Monday, February 2, 2009

Eagles, Eagles and more sparrows??

Saturday (I know I am always late with my blogposts) Dan Casey and I did a little birding, trying to beat Dan's previous record for the most year birds in the state of MT in the month of January. His record was 78, and I was at 79 with my lifer/yearbird Hoary Redpoll. We now needed to find him one more yearbird.

We started our search at the landfill (Gullery) to find a California Gull or other nice gull to add to our yearlists. Upon arriveing, we found NO gulls, but 50 or so Common Ravens and American Crow, and several Bald Eagles. I photographed the Ravens and Eagles until we spent plenty of time waiting for gulls, as we watched them in the distance, leave a secret hang out, and go to another. Sadly, many of my eagle pictures didn't come out just right, as the settings and shutterspeed was off.

Nest we toured what is locally called the West Valley. It is the western section of the Flathead Valley, and riddled with pot-hole marshes in the nice prairie-farmland kinda habitiat. We crossed a spring, and a pair of Bald Eagles put one a nice show, but the best of my pictures aren't very good. I will show you some. One of the birds had a very interesting molf pattern. You can clearly see the old and new wing feathers. the bird must have undergone many molt cycles, but they were cut short by some trematic event, and later started over again, I am not sure. Any help unterstanding this odd occurance would be greatly appreciated!

He checked all the hotspots, then headed to a stacked-out Harris's Sparrow near my house. It showed up at one of the best feeds in the valley. On our way there, we slowly drove by this stand of trees that might of had White-winged Crossbills in it. I looked foreward, and saw this bird flying towards us. The flight pattern said Flicker, but the colors didn't. As it banked to the left, we both was that it was a YELLOW-SHAFTED Flicker, not RED-shafted! That is was very cool!!!! I have only see one Yellow-shafted in this part of MT and that was at my house last year. To me, that was almost cooler then the Harris's Sparrow we saw at the ladies feeder after the Flicker sighting. I got one shot of the sparrow, but is was very distant.

After an attempt at sneeking up on the sparrow for closer, better pictures, we headed on down the road to the next extremely active feeders. Over there, we saw many Black-capped Chickadees, and a very cool Downy Woodpecker that let me get some great pictures. On the way there we saw a very good looking juvenile Rough-legged Hawk.

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