Sunday, January 3, 2010

Kalispell Christmas Bird Count

Today was the Kalispell Christmas Bird Count, and the last on of the count season for me. This time I got to do my own section again, and my mom joined me also.

Breakfast at Finnegan's Restaurant was great, and lots of people showed along with Byron and Maggie Butler from Bozeman. Shane Hatfield and I unofficially split the area, my mom and I did the north end while he started at the south end of our section of Evergreen.

After breakfast my mom and I drove north to the top of our section, and on the way I was NOT watching the road while driving but I DID spot a large flock of something flying around the north end of the Kalispell international airport. I stopped and scanned with the scope. SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED! There was a flock of something way the heck over there! They did look VERY much like Snow Buntings but closer inspection should reveal maybe another species in the mix. We drove to a road that got much closer and WHOA! My first look at perched SNOW BUNTINGS!!!!!! All others were flying! They were still quite far but I got to see the great color and detailed wing and face patterns! Fantastic!!!!!

After that, my mom and I check all the spots, working south meticulously, finding every bird possible. We got a few American Goldfinches, Harlan's Hawk, Bald Eagles, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees.

We even came to a Great Blue Heron along a little bayou. On Bayou Rd, we had a Merlin attacking a large flock of House Finches and the like.

Feeders are always a good find while on a CBC. People feed birds, more birds see birds feeding, they come, and so on. At this on house, I got 2 year birds at the feeders, Hairy and Pileated Woodpecker!

About halfway down our area, we ran into Shane, discussed the birds so far, and went south the the bottom of our area to work our way up through Evergreen to see if we could find something that Shane might have missed.

At the very southeastern corner of our area, is a RV park along the Flathead River, and here I got some great shots of a Mountain Chickadee as/after is was bathing in a puddle on a large rock.

Now this bird was puzzling, and quite interesting. This is the only photo I got. I was hoping it was as tame as the Mountain and would bath with my taking pictures but soon as the shutter went off so did the bird. I have read that some Black-capped Chickadees have a little white eyebrow, but I have also seen photos of hybrid birds. Body color and shape isn't right at all for Mountain or even half, so I am going with an odd Black-capped, though the flanks are a bit duller then the surrounding birds. Please, if you have any comments, share!
We then drove up and down every road in our section of Evergreen. Here in town there is a bunch of birds, I mean LOTS! We were looking for some good birds Shane missed, but instead found some he missed that we weren't really looking for. We had just one Song Sparrow, one White-breasted Nuthatch, and 7 Wild Turkeys in Evergreen. We saw about 10 Wood Ducks along Spring Creek but Shane had 15 in that same location so we went with his number.
After nit-picking Evergreen we went back north to work our way down one more time to look for owls, and I found a male American kestrel off of the highway! Another yearbird, along with WB Nuthatch, and Snow Bunting.
I grabbed this one semi-good-enough-to-be-called-crummy digiscoped shot of one of the 2 "normal" Red-tailed Hawks in our section.

We ended the day with 42 species for our area, I saw 40 and Shane had a Sharp-shinned Hawk and 3 Red-winged Blackbirds. I got 5 more Yearbirds to get me to 56 for the year! (I forgot to mention Hooded Merganser and American Coot from Jan, 1st)

Snow Buntings were the best bird, and my favorite too! You know, I have read that in Europe and the USA and places, Airports are great birding locations....... well now I can agree with my own personal sighting!

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