Long Billed Curlew Surveys: You can help in 2017

On March 13, UMBA was pleased that Kristina Smucker, non-game wildlife biologist from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) made a presentation on central Montana curlew studies. In previous years the public has participated in curlew surveys and YOU can in 2017!

FWP is looking for citizen scientists like you to conduct surveys for Long-billed Curlews – a shorebird that breeds in prairie grasslands.  Volunteers would choose a route in either the Choteau or Cascade area and  survey the route twice between mid-April and the end of May.

Surveys are conducted in the morning by driving a route and stopping every half mile to spend 5-minutes looking and listening for curlews.  Routes will likely take ~ 2 hours to complete.  For more information email Kristina Smucker at ksmucker@mt.gov or call 454-5876 for more information.

Eagle Field Trip 2/18/2017

On Feb. 18 Beth Hill and a couple members of our Audubon chapter took to the roads with the object of finding a few eagles. Beth described their success: “We took back roads from Ulm to Cascade on the west side of the interstate, then back to Ulm on the east side.

​We had 1 Rough-legged Hawk, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 9 immature Bald Eagles, 16 adult Bald Eagles and 2 adult Golden Eagles. The sun peaked behind clouds at the right times to highlight the gold on both eagles – wow!
We also had a fair number of Common Ravens (25), Black-billed Magpies (at least 30), Canada Geese (over 400), 10 Common Mergansers, 10 Common Goldeneyes, a number of Horned Larks, starlings, Rock Pigeons, one Ring-necked Pheasant, a few Pronghorns, over 56 deer and 3 porcupines. The weather couldn’t have been nicer (not much wind and enough warming to create some thermals for soaring eagles).
I’d say we found a few eagles!”

2016 Christmas Bird Count

The Great Falls Tribune’s Outdoor section published a nice follow up article for the 2016 Christmas Bird Count on 1/5/2017. Beth Hill and Kristina Smucker spotted a western screech owl during the count!   Here is the link: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/life/2017/01/04/elusive-western-screech-owl-spotted-great-falls/96161590/

January 09th, 2017

Did you know that you can create your own unique bird guide? Perhaps you are going to the Sweet Grass Hills and wonder what kinds of birds could be found there.

A bird list can be generated from the Montana Natural Heritage Program website via the “Species Snapshot” link.  You can go to the site and generate a field guide for any number of landownership boundaries.

Here is a link to a 2016 guide specific to Cascade County.

​You can also generate a list for a particular town, Important Bird Area,  national park, national forest, watershed, and so on.  You can use also build a field guide that includes other types of critters (mammals, reptiles, etc.)

It’s a pretty nifty tool that  the Montana Heritage Program have developed! Kristina Smucker, nongame wildlife biologist for MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Great Falls provided the link so you can create your own list.

Here is the link if you’d like to play around with it:

Cut Bank, MT Christmas Bird Count

Glad to go up and participate in Cut Bank’s Christmas Bird Count December 31, 2016. (Cut Bank’s Second count).  It’s fun to go out with the local bird scientists.  We learned that the local Albertsons grocery store parking lot is the best place in town to spot migrating raptors!
28 species
3702 individual birds
39 hours, 545.5 miles by car, 1.95 miles by foot for 1.75 hours (too bad about that wind!), 1.1 feeder hours and 3.75 owling hours.

The count tracks with  general impression that there are fewer individual birds around this winter.