Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy Start to the New Year...Wildlife Wise

As usual, went out to find wildlife on the first day of the new year. First stop, our deck at about daybreak (~18F); looked across the Bitterroot Valley and spied wintering Elk (Cervus elaphