November 19 Field Trip – Lake Elwell/Tiber Reservoir

November 19—Let’s explore something new this month—we will head to Lake Elwell/Tiber Reservoir in central Montana. We’ll check out the lake, the shore, the roads in between. This area has little reporting and few bird observing visitors. Sanford Park has a bird list of 172 species over the years. Tiber Dam and VFW Campground has a list of 103 species. There have not been many reports in November. The number of species and individuals were not high, but this fall has been different in terms of migration. It’s an area that needs more exploring. If you are interested, contact Beth Hill ( We will meet at 8 am.

Dress for the weather. Although we will be in the car quite a bit, we will have to get out to scope the lake or explore the parks. Bring food and water to tide you over until our return mid-afternoon.

*** All field trips meet/return at the parking area in front of Sherwin Williams on NW Bypass in Great Falls. Contact Beth Hill to reserve your space. If you need binoculars we can provide loaners – or 406-217-2364.

Red-tailed Hawk

Bird Sightings for October 2022

Sept. 28 – Howdy: Just to let everyone know. Beth, Alex and I setup a bird feeder at Giant Springs. We set it up in the lawn next to the bridge. – Richard Mousel

Oct. 1 – The rain had stopped by 6 pm so I ran out to West Bank to see if anything was happening after the 2 inches of rain that we had received (2 inches on my deck). The river was about 2 inches higher than 48 hours ago. At first glance there weren’t many birds. Closer exam revealed hundreds if not thousands of ducks. There were several significant rafts. More than 180 each of Eared Grebes and Coots, over 320 Ruddy Ducks, a group of 50-60 American Avocets standing shoulder to shoulder, 50 Gadwall, 50 Redheads, 25 American Wigeons, 150 or more Northern Shovelers and 20 Ring-necked Ducks. There were also 4 Great Blue Herons standing together at the upper end of one of the small river islands. It is always amazing to see what a good spell of “bad” weather will drop on the river. Yesterday morning as it started to rain there were a number of shovelers and teal and coots but that was about it. – Beth Hill

Oct. 3 – When I left the house today, I saw dozens of ravens down at the corner and when I came home, there were dozens in my pasture. Don’t think I’ve seen a single raven out here before. I was too lazy to walk out to the squirrel feeder in the wet grass and mud early this a.m., so I set a dish of oily sunflower seeds, acorns, grapes, and peanuts out on the deck. There are only shells left! And one grape sitting on the step. The cats went out with me and aren’t back in. I’m hoping the squirrel will get the grape after the cats come back in. I saw pelicans at Freezeout on Wednesday. Saw one Swainson’s Hawk out here but not in the trees where they’ve nested in the past. – Bev Axelson

Oct. 6 – Have our first Lincoln’s Sparrow this morning, we also still have several White-throated Sparrows. – Richard Mousel

Oct. 7 – Harriet Marble and I saw a magnolia warbler yesterday at Giant Springs. – Liz Larcom

Oct. 7 – There is fairly good birding at Giant Springs today, although I didn’t find the Magnolia Warbler. I didn’t really look very hard. There are fair numbers of Yellow-rumped and Orange Crowned Warblers a good bunch of White- throated Sparrows mostly in the first group of bushes next to the walkway. There is also a Hermit Thrush as well. Along with a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I also saw a number of Flickers, Russ Hill said he saw a Yellow-shafted one.

One of the owls is in a Cottonwood along the old road. I filled the bird feeder, didn’t see any activity at it.

Oct. 7 – several comments were made on the Trumpeter Swan that over-summered above the Black Eagle Dam. It started out the spring further up-river near the water treatment plant.

Oct. 7 – There are lots of White-crowned Sparrows in my garden in Ft. Benton eating my volunteer sunflowers. – Wendy Kamm

Oct. 9 – It was a perfect day today so Maria and I decided to check a couple of my Bluebird Trails, we did the Hwy 89 and Logging Creek trails. The trails include about 70 boxes. It appears to have been a pretty good year. The estimated Mountain Bluebirds fledged is 182 and 33 Tree Swallows. These trails contain about half of my Bluebird boxes. By the looks of the posts, I’m going to have to start bringing some new steel posts. – Richard Mousel

Oct. 11 – There is a good Fallout at Giant Springs. – Richard Mousel (lots of warblers, sparrows)

Oct. 11 – Palm Warbler at Giant Springs. It’s been hanging out near the parking lot in the Hawthorne Trees. Richard Mousel

Oct. 11 – Harriet Marble and I had a palm warbler out at Benton Lake yesterday morning, too! (Shelterbelt adjacent to the road stub to HQ.) Other highlights of the day were a white-winged scoter and a Bonaparte’s gull. Water level high and many, many waterfowl and other birds at the lake. – Liz Larcom

Oct. 13 – 3 or more Palm Warblers at Giant Springs this morning. – Richard Mousel

