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.
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!