Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Owling at Lee Metcalf NWR

Two species found on the Refuge by USFS Biologist Dave Lockman at dusk on the December 31 Christmas Bird Count were Great Horned Owl and Short-eared Owl. Viewing location for both was from the Refuge south Kiosk along Wildfowl Lane. True to Dave's description both birds did not appear until nearly dark today. The Great Horned Owl was magical as it swooped in just west of the kiosk and perched in a tree bordering Francois Slough (Burnt Fork Creek) and let loose with a "hoo-hooooo-ho-ho". The Short-eared Owl was a little more difficult; look northeast across the grassland and look for the distinct mothlike flight of this owl. It's possible the Short-ears could hang out here for a while; there are abundant Northern Harriers (counted 11 today) in this location, indication of large prey base of voles. Happy hunting :-)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Golden Eagle...Check

Another early year birding goal is find a soaring Golden Eagle from the deck of our house. Today, the viewing and weather conditions are just right [tad unseasonably warm :-)]. Here is the view (looking east) from our home in Lolo, MT looking across the Bitterroot River:
This Sapphire Mountain range 'foothill' is unnamed on topo maps I've looked at. There is a canyon on the northeast corner (left, out of frame of photo) called 'Cahoot Canyon'. Nice connection as I'm certainly in cahoots with the foothill for finding soaring hawks over the ridge :-). I usually start scanning the ridge at 10:30 am knowing that thermals are forming/rising air from wind. Today, I first looked at 11:15 am and within five minutes saw an immature (23rd bird species for the year) soaring westward (photo from earlier 2011):
Here's another photo from earlier 2011of higher quality (overhead at home):
Can you imagine soaring like this? Wouldn't that be great! Find a flying wonder in your neighborhood.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Canyon Wren...Annual January Challenge

Field trip #2 for the new year; target is the Canyon Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) at Kootenai Creek trailhead (Bitterroot National Forest). Met up with Wayne Tree, dean of the Bitterroot Valley birding community, at the trailhead. Finding the wren is a great challenge every year; meltwater thundering down the canyon is loud, making it difficult to hear the beautiful song/metallic callnote:

Wayne and I arrived at 1:03 pm, mostly sunny, 33F and calm... usually perfect conditions for finding the wren. Just a short couple hundred yard walk up the trail, usually icy...not this year, and you're at the spot. The spot is at the base of the rockface that looks like:
Once at the spot you assume the position...the "warbler neck" position, you birders know - look up at the rockface like so (Wayne Tree modeling the pose):

And so, for as long as it takes, you look and listen. Today, we struck out in finding the Canyon Wren. However, we still profited by the fresh air, challenge and the aesthetics:
Get outside and discover something wild!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

1st Day of Birding for 2012

Went out twice, briefly, today to start the first of many wildlife watching lists. Had plenty of momentum from yesterday's Stevensville, MT Christmas Bird Count. Weather was good during a period of above normal temps. Recorded 50 species on Lee Metcalf NWR; highlights were Greater Scaup, Northern Shoveler, Trumpeter Swan and Wood Duck. Hardest 'get' was Wilson's Snipe, took until 3:34 pm to find on the fringes of a spring a mere 150 yards from the Refuge Headquarters:-). This morning stepped out on front porch and within 5 minutes recorded 5 species of birds (in order of sighting): Am. Crow, Bohemian Waxwing, Townsend's Solitaire, Raven, and House Finch.

Followed up the abbreviated birding foray with an afternoon field trip to Maclay Flat, USFS property along Bitterroot River in Missoula, MT. En route found a small flock of Cedar Waxwing in Mountain Ash along Blue Mountain Road which I video'd:

Maclay Flat was birdy at 32F and partly cloudy. Found all three nuthatch species within five minutes of leaving parking lot. This was followed up by an immature Cooper's Hawk chasing a Northern Flicker...not fast enough to catch this action or happy ending (woodpecker escape) on video :-). Last highlight of birding day started with Red Squirrel having pine seed dinner followed by Golden-crowned Kinglet descending to ground for late afternoon foraging:

Finished with 18 bird species for day; you surely can top that...go out and find something good!