Golden – it was a silhouette),lots of Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, American Robins, White-crowned Sparrows, a couple of Savannah Sparrows and a single Spotted Towhee. There was a pair of buteos with light chests we just couldn’t place (distant and lighting worked against us). – Beth Hill

Sept 16 American Pipits and Spotted Towhees on the rocky cliffs at Buffalo Jump this morning. – Elaina Graham

Sept 13 Our garden is beginning to get busy migration visitors. We counted 5 Wilson’s Warblers, 2 Juncos, 1 juvy White-crowned sparrow and a Lincoln sparrow. – Jan Wilson

Sept 5 Here is the Merlin bird list from my place this morning. The Chickadees is my phone receiving an email. 🙂 Merlin missed the Magpies. The Hummingbird is still around this morning at Maria’s, they frequently have a Bed & Breakfast. Eurasian Collared Dove, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Black-capped Chickadee. Happy to say we have another Hummingbird this morning. Not sure if it’s the same one as yesterday, this one seems chubby so maybe a Rufous. – Richard Mousel

Sept 4 I headed to Giant Sprigs this morning.  I parked at the Steamboat parking rea and walked up to the dam and back.  I started in the rain but the little birds were all over.  I probably heard 10 times what I could see.  Chipping Sparrows were all over.  In fact it seemed like there were several flocks moving round.  I might have seen over 100.  If they stopped where I could inspect individuals I could we that it’s. Mixed flock of mostly chippies.  I also saw White-crowned Sparrows in the mix. A few Clay-colored Sprrows, Rubycrowned Kinglets, Lincoln’s Sparrows, even a Swainson’s Thrush.  I didn’t overlook the river and spotted a Hooded Merganser sitting between a row of Common Mergansers on a log.  It was an interesting morning with a bunch of other bird seen and by walking on the trail I managed to stay dry. – Beth Hill

Sept 4 Just had another Hummingbird. A Calliope again I believe. Over the last couple of days we had a couple Wilson’s Warblers and at least 3 Juncos. – Richard Mousel

Sept 4 the caragana bushes are alive with the happy sounds of dozens of Wilson’s Warblers. a few showed up when it was raining this a.m. but they have been joined by many more all afternoon. they must be finding insects on the leaves because they are not feeding on the ground. occasionally they’ll come to the bird bath for water but I see them drinking out of rain cups that the chickadees like to drink from, also. – Bev Axelsen

Sept 1 Sat in my van to check out the burrowing owls again at the lower trail of the jump again. Got there around 530, at about 6 things got interesting as the owls were moving around and in some cases hunting. I think there may be 13 to 14 of them. Then saw Beth on the trail she had one fly right behind her. Then there were about 4 just below her and one on the hillside in back of her.After that the activity slowed down. Not the good show I had seen the other night. they were sitting on the mounds and some were hunting but not flying back and forth and visiting each other. still nice to see this many of them. Also saw deer, one pronghorn (antelope) one magpie, horned larks, meadow lark, and one Northern Harrier and lots of dogs. – Arla Eckert

Sept 1 Indeed.  They were all over just this one area.  It happens to be the area where they had their nest burrow this year.  I have to wonder if they are all one family. I also saw several Savannah Sparrows and one Vesper Sparrow. – Beth Hill.












Bird Sightings for May 2023

May 1 We got our FOY White-crowned Sparrows under the feeder this morning. On 4/28 at about 11 AM we stopped for about 15 minutes at the Ulm bridge. There must have been a fantastic thermal because we saw 3 Bald Eagles, 3 Red-tailed Hawks and 2 Turkey Vultures all riding it at once. And they all looked like they were having a good time! Also at that stop and on the way home were 1 more eagle on the nest, 2 Osprey on the Ulm FAS nest, 1 on the middle nest and 2 on the upper nest, 2 Kestrel, numerous Meadowlarks and a Robin. –Kitty and Kris

May 1 I saw my first White-crowned Sparrow at Giant Springs this morning. In addition to the 3 white- crowned sparrows, I found 20-30 or more Bonaparte’s Gulls mixed in with the Franklins Gulls at the Rainbow dam pullout of Giant Springs. They were smaller and had that little faint black dot behind the eye. Only one was getting its black head. It could be distinguished from the Franklins because of the tinier bill which was black (opposed to the orange of the Franklins) and they have no white broken eye ring. They are just passing through. –Beth Hill

