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.