The monthly program this month will be Monday, February 12th at 7 pm in the conference room at FWP on Giant Springs Road. The program is free and open to the public. Who would have thought a hawkwatch could be in Cut Bank, Montana? Well, come find out.
One blustery spring day in 2016, Kate Atkins walked out of the grocery store in Cut Bank and noticed a Red-tailed Hawk cruising north over the parking lot - followed by another, and another, and another. In a mere 20 minutes, 17 Red-tails had streamed overhead. Due to that fateful grocery run, the Cut Bank Hawkwatch has been casually counted by raptor biologists living in the area during the fall of 2016, spring 2017, and again in the fall of 2017 - and the raptor research community has taken notice. The location is unconventional, the species are varied and heavily weighted to the plains raptors we all know well along the Rocky Mountain Front. Kate Atkins and Tom Magarian are pursuing a relationship with Hawkwatch International to hire a counter for the fall of 2018, and they need our help. On February 12, they'll present on the unique aspects of the watch, and what the future may hold. Kate and Tom are biologists living in Cut Bank, employed by the wind farms, have shown what a varied bird community surrounds Cut Bank, if they aren't working observing birds they are observing birds on their time off (or fishing - you can do both at the same time).
On a sunny & windy January day, we looked for wintering raptors between Cascade and Great Falls. Winter is a great time to search as the trees have no leaves, making it easier to spot birds on tree limbs. We spotted: 3 Prairie Falcons, 3 Golden Eagles, 1 Red-Tailed Hawk, 3 Roughleg Hawks, 6 Bald Eagles, 1 juvenile Goshawk, numerous Ravens & Magpies, 250 Common Goldeneye, deer and antelope, and 1 raccoon in a tree cavity. It was a fun morning! Two sightings were particularly memorable---a golden eagle perched on a dirt pile, hunkered down from the wind, but scouting for food, and another Golden Eagle perched in a favorite tree with the sunlight just right to bring out the golden feathers--beautiful.