May 2 I saw a proud Canadian Goose pair with tiny little yellow goslings on the Missouri today about half way between Giant Springs and the wide gravel parking/fishing spot before you get to the railroad trestle. We had our first Red-breasted Nuthatch on the old cottonwood tree in the front yard this afternoon. –Bev Axelsen

May 8 I knew I had to walk up to Garden Home Park this morning. When I got within sight I saw that the goose on the platform had extra “stuff” around her that looked yellow. Sure enough as I got closer I could see they were goslings. Mom stood up and looked around. I thought she wouldn’t be staying long – the kids had to eat. She sat back down when a pair of helicopters circled around over the river for several minutes. I took my time walking around the park. (The Osprey is still standing – no eggs there yet). Then she stood back up. This time she took tentative steps to the edge of the nest. She looked at the cross bar, back at the goslings, back at the cross bar, down to the ground. Another step. Then she was on the ground. It took about 30 seconds for the first two to follow her to the ground. Just a step/leap. Another 30 seconds and the third hopped off. The last two had to ponder awhile. Finally, #4 took a dive and #5 followed soon after. Be- tween 11:25 and 11:28 am the nest went from full to empty. Timing is everything. I could head back home. –Beth Hill

May 11 Swainson’s Hawks used to nest in the cottonwood trees at the corner near the stone pillars (where I live). That nest disappeared and I haven’t found another nest in the area. Last evening I saw two Swainson’s soaring over the house. They flew down and I walked out front where I saw them perching on the utility pole. One flew off before I got the camera up. I’m hoping they’ll nest nearby again! — Bev Axels

May 11 FOY Western Kingbird this morning. — Kitty & Kris

May 11 Have our first Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year. Our Chickadees have 7 eggs in the birdhouse. — Richard Mousel

May 12 Had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet visit our fountain for a bath. — Richard Mousel

May 13 Don’t know if it’s the same one but we had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet come get a bath again tonight, it sings to announce his presence first. –Richard Mousel

May 13 Both Swainson Hawks were out front feeding this morning; I hope that means they’ll nest nearby. We saw our first House Wren yesterday – it came right up on the deck where my husband and I were sitting. Lots of bits of robin egg shells on the ground – know where a few nests are but there must be more than I can’t see. — Bev Axelsen

May 13 I stepped out my car at Garden Home Park about noon and heard my first Yellow Warblers of the year. How sweet it is. Beth Hill

Bird Sightings for April 2023

March 31 First spring Double-crested Cormorant showed up at Giant Springs this morning. It was in beauti- ful breeding color. A great many Lesser Scaup this morning on the river in the area of the refinery. Over 100 between the island and 9th St bridge. – Beth Hill

April 2 I finally carried my spotting scope. 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 Roughlegged Hawk (good chance it was migrating), a single Redtail Hawk (suspect it is the summer resident, it dove at the Roughlegged 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. I had a report that there were a hun- dred or more Northern Pintails below the hatchery housing earlier in the morning, but they must have taken off early. Beth Hill

April 3 We had our first robin of the season here yesterday just moments before the brief snow squall blew in. I took a drive to Freezeout Lake yesterday, as well, and saw three bald eagles, hundreds of snow geese, gulls, a half dozen swans, some Canadian geese and two horned larks. – Bev Axelsen

April 5 Have a grackle and starlings at the bird feeders today, and there are a few more northern flickers around; one or two stayed all winter. – Bev Axelsen

April 6 Had a report this am of 2 Sandhill Cranes flying over the area near the buffalo jump Arla Eckert April 6 We were lucky to be at Freezout yesterday when the goose numbers were estimated to be 88,000. At about 10 AM there was a small raft of white geese on the main lake. By 10:15 they started streaming in from the morning feeding, huge numbers settling in right in front of us. That continued pretty much non-stop for 75 to 80 min. It was an incredible sight and sound show! – Kitty and Kris

April 11 We have Tree Swallows checking out the bird houses today. 3 Curlew flew over the yard just now. – Kitty and Kris

April 11 Tree Swallows were at Giant Springs this morning as well. Checking out houses. – Beth Hill

