Mark your calendars, set your watches, and get a good night’s sleep to be ready for the 2017 UMBA Christmas Bird Count (CBC). CBC counts are held nationwide and around the world from December 14 - January 5. It has become the world’s largest and longest running survey run by citizen-scientists. The counts take place in the same 15-mile diameter circle each year to ensure consistency. The results have been important in a variety of studies by conservation groups and government agencies to help guide conservation activities. The survey results can show early indications of environmental changes.
UMBA invites anyone interested in this year’s census to come to the December 11 chapter meeting, 7:00 PM at the FWP Regional Headquarters building (4600 Giant Springs Road). Beginners to seasoned birders are welcome to help. We’ll hone our skills by reviewing bird species which we may see on the count. Club organizers will assign participants to one of 10 area teams with experienced team leaders. Beginning birders can serve as the team scribe while learning to identify the birds. The leader packets will be given out at the meeting.
On count day – Saturday, Dec. 16 - dress WARMLY, bring a thermos with a hot drink and a lunch, binoculars, field guide and scope (if you have one), AND a sense of adventure. Most teams begin their count around 8:00 AM. Depending on the weather and size of their count area teams may finish in the early afternoon or others continue until sunset (it's dark at 5 PM). If you can only participate for part of the day, let us know and we’ll find you a spot!
If you cannot go outdoors to count this year, we also need yard/ feeder watchers to report birds in their yard. If you are within the Great Falls circle, you can count those House Finches and House Sparrows as well as the Chickadees, Blue Jays, and Sharp-shin Hawks. Anything and everything you see on the day of the count, December 16th. You can email UMBA at firstname.lastname@example.org your yard /feeder count tally and address. Easy to participate even if you aren't outdoors December 16th.
At 5:00 PM, participants and other interested folks may join UMBA for the wrap-up session that includes a salad and pizza dinner at the FWP Regional Headquarters building (4600 Giant Springs Road). It’s the same room where we have our monthly meetings. Bring some holiday treats to share, if you wish. We’ll have hot water for coffee, tea and cocoa available (non alcoholic beverages only). Each area leader will report the number of species and birds seen that day and then give highlights of that area’s sightings. UMBA will pay for CBC participants’ dinners. The dinner cost for other attendees is $7.00, payable that evening. To make a dinner reservation, please let us know ahead of time by emailing email@example.com by Wednesday, DECEMBER 13 at the latest.
Thank you for participating in Christmas Bird Count 2017!
UMBA’s trip to the Musselshell combined birding, touring the Bair Museum & soaking in hot springs.
The snow and evergreen trees were a festive sight as we made our way East to the Bair Museum. Although Lake Sutherlin and the Bair Reservoir on Highway 12 were already frozen for winter, a Roughleg Hawk was moving through the creek bottom. Two golden eagles were spotted at the Bair Reservoir dam. While watching the eagles soaring above, over 30 Bohemian Waxwings were spotted in the trees below. A spotting scope brings out the fine colors—making it easier to distinguish between the Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings.
The sun arrived just in time for the walk along the South Fork of the Musselshell River. We saw one red-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadees, a Red-tail Hawk, a Northern Flicker, and many ravens and magpies. The most unusual sighting was a porcupine right on the trail. While we all got a good look, by the time of our return, it was tucked away in a sunny spot for the afternoon.
As we made our way back to the highway, Nick Taylor, FW&P Warden from Harlowton, was there to greet us. Since it was deer hunting season, he was checking on permits. A quick glance on the group revealed plenty of hunter orange clothing, no rifles, but smiles all around.
Touring the Bair Museum was a treat, as the museum opened up for a behind-the-scenes tour of the downstairs home and the upstairs private quarters of one of Montana’s greatest philanthropic families. We all enjoyed the finely tailored clothing and the formal dining table set for fine entertaining. It was a special treat talking with noted artist, Harold Schlotzhauer. His solo exhibit: "Above and Beyond, Paintings as Kites, was eye catching and perfect for windy Central Montana.
Enroute to White Sulphur Springs, one bald eagle and several hundred deer were spotted. Some of the group enjoyed soaking in the hot springs, and a leisurely return to Great Falls. Although we were hoping to see more fall migrants passing through the Snowy and the Big Belt Mountains, everyone enjoyed the Bair, the birds and the relaxing hot springs. We are hoping to explore other parts of the Bair ranch next year.
Audubon Board Members maintain this blog of chapter activities.