Oct. 19 – Shrike at Giant Springs chasing house finches. – Richard Mousel

Oct. 20 – A quick check from the West Bank side of the river this evening yielded few geese (they left early, probably because all the clouds made it much darker). A pleasant surprise was 2 Common Loons loafing together. Another was a single Sabine’s Gull still in full breeding colors (solidly black head still). I had seen it two days earlier. The Buffleheads seemed to have made themselves at home. A single Common Goldeneye. What will this cold front bring? Beth Hill Oct. 20 – With the latest wonderful fall weather Maria and I decided to check and clean the other half of my Bluebird Trails boxes. One of the highlights was a Northern Shrike. The Riceville Evans trail contains approximately another 75 boxes. The weather cooperated this summer and we had really good numbers of estimated fledglings. The tally is as follows:407 Mountain Bluebirds; 51 Tree Swallows; 16 Mountain Chickadees; 13 House Wrens. – Richard Mousel

Oct. 24 – I traveled the raptor route from Cascade to Ulm and was treated to a 10-minute tussle between a juvy bald eagle and 3 ravens. it appeared that the eagle had something in his claw and the ravens wanted it. Eventually the bald eagle turned the tables and chased off the ravens. 2 photos attached (the birds were so far and so photos not great). Saw 4 other raptors along this route and was only able to get close enough to photograph one. I think he is a roughie, photo attached. (It was – ed.) Lastly, saw 2 meadowlarks, they looked like juveniles. – Jan Wilson

Oct. 24 – It was not very close, but what I saw looked more like a Pacific Loon than a Common Loon at Giant Springs this morning. The bill looked small, the head looked ’rounder’ and the white on the neck was wide and straight edg- es. It just seemed small even far across the river.

We should be getting into fall “loon time”, so keep your eyes open. I’ve seen several already this fall. Otherwise there have been very few water birds the past week around Giant Springs. Today’s Bufflehead count was up to 15. One fly- by Mallard and no Canada Geese while we were there. Seems oddly empty. Beth Hill

Oct. 29 – Giant Springs. The river still has few waterfowl. We did see a single Red-breasted Merganser (female or young male), 25 Buffleheads and 18 American Coot. A flock of 34 Tundra Swans flew overhead just as we arrived. Their “tooting” gave them away. – Beth Hill

Share your bird sightings with other members –request to be added to the “UMBA Bird Share” google group by sending an email to

September 2022

28 Sep Howdy Just to let everyone know. Beth, Alex and I setup a birdfeeder at Giant Springs. We set it up in the lawn next to the bridge. – Richard Mousel

27 Sep Because of the low river level while they work on the dam (and the hatchery) I noticed a lot of gulls and killdeer on the mud yesterday. So today, I paid particular attention to the gulls downstream (below the hatchery). I just “knew” I should find a gull that was not a Ring-billed Gull. Sure enough, it just jumped right out even though there were at least 300 Ringbills walking around. It was a slightly larger, but almost white gull with pink legs, dark eye, brown wing and tail markings (not black at all). Even though it closely matched a second-year Iceland Gull (by markings) structurally it looked like a Ring-billed Gull. Structure is a huge part of identifying gulls. In addition, if you look at the size it is nearly the same size as adjacent gulls. An Iceland Gull would be noticeably larger. I spotted it early in the morning. I went back with my husband at 11 am and we quickly re-found it – attacking crayfish right and left. It had a good appetite for those crunchy morsels.

There were at least 12 or more Killdeer. At least one Great Yellowlegs. I couldn’t find any other shore- birds, but I’ll look again tomorrow. – Beth Hill

26 Sep We drove the old highway between Ulm and Cascade this morning to check for cranes. We found them in the usual field 2.8 miles from the entrance road to the Dunes FAS. Got to the field about 9 AM and counted 100 cranes visible from our vantage point. We watched and counted for the next 55 minutes as cranes continued to fly in and settle in the field. By 9:55 we were up to just over 300. A few left during that time but not many. At 9:55 someone gave the signal and they started lifting off in groups of 3 to 25 or more. By 10:10 there were still some cranes left in the field but not huge numbers. It was a great show! – Kitty & Kris Knaphus

27 Sep Thanks Kitty for this excellent report! i drove to your spot this morning and there they were, on both sides of the road. we watched for 30 minutes then drove back to Ulm and headed up Beth’s raptor (river road) route. found 50 more cranes in a field to the right just before Lil Valley farm. hope to go back to both spots Thursday morning. Jan Wilson

I also went to your spot this morning about 9:30 and counted 150 Sandhill Cranes in the meadow across the RR tracks on the east side. By 10 there only a few left, just as you described. Wayne Phillips

27 Sep (We) have our first Junco of the Fall. – Richard Mousel

24 Sep We saw a flock of 23 wild turkeys on our way into town this morning. They were about half way between Ulm and River Road junction.