April 12 I saw my first Mountain Bluebirds on Monday west of Choteau at the Sun River game range. Also, a great immature Golden Eagle. Fun. – Velda Baltrusch

April 12 I saw a mountain blue bird by the side of the road on highway 89 north of White Sulphur Springs. About 20 Sandhill Cranes and 5 big Turkey vultures by Wilsall. – Grayce Holzheimer

April 12 One Bluebird was spotted on River Road few miles from Ulm. 5 Sandhill cranes were in a field far off of Castner Falls Road. In addition to my trip along River Road, I saw 3 Red-winged Blackbirds, 6 Meadowlarks, 1 Bald eagle, 1 Great Blue Heron (flying very high over Castner Falls rd). – Jan Wilson

April 12 A small wave of Juncos. I heard several calling. – Richard Mousel

April 12 Hurray! Yesterday I heard the Juncos twitter above the wind noise as soon as I stepped out the door. – Beth Hill

April 14 there are robins out everywhere I look in the neighborhood (Gibson Flats); at least two of them are repeat visitors as they remembered to come up to my storm door and wait for me to bring grapes to them! – Bev Axelsen

April 15 I saw my first turkey vulture today. – Velda Baltrusch

April 15 I saw 3 Long-billed Curlews at Benton Lake today. Of course, waterfowl, but not huge numbers. – Beth Hill

April 15 I have 8 to 10 juncos in my yard in Choteau and 6 to 7 red-winged blackbirds! – Susan Hillstrom

April 16 I Saw 30 Juncos, 3 Cassin’s Finch, 12 Black Capped Chickadees and a Robin at Duck Lake. The lake is still completely frozen. – Susan DeBacker

April 16 Last Friday we saw a Short-eared Owl near the T intersection of 10 Mile and River Road. Also saw 2 Kestrels, one near there and one in the valley. – Kitty and Kris

April 17 Had a couple of Common Loons below Giant Springs. The owl was on the nest also had a Downey drumming. Had a pair of Nuthatches hanging around a birdhouse at Highland. I didn’t want to disturb them; they were around the Chickadee box that was used for the last two years. I checked the Nuthatch box it was full of twigs, apparently a Wren used it after the Nuthatches last year, I cleaned it out and put some sawdust in it. – Richard Mousel

April 17 I meant to post about seeing a loon yesterday. The owl is really visible now. The past few weeks it was just ear tufts. Thinking it might mean they have hatched if she is sitting more upright. Also, firsts were Mourning Doves, Grackles. An abundance of robins. A variety of juncos (some almost black to some almost pink), Song Sparrows singing mightily. Something new every day right now. We had a Long-billed Curlew fly upriver while at Giant Springs this morning. That was a first for that location. We saw some at Benton Lake this weekend. – Beth Hill

April 18 West Bank Park area had an abundance of Northern Shovelers this morning. There were more Gadwalls and fewer goldeneyes and Buffleheads. I saw a single Red-necked Grebe and about 20 Eared Grebes. There are several geese visible sitting on nests, which are barely above river level, which could be a problem if the river rises more than a couple inches. Singing Song Sparrows and Juncos found as well. – Beth Hill

April 18 Saw two Osprey in the Ulm area this morning. One was at the Ulm FAS nest pole, the other was moving sticks around on the upper nest. Juncos under the feeders yesterday and today. – Kitty and Kris

April 19 I made a pass through Giant Springs and spotted 20+ American Pipits landing and flying and landing on the road to search for crawly things on the ground. – Jan Wilson

April 21 The nose/beak count on deck this morning is: three squirrels, two juncos, three chickadees, four robins, two magpies (chasing after the squirrels), too many sparrows to count, four house finches, several starlings, three redwing blackbirds, one northern flicker hammering away out of sight, numerous gulls in the adjacent wheat field and pheasants and grouse in the pasture, and in the backyard, three cottontails and the strong scent of skunk in the air. – Bev Axelsen

April 21 Yesterday we saw 4 Kestrels within about 2 miles on River Road, from the old Y (by the upper Os- prey nest) to where the road bends south. We had 2 Savannah Sparrows join the Juncos under the feed- ers. We’ve never seen Savannahs under the feeders before. We had 13 inches of snow on the ground yes- terday and one of the few spots where bare ground was showing was under the feeders. – Kitty & Kris Knaphaus

April 22 I visited Giant Springs this morning and added a bunch of personal “first of year” birds. The first was a couple of Ruby-crowned kinglets singing in the tree tops. Later I heard several Yellow-rumped War- blers calling out. I saw my first Osprey or two flying up and down the river. There were several new Song Sparrows belting out their songs. There are still a bunch of Juncos, lots of Robins and Flickers working on holes. The owl is sitting in such a position the past 7-10 days that we suspect there are hatched owls in the nest box. Dad keeps a close eye on the nest box. Several Common Loons were cruising up and down the river. – Beth Hill

April 23 Today I saw my first Giant Springs turkey. She was walking around the playground then took a stroll through the main park. I doubt if she would have been there later in the morning with all the people out for a walk. My first of year American Avocets showed up today (4). – Beth Hill

April 23 We spotted an active Bald Eagle nest near the Ulm Bridge. It is on the Ulm side of the river. It is vis- ible from the opposite side from the old road right by the bridge. We didn’t have the scope along but with binocs could see an adult. It looked like it was feeding young. After about 10 min. it settled down on the nest. Also saw 2 Osprey fly in and have a brief territorial interaction over the Ulm FAS nest. – Kitty & Kris Knaphaus

April 26 Yesterday and today I got good looks at several nests with baby birds and birds sitting on nests around Giant Springs. I saw the baby owls for the first time. I saw the tops of two heads yesterday and had an even clearer view of two heads today (including a whole face). Dad is always nearby. The Red-tailed Hawk is still sitting tight but it won’t be all that long until they might be hatching. I peered across the river to see the Bald Eagle nest in Black Eagle (dad is always nearby). If you look close you can tell there are a lot of geese sitting on nests but I saw my first goslings of the year yesterday. Many California Gulls are sitting on nests on their little island in the river.

A push of Yellow-rumped Warblers arrived – you could hear them all over the main park area starting yesterday and a few you could even find to see. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were seen and heard. One had a ruby head stripe that seemed as wide as your little finger. Imagine spotting a kinglet because of its big red crown (and then making out the rest of the bird!). I saw my first Violet-green Swallow of the year yesterday. And a Lincoln’s Sparrow hopping in the low brush. Still just one or two Common Loons. Maybe that’s all we’ll have this migration year. Spring is always fun. – Beth Hill

April 28 I can hear my first Grackle of the year. – Richard Mousel

April 30 Finally discovered a positive for House Sparrows, they are flocking to my flowers to eat Aphids. I knew Warblers and Chickadees ate them; I didn’t know House Sparrows did. – Richard Mousel

May 1—reports from Ulm and Great Falls about seeing the first White-crowned Sparrows of the spring. And a big batch of Bonaparte’s Gulls at Giant Springs. The little birds are on their way.

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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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Bird Sightings for February 2023

Feb 9 – I spent the morning at Giant Springs again today (February 9). We found the pair of great Horned Owls right off sitting almost next to each other in a spruce tree. There wasn’t a dense number of birds on the river, but the numbers added up. Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Mallards, Canada Geese, Hooded Mergansers (12-15), Common Mergansers (5-7), American Coots. I didn’t go downstream below the hatchery to see if Redheads and scaup (Greater/Lesser – both have been seen) were in the groups I could see in the distance. As expected, there were House Finches, Chickadees, and a few Starlings. Also noted were: Sharp- shinned Hawk, Bald Eagles, Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Ducks (2), Downy Woodpecker, Magpies (one group of 13+), Common Raven, Belted Kingfisher, American Robin, Townsend’s Solitaire, Bohemian Waxwings (42!) (They do like to be in crowds). Beth Hill

Feb 11 – A (very white) leucistic Magpie was seen out a window at Benefis East (Lab) last fall & this week. – Nora Gray

Feb 15 – Shane Sater writes about his recent raptor survey in the Helena Valley (in his blog below). https://

Shane Sater’s blog is highly informative, and beautifully illustrated. Highly recommended. Wayne Phillips (Copied from the blog) Jan 18 Today we’ve found 11 red-tailed hawks and 37 rough-legged hawks. We’ve counted 12 bald eagles, three merlins, one sharp-shinned hawk, and one northern harrier. No survey will find everything that’s present. Today we haven’t found prairie falcons or American kestrels, for example, two uncommon winter raptors that we know birders have seen quite recently in this area. But by repeating these surveys in the same way each time – and by conducting them not just here, but in hundreds of other places across the northwestern United States – a detailed picture of our wintering raptor populations is beginning to emerge. Shane Sater, a scientist with a passion for the landscape.

Feb 16 – I’ve had no new recent sightings. The same old Canada Geese and Mallards by the hundreds at Giant Springs today. There was more ice along the edges of the river and some interesting frozen water droplets. The other day I had 9 American Robins grazing in the picnic area of the park, but not today. I am seeing 2 Great Horned Owls on every visit. They move around from tree to tree but are often together or within eyesight. Nesting for Great Horned Owls can be late February through March in Montana. I haven’t seen them in the nest box tree. – Beth Hill

Feb 17 – For the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count I thought I’d check out a different area so I took a drive around Highland/Gibson Flats/Gerber Rd/Fields Rd/Lower River Rd this morning. I was hoping I’d see a few raptors. Well, I saw 20 magpies at Highland Cemetery, along with 4 Eurasian Collared Doves. I spotted 5 rooster pheasant in fields along Gibson Flats Road. That was pretty much it, another magpie and about 40 geese on the river. It seemed so empty. I hope we see a few more birds Saturday when the ‘raptor route’ will be checked out. – Beth Hill

Feb 18 – On the second day of the Great Backyard Bird Count Velda and I drove the raptor route from Great Falls to Cascade and back. It really was a nice day, not too windy. Temperatures ranged from 32-42 de- grees. A few flurries as we neared Ulm at the end. Our first Bald Eagle was in the field just before the Big Bend fishing access. It was on a carcass that attracted a couple ravens and magpies. The same field also had 6 or more rooster pheasants. When we saw Rough-legged Hawks they were in pairs (twice) and a single bird. Yeah – just 5. A single Golden Eagle that was sitting in a tree within spitting distance of a pair of Bald Eagles. The rapid flight of a bird with “pointy” wings caught our attention. When it tilted the dark “armpits” were clearly visible – we had a Prairie Falcon! There was one group of about a dozen ‘huns’. We saw some unidentified “little brown birds” flit away to disappear several times. Some showed some white, others did- n’t. They got noted as “LBB”. Overall, not a large number of raptors or birds total but a satisfying half-day looking for birds.

We recorded: 190 Canada Goose, 9 Mallard, 1 Common Goldeneye, 4 Common Merganser, 12 Gray Partridge, 7 Ring-necked Pheasant, 17 Rock Pigeon, 2 Eurasian Collard-dove, 1 Golden Eagle, 14 Bald Eagle, 5 Rough-legged Hawk, 1 Prairie Falcon, 29 Black-billed Magpie, 1 American Crow, 5 Common Raven, 3 Europe- an Starling, 1 diurnal raptor sp. Comparing the 2023 February count with the 2022 February count there is quite a stark difference – about half as many raptors. I hope it was just the day. – Beth Hill

Feb 18 – I went to the cemeteries, not much too report. Highland: 26 Magpies, 2 Pigeon, 1 Eurasian collared dove. MT Olivet: 5 Chickadees, 1 Nuthatch.

Feb 25 – The only interesting Birds (that I’ve seen lately) are two Oregon Juncos that continue to hang around. – Richard Mousel

Feb 26 – I saw the first California and Ring-billed Gulls this morning at Giant Springs. I was looking yesterday but didn’t see any. Today….as soon as we stopped the car at Steamboat parking area they were there on the ice and bouncing in the air. Their flight is so different than all the overwintering ducks there is no miss- ing them. – Beth Hill

Feb. 28 – Today 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 another 150 and counting Canada Geese coming in to land at the tip of the big island. It wasn’t long until one took off, then another and then ALL the geese, soon there was just one. There were some other walkers headed in the direction of the geese that may have triggered the mass exodus. Later that afternoon, my husband filled the feeder and stood still while Chickadees descended on the feeder. He said he counted 20!!! Usually, we will see 4-6 at a time and it seems like more. – Beth Hill

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