Monday, June 15, 2009

Great Falls MT Birding Festival, and Saturdays fieldtrip

The Montana Bird Festival is an annual conference, with many field trips, banquets and speakers. This years festival was in Great Falls, and the keynote speaker was David Allen Sibley. Most of the field trips where grassland, and marsh oriented, and that was a plus for me because I was after the prairie birds.

Friday, after a very funny speaker, and dinner, I met up with Andrew Guttenberg, and we went to where we were staying and crash for the night, ready for the awesome birding that awaits.

Saturdays field trip was suppossed to be a great trip lead by John Carlson, but it ended up being lead through inches of SNOW!! We still saw a few birds, and it was great birding with John again, but we could have definitely done without the snow.

We saw a few McCown's Longspurs and quite a few Long-billed Curlew. We got Yellow Warbler, and Gray Catbird too, in the snow.

Long-billed Curlew

Andrew Guttenberg

We came to a lake, and found that alot of swallows were feeding on bugs just above the water, and getting quick drinks. I took many shots, but only one or two came out, but just barely.

All field trips got back to the hotel in time for David Sibley's talk on making a guide, and his life; and his book signing. Andrew and I were lucky enough to be David Sibley's assistants for the night. We had reserved seats by him at the lunch before he spoke.
That was really great to meet him, and get my book signed.
After the lunch and speech, Andrew, his mom, two of there friends, and I went down to Giant Springs State Park, home to the shortest river on record in the world. It is just about 50 yards long. It is the Roe River.
Right near the park, a Swainson's Hawk was hanging still in the wind 17 feet above us. I did however turn the photo, because it was actually facing down and it didn't quite look natural.

A small creek at Giant Springs.

Just like at the lake, there was a bunch of swallows flying around just above the water, and only a few shots came out......

Look for Sunday's Field Trip report next!!

Sunday fieldtrip - Grassland expedition

The weather on Sunday started out to be 10 times better than Saturday, but rapid grew to 100 times better.

Our first stop was this overlook of the Missouri River. We have seen the usually birds on the way up. Here, we could see pelicans, and cormorants in the river. While looking for birds, I heard an odd trill-song. Not a sparrow......then what? It hit me like a rock. A ROCK WREN!!!! This was the best bird for me of the day! After locating it by sound, it popped up 50 yards from where we were standing, and I ran for the scope in the car. That was THE best look I have had at a ROWR (Rock Wren).

This is us looking at the ROWR. Typical that the beginners where wondering what the big white birds in the river were, and not interesting in a "little brown job". Half of us were very excited about the wren.

After the ROWR spot, we headed for a little spot along a different river, 30 minutes farther down the road. Along the road Andrew and I spotted several Lark Sparrows along the fences, but didn't get to stop and get some good looks at them. I got my year Lark Sparrow just 2 days earlier, in the same way, on the fence along a highway. I was itching for looks, and when we stopped at the river, Andrew and I walked up the road to a nice little field with many Lark Sparrows, and I got AMAZING looks at these amazing sparrows. I even got a semi-decent shot of one.

After looking at the Lark Sparrows, we headed off to a very cool grassland area. Just getting out of the car, we had McCown's, and Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Horned Larks, Baird's and Grasshopper Sparrows, and Sprague's Pipit. We got looks at the Grasshopper but not the Baird's. We got good looks at Chestnut-collared, but not McCown's (that will come later) and never got better looks at Sprague's Pipit then a small bird in the sky singing. I managed to nab a photo of Western, and Eastern Kingbirds sitting right next to each other.

After all the amazing looks at AMAZING birds we started heading back. Got looks at Loggerhead Shrike, and we ran into this little patch of cover, we found several non-vocal Empidonax Flycatchers, and one had several color-lacking feathers on its head, and rump. It actually made it look really cool. We hesitantly IDed this bird as an Alder Flycatcher, and at least one more Willow, and Least Flycatcher.

One the way out of this area in the middle of nowhere, and to Big Sandy, we drove by a neat little wetland. American Avocets and Wilson's Phalaropes where the only semi-shy birds, the rest were totally shy. I did manage to get the best looks at Wilson's Phalaropes that I have ever had. There was one female that let me get really close, and then a male that made a brief appearance. I have very happy with these shots, and I hope you enjoy them.

We ended the day with 93 species, and I ended the trip with 118 species. I got to 202 on my yearlist for MT with this weekend.

My yearbirds for today were: Loggerhead Shrike, Rock Wren, Grasshopper Sparrow, Ferruginous Hawk, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Baird's Sparrow, Sprague's Pipit, Burrowing Owl, Upland Sandpiper, Brewer's Sparrow, and Eared Grebe.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Yellow-headed Blackbird

I say Yellow-headed "Blackbird", and not bird"S" because this was one of the hundreds in the valley and on of the 20 or so on Splitpond. This male put on show for me and my camera. These birds are certainly my favorite blackbirds. I love their "song" and they way the look. Just gorgeous....

Marsh Birds

These are some good shots I got on the 25th of May, about a month from the last post about swallows, and pipits. I really need to keep this this updated! haha....

Rufous Hummingbird

We have many rufous hummers here, but this one possed for some photos one day. This is just a photo post, no story.