Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Birding!!!

The new year is always fun for birders. Old birds yesterday are now "new" birds today and whole new lists are starting. Fun stuff!

For the 3rd year in a row, Dan Casey and I birded the valley starting our year lists. My first bird of the year 2010 was Great Horned Owl at about 1:20 am! I got the rest as I drove to Dan's house in the morning. My 2nd bird for 2010 was Red-tailed Hawk, 3rd was Rough-legged Hawk, and 4th was Bald Eagle. Now that is a way to start off the year!

As I pulled up to Dan's house, a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew over, another good bird! We got into the car, and started making to rounds through the lower valley. Got the usual suspects of Harlan's Hawk, European Starling, Black-capped Chickadee, Bohemain Waxwing and whatnot.

At Wiley Dike, we can to a large flock of Canada Geese, and Dan said "Let's just look over these birds to see if there is another species." I kid you not, almost as soon as I start scanning I find a much smaller goose, with a brown neck and no white cheek-patch.

This GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was an amazing find, and showed us some good views, but the digiscoping distance and lighting was less then favorable. A fantastic bird to get on January 1st.

After the goose walked over a little rise in the field and disappeared, we went on. Dan had seen a Prairie Falcon down here before, and I was asking him about it, and thus we ran across one!!!! Another great bird for the valley.

Our only Northern Shrike of the day was very cooperative in letting me try to digiscope it. Of course, winter in Montana doesn't allow more then the allotted 8 or 10 days of sunny days (good photography weather) so that is what I am blaming the not-so-good photo quality.

It's hard to recount all the birds and all the spots we visited today, it was pretty fast paced. It's easier to remember the finer details if I have a picture, but I will try to tell about the day.
In Kalispell we had a possible "Prairie" Merlin, and a flock of about 4,000 Bohemian Waxwings! That was a sight! Also in Evergreen we had a few Wood Ducks, always a good bird.
On our way to the landfill, we came across a really birdy spot with House Finches, Chickadees, Cedar Waxwings and one Bohemain, Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, and Evening Grosbeaks! The grosbeaks were the best birds at that spot, as they are declining in the area, and all over! I managed a digiscoped picture of a Mourning Dove and a ...... uh....regular? shot of a Cedar Waxwing.
We checked the landfill, and there was only a few hundred gulls, of the Herring and Ring-billed species. Not much this year in the way of gulls.
After a delicious and fattening meal from the golden arches we checked an almost always ice free, snipey, killdeery spot and found a Green-winged Teal. Another good waterfowl species (Horned Grebe on Flathead Lake, and Gadwall in the lower valley). Also at this spot in the west valley, we found a flock of 22 Eurasian-collared Doves!! The most I have seen in one spot! This last summer was a big year for the ECDOs. They certainly have reproduced and been successful this year.
On the way back to Dan's, I nabbed this shot of a Harlan's Hawk.

Leaving Somers on my way home, at the usual Somers location for Collared-Doves, I counted at least 21 birds on the telephone wires and in the trees!!! Now this location usually just has maybe 6!! This is crazy how many ECDOs are appearing in the valley!

I ended the day with 51 species! A good start to a hopefully great year!

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