We started Saturday, the 12th, at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge outside of Stevensville, MT. Thick fog first concealed the majority of the waterfowl on the ponds but after an hour, the fog started to disappear.
|frost in the field|
We walked the Kenai Trail, and found dozens of Song and American Tree Sparrows! It was great to finally see so many sparrows after the last few weeks of a nearly sparrow-less Flathead Valley.
|American Tree Sparrow|
Among the many waterfowl on the ponds, were many Green-winged Teal. These are common breeders in Montana and often overwinter were food is available. They, along with most waterfowl, have just molted into alternate (breeding) plumage and are very bright! I couldn't pass up an opportunity to photograph a male in his bright colors.
|Green-winged Teal pair. The male still has some brown feathers on his sides from his non-breeding plumage.|
We started our search for the California Quail in the middle of Stevensville, and drove up and down the city streets watching for the birds in yards. We made our way to the roads on the edge of town, and continued through some newer neighborhoods. It wasn't long before Tom spotted a small group in a yard right off the road! We turned around and pulled over, staying in the car, and watched the cute birds for 10 minutes or so! They were feeding under a hanging birdfeeder and along a small hedgerow in a yard off Burnt Fork road. I snapped away, hoping to get at least one good photo of the birds; and I did, just one photo came out while the rest were just a little blurry.
Okay, so it wasn't much of a 'quest'. It was pretty relaxed birding all day, but making the trip down to Stevensville to see the quail was a trip I have been wanting to do for a while, and it felt great to see these birds at such close range and for so long. We really got to enjoy their intricate patterns and colors. It was great to add the the species to my Montana life list, but it was even sweeter to enjoy the beauty of these adorable birds! No matter what species of bird, I always appreciate a chance to share a close encounter with a bird. Nature is wonderful!
The day ended too soon, and I was driving back to the Flathead that evening to prepare for the next day of hawkwatching in the Jewel basin. I am looking forward to more birding with Andrew and Tom in the near future!