Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back in the Big Sky Country

Being back in Montana is bittersweet, as I had to say good bye to the wonders of the Eastern Seaboard, but in return I get to see familiar faces, and birds.

My first serious birding outing wasn't much but my next two where seriously amazing.

Dan Casey and I scouted around for shorebird stops for the nest days local Audubon fieldtrip he is leading. August is shorebird time in Montana, and we hoped to see at least 15 species scouting.
First stop was the landfill, or Flathead Gullery, not for shorebirds obviously but just to see was gulls we could find. There weren't many.

Next stop was a couple of ponds in the "west valley" portion of the Flathead Valley. Not many shorebirds, but a few Least Sandpipers, and a few Baird's Sandpipers. We did find about 75 Sandhill Cranes in the plowed fields.

On our way to the "Lower Valley" I saw a driveway in the west valley lined with MANY Thistles and with many birds eating the thistles. The birds there were mostly Yellow-headed Blackbirds, but we did have one Lincoln's Sparrow and 3 Rufous Hummingbirds.

Also, now is the time the "berry"ing bushes should start to be gathering some major attention from the migrant songbirds. Along this one Chokecherry hedge in the lower valley we had both Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows, Gray Catbird, MacGillivray's and Yellow Warbler. Not many, but its a start. As we were looking at these birds, I noticed a large, black storm-petrel sized bird in the sky. OH MIGOSH! AHH A SWACK BLIFT........ a BLACK SWIFT!!!! Turns out there was at least 5 birds! WOO HOO!! first yearbird of the day! These birds gave a great show!

At Split pond there weren't many shorebirds, only new ones were a few Long-billed Dowitchers, Red-necked Phalaropes and a pair of Pectoral Sandpipers

Goose meadows pond had a few more birds. A group of Least's, Semipalmated and Baird's Sandpipers, as well as one Semipalmated Plover. Also got my first-of-year Western Sandpiper there.

The park-n-Ride near Somers had the greatest number of birds. This area has two separate ponds, but one has dried up in the center to make 3 ponds.

Least Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plover

Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs

Wilson's Snipe

To view one area of the ponds, it requires a little stroll on a bike path through some really nice songbird habitat.
Spotted Towhee, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Willow Flycatcher, and Bullock's Oriole were the good songbirds seen.

Dan lead the shorebird field trip, and we saw some good birds.
We didn't do any of the west valley, just the lower valley.

We started at the Park-n-Ride, and saw all the same, but missed Snipe and Stilt Sandpiper.

At the berry shrub covered area, we ran into a small flock of moving migrants.
Yellow, Orange-crowned, Townsend's and Wilson's Warbler were the main birds we got to see. Western Tanager, Western Wood-Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, and Calliope Hummingbird were the other highlights.

Shorebirds still the same, if not a little lesser from the day before, but the other birds put on a show. At Splitpond there were as many as 10 Eurasian Collared-Doves in the nearby trees, and a juvenile Sora made a brief but leisurely appearance.

At Willey Dike, another pond worth checking, we had a pair of Wood Ducks, and believe it or not, a LEWIS'S WOODPECKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WWOOOWW!!!! That was my first Lewis's Woodpecker in years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OHMIGOSH! It posed for wonderful looks in the scope atop a dead limb of a tree.

So all in all, a wonderful trip. great looks at great birds, shorebird or no.

I am hoping to make a road trip to Elliston for the well photographed BAND-TAILED PIGEON!!!!

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