Last Chance Audubon and Montana Audubon in cooperation with Montana FWP and the US Forest Service initiated a Golden Eagle Migration Survey (GEMS) site at Duck Creek Pass in the Big Belts after recognizing the high potential for high numbers of migrating raptors, particularly Golden Eagles. This is the third year of the count. On September 30, despite the forecast of clouds, wind and chance of rain, 4 members of UMBA made the trip to take part in the days counting. Official counting is done by 2 paid observers. A standard protocol is followed that includes the bird species, adult or non-adult and if possible sex. Weather conditions are also noted on a regular basis throughout the day. Counting typically will begin about 9 am and continue until 6 pm. This year the count started September 15th and will run until November 13th (weather permitting). The site sits near the radio tower at Duck Creek Pass, 8200 feet. There was still considerable snow at the site on the 30th from snows earlier in the month. The walk up the steep road to the site was still mostly snow covered. It is a 1.25 mile hike with an 800 feet elevation gain. It was a good workout for even for youngsters. When we arrived at the parking area, felt the wind and saw the snow we quickly donned the winter gear we brought. The day before in Great Falls it was 75 degrees and sunny – it was a little disorienting to prepare to spend a day in snow, 30-40 degrees, wind and probably cloudy. I know I could have used those insulated boots instead of mere Gore-tex. The daypacks stuffed with layers were quickly emptied. We stayed at the counting site until 2 pm when clouds had dropped below the level of the mountain tops and there were a few raindrops. The observers left shortly after as the cloud level dropped below the count site. In 4 1/2 hours that we were there 33 Golden Eagles were counted. Other raptors: Sharp-shinned Hawks 8, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Red-trailed Hawk 3 (one a very light colored bird), Rough-legged Hawk 1, American Kestrel 1, Merlin 1, Unknown buteo 1(probably Red-tail), Unknown falcon 1 (probably a Peregrine), Unknown Eagle 1 (probably Golden). Not bad for a shortened day. During 1 one hour period we had 14 Golden Eagles fly by. The day before was sunny and warm with a season high count of 63 Golden Eagles for the day. We also saw: American Robins, Mountain Bluebirds, Common Raven, Clark’s Nutcrackers, Northern Flickers, a Blue Grouse, Black-billed Magpie, Gray Jay, Rock Pigeons and starlings seen on the trip. Once again a really nice fall trip in the mountains (the colors were fantastic!). To learn more about the GEMS visit: www.eaglemigration.org
Four Current Conservation Stories Where Montana Audubon is Making a Difference
Monday, September 11, 2017 - 7 PM
Join Montana Audubon's Senior Director of Public Policy, Janet Ellis, to learn about four issues that are currently occupying her days: putting on a Russian olive/tamarisk symposium in the Fall of 2017 (both species threaten our native cottonwoods), working on the state of Montana's sage-grouse conservation program, developing strategies to prevent migrating Snow Geese from landing in the Berkeley Pit in Butte, and addressing the proposal by the Lake County Conservation District to have the state of Montana take over management of 60,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest. Four stories, each told in 10 minutes. Questions will be welcome!
UMBA gave Montana Audubon a gift of $5000 last fall ear-marked for public policy. Come find out how our gifts can make a difference for birds, for habitat and for us. The meeting is free and open to the public. We begin at 7 pm and try to end by 8:30 pm in the conference room of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Headquarters on Giant Springs Rd in Great Falls.
UMBA traveled to Martinsdale, MT to bird at the Bair Ranch. Despite the hot 90 degree temperatures with occasional clouds, UMBA members enjoyed our first trip to the Bair Ranch. We saw 32 species of birds, along with fox, deer and a lumbering raccoon near the museum. The walk was along the South Fork of the Musselshell River, with large trees, meadows, and blooming shrubs. After the mile walk, we enjoyed a tour of the Bair House and Museum. Many thanks to the Bair Museum, Elizabeth Guheen, and Deb Murphy for a wonderful and interesting trip to the Bair Ranch! We hope to return and bird again.
On the way to Martindale and back we stopped at Bair Reservoir and Lake Sutherlin on Highway 12 and returned via Highways 294 & 89. Overall, we identified 44 bird species and saw 236 birds.
Here is the bird count for the field trip:
Bair Ranch near Museum Hiway 294 S. Fork Musselshell July 15, 2017
Red Wing Blackbird7
Brown headed cowbirds4
Red Tailed Hawk1
Total Birds at Bair Ranch 85
Number of Species 32
July 15 & 16, 2017 Neihart to Martinsdale, & White Sulphur Springs
White Crowned Sparrow2
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow3
Red Wing Blackbird1
Red Tail Hawk1
Total Birds on Road Trip 151
Species Count 21
Total Number of Birds for Bair & Road Trip: 236
Total Species Bair & Road Trip: 44
MT Audubon Bird Festival had a bat walk at Giant Springs. FW&P staff Kim Linnell, Chick Taylor and Camile Waters provided hand held bat detectors that are sonar receivers to fifteen luck bird festival attendees. Thanks to FW&P for leading a fun bat walk!
Nice article in the Great Falls Tribune about the Bird Festival.
Birders to flock to Great Falls
Karl Puckett , firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com or call 454-5876 for more information.
Audubon Board Members maintain this blog of chapter activities.