Nice article in the Great Falls Tribune about the Bird Festival.
Birders to flock to Great Falls
Karl Puckett , email@example.com 2:25 p.m. MT May 30, 2017
Montana Audubon’s 18th annual bird festival, planned in Great Falls, will highlight protecting birds on the northern Great Plains and also the conservation organization’s 40 years of conservation work.
A few hundred birders from across Montana and even the country are expected, said Nora Gray of the Upper Missouri Breaks Aububon chapter, which is co-hosting the three-day event with the state chapter in Helena.
“It’s an eclectic group, but the common denominator is we really like to look at birds,” Gray said.
The festival is scheduled June 9-11 at the Best Western Plus Heritage Inn in Great Falls.
The statewide event was held last in Great Falls in 2009.
Wings Across the Big Sky celebrates Montana’s 400-plus bird species, and nearly 30 field trips into the prairies and mountains of northcentral Montana are planned over the weekend.
Some people will be attending specifically to see the area’s grassland birds such as McCown’s Longspur, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Marbeled Godwit and long-billed curlews, Gray said.
Birders also will get the opportunity to see American pelicans nesting at Lake Arod.
The public is invited.
“People are really excited to show new birders what the birds are,” Gray said. “When you go on a field trip you go with an experienced birder. Usually that person will have a spotting scope. It’s a good time. You don’t have to be a good birder to go.”
A bird-calling contest is planned, and custom bird-watching tours are planned Saturday and Sunday.
People can sign up to go on those tours at www.mtaudubon.org and click on the “Outreach” section to sign up for the events.
Guided excursions to the Rocky Mountain Front, Little Belt Mountains and local hotspots like the Missouri River and Giant Spring State Park are planned.
The keynote speaker is David Ringer, chief network officer with National Audubon, who will talk Friday evening about protecting birds.
That address will touch on conservation issues related to birds and habitat in the Northern Great Plains and northern Rocky Mountains region.
Additional presentations are planned on the public policy and conservation work of Montana Audubon, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary of conserving birds and other wildlife.
A 40th birthday party barbecue is planned Friday evening.
For more information
There are many activities to chose from at Wings Across the Big Sky, according to Montana Audubon. For a full schedule and registration information, visit the "Outreach" section of www.mtaudubon.org or call Montana Audubon at 406-443-3949.
As of May 30, 2017, the Missouri River post trip is full. However, people may have to cancel, so please call Candace at 907 306-6320 to check availability for the June 12 float on the Missouri River. The Bowdoin & American Prairie Reserve trip has a few slots still available. the trip leaves Great Falls on Wednesday June 7, 2017.
Do you read Central Montana's Signature MT Magazine? The 2017 Spring edition is just out. Go check out an article about the 2017 Wings Across the Big Sky Bird Festival on page 22. Thanks to Signature MT and to writer Amy Joyner on a great article!
Would you like to improve your raptor id skills? On 4/21 & 22 you can! No matter your skill level. The workshop is a 3 hour class on Friday and then an all day field trip on Saturday or Sunday. Steve Hoffman is the teacher for the workshop. He is the former Executive Director of MT Audubon and has authored over 30 papers on raptors. To register for this weekend's class go to www.umbaudubon.com and click on the link for the workshop.
In preparation for the Raptor Identification Class next week, 4 UMBA members went out on Saturday to scout for raptors in VERY windy conditions. Despite the wind, we spotted 72 raptors! Big highlights were spotting 31 Long-billed Curlews and 9 American Kestrels. Based on Saturday's trip, those of you who are taking the Raptor ID class with Steve Hoffman should have a varied and interesting class and field trip!