I’ve been meaning to report on the 3 Osprey nest platforms we watch. All 3 had pairs this year but the middle nest was abandoned by the middle of June. The other two (Ulm FAS and River Road) produced 2 suc- cessfully fledged young each. Kitty & Kris Knaphus

19 Sep Went to Giant Springs this evening, besides the Chickadees and Flickers I spotted a couple of White-throated Sparrows and a flock of Goldfinches with the fledglings begging for food. Also saw a couple of Cedar Waxwings. The highlight of the trip was a pair of Great Horned Owls, with the male feeding on a squirrel, was surprised to see that in the early evening. Found the owls because they were hooting, didn’t find them earlier because they were in the Cottonwoods. –Richard Mousel

Whooping Crane spotted by UMB Audubon members at Freezeout Lake

We found it!

Velda, Jan and Beth headed up to Freezout this morning (again) to look for the elusive Whooping Crane and they found it.  There were really nice looks and fair photos, considering the distance.  There was a Sandhill Crane family (2 adults, 1 colt) walking about the same area.  Like many others, we found it looking toward the west side of pond 3 (from a highway pullout).  What a treat.  Apparently it spent the whole morning in the same area.  Sometimes there was just a white head, sometimes completely obscured by cattails and rushes and sometimes it would be out in the open.

What a rush.  The rest of the day will be ho-hum.

View checklist of the birds that we saw during this trip.

UMBA’s 2021 Christmas Bird Count

The National Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began in 1900 as a way to count rather than kill birds. 2021 marks the 122th National Audubon CBC. For UMBA it is our 48th CBC.  26 participants rallied to tally the avian species and their numbers on a cloudy, cool and increasingly windy day. 2 folks called in the count from their bird feeder again this year. We invite more folks to send me their bird feeder lists on CBC day!  We sure hope that more people will be able to join us next year! Covid once again kept our participant numbers down. Happy holidays to all of you!

For the birds!

Nora Gray


We spied 57 species on Count Day (December 18th this year) and 4 during Count Week (3 days prior to and 3 days after Count Day).

Species followed by a number = a Count Day sighting + number counted.  CW = Count Week species, but we can’t count the numbers seen outside of Count Day.

Not surprisingly, Canada Geese topped the chart: 15,327, followed by Mallards: 2093.  Bald Eagles were active and seen everywhere.  A frozen river and duck hunting season can provide an attractive amount of food items for a Bald Eagle.  Bald Eagles will consume large numbers of injured waterfowl – we hope that hunters are using lead-free shot.  The lone Junco was seen in a horse corral (an odd place for a junco).  Most of the Cackling Geese were in one flock found by Wayne Phillips and his counting crew.  Some years few or no Common Redpolls and Rough-legged Hawks are seen.  This year was a good year for both species.


Cackling Geese: 174                Tundra Swan:  2                      Northern Pintail: 1

Canvasback:  2                        Redhead: 42                            Ring-necked Duck: 4

Lesser Scaup: 22                     Bufflehead: 416                      Common Goldeneye: 1499

Barrow’s Goldeneye: 61         Hooded Merganser: 9             Red-Breasted Merganser: CW

Ruddy Duck: 8                         Gray Partridge (Hun): 3           Sharp-tailed Grouse: 13

Wild Turkey: 184                     Pied-billed Grebe: 1                Eared Grebe: CW

Bald Eagle:  55                        Northern Harrier: 8                Sharp-shinned Hawk: 1

Red-tailed hawk: 5                  Harlan’s Hawk: 2                     Rough-legged Hawk: 44

Golden Eagle: 4                       American Kestrel: 2                Merlin: 2

Prairie Falcon: 2                      American Coot: 552                Ring-billed Gull: CW

Rock Pigeon: 991                    Eurasian-collared Dove: 258   Mourning Dove: 1

Great Horned Owl: 1               Belted Kingfisher: 1                 Downy Woodpecker: 8

No. Flicker(unkn.sp): 23          No. Red-shafted Flicker: 26    Northern Shrike: 3

Black-billed Magpie: 248        American Crow: 43                 Common Raven: 10

Horned Lark: 112                    Black-cap.Chickadee: 155       Red-breasted Nuthatch: 4

White-breasted Nuthatch: 1   Brown Creeper: 1                    Townsend’s Solitaire: 1

American Robin: 8                  European Starling: 804           Bohemian Waxwing: CW

American Tree Sparrow: 32    Dark-eyed (Slate)Junco: 1       House Finch: 473

Common Redpoll: 37              American Goldfinch: 31          House Sparrow: 1825

Chipping Sparrow: 3               American White Pelican: CW    Common Merganser: 9

Ring-necked Pheasant: 118    Song Sparrow: CW                  Unknown Duck sp.: 1

Unknown Buteo sp.: 4             Unknown Falcon sp.: 1