Below is the list of birds:
Great Horned Owl - 2 (both on nests)
American Kestrel - 9
Red-tailed Hawk - 25
Turkey Vulture - 3
Golden Eagle - 3
Northern Harrier - 12
Bald Eagle - 11
Osprey - 1
Ferruginous Hawk - 1
Falcon sp. -1
Accipter sp. - 1
Raptor unk. - 5
American Robin - 13
Mourning Dove - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 20 +
Nuthatch - 1 (heard)
European Starling - 1350+
Northern Flicker - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 1+ (heard)
Western Meadowlark - 20+
Eurasian Collared Dove - 1
American Crow - 2
Ring-necked Pheasant - 7
Canada Geese - 82
Northern Shoveler - 4
Common Merganser - 9
Rock Pigeon - 7
Mallard Duck - 15 +
Gadwall - 2
Northern Pintail - 1
Common Goldeneye - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 1 +
Turkey - 22
Long-billed Curlew - 31 !
Tree Swallow - 1
American White Pelican - 20
Common Raven - 1 +
Horned Lark - 20 +
Sandhill Crane - 4
Including the unknowns - 72 raptors. Partly cloudy, 32-52 degrees, WINDY (official airport weather station had gusts over 45 mph most of the day).
On March 13, UMBA was pleased that Kristina Smucker, non-game wildlife biologist from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) made a presentation on central Montana curlew studies. In previous years the public has participated in curlew surveys and YOU can in 2017!
FWP is looking for citizen scientists like you to conduct surveys for Long-billed Curlews – a shorebird that breeds in prairie grasslands. Volunteers would choose a route in either the Choteau or Cascade area and survey the route twice between mid-April and the end of May.
Surveys are conducted in the morning by driving a route and stopping every half mile to spend 5-minutes looking and listening for curlews. Routes will likely take ~ 2 hours to complete. For more information email Kristina Smucker at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 454-5876 for more information.
On Feb. 18 Beth Hill and a couple members of our Audubon chapter took to the roads with the object of finding a few eagles. Beth described their success: “We took back roads from Ulm to Cascade on the west side of the interstate, then back to Ulm on the east side.
We had 1 Rough-legged Hawk, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 9 immature Bald Eagles, 16 adult Bald Eagles and 2 adult Golden Eagles. The sun peaked behind clouds at the right times to highlight the gold on both eagles - wow!
We also had a fair number of Common Ravens (25), Black-billed Magpies (at least 30), Canada Geese (over 400), 10 Common Mergansers, 10 Common Goldeneyes, a number of Horned Larks, starlings, Rock Pigeons, one Ring-necked Pheasant, a few Pronghorns, over 56 deer and 3 porcupines. The weather couldn't have been nicer (not much wind and enough warming to create some thermals for soaring eagles).
I'd say we found a few eagles!”
Did you know that you can create your own unique bird guide? Perhaps you are going to the Sweet Grass Hills and wonder what kinds of birds could be found there.
A bird list can be generated from the Montana Natural Heritage Program website via the “Species Snapshot” link. You can go to the site and generate a field guide for any number of landownership boundaries.
Here is a link to a 2016 guide specific to Cascade County. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0kpf83DSZc_YTVhc192S2F0QW8/view?usp=sharing
You can also generate a list for a particular town, Important Bird Area, national park, national forest, watershed, and so on. You can use also build a field guide that includes other types of critters (mammals, reptiles, etc.)
It’s a pretty nifty tool that the Montana Heritage Program have developed! Kristina Smucker, nongame wildlife biologist for MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Great Falls provided the link so you can create your own list.
Here is the link if you’d like to play around with it:
Glad to go up and participate in Cut Bank's Christmas Bird Count December 31, 2016. (Cut Bank's Second count). It's fun to go out with the local bird scientists. We learned that the local Albertsons grocery store parking lot is the best place in town to spot migrating raptors!
3702 individual birds
39 hours, 545.5 miles by car, 1.95 miles by foot for 1.75 hours (too bad about that wind!), 1.1 feeder hours and 3.75 owling hours.
The count tracks with general impression that there are fewer individual birds around this winter.
The Great Falls Tribune's Outdoor section published a nice follow up article for the 2016 Christmas Bird Count on 1/5/2017. Beth Hill and Kristina Smucker spotted a western screech owl during the count! Here is the link: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/life/2017/01/04/elusive-western-screech-owl-spotted-great-falls/96161590/
Audubon Board Members maintain this blog of chapter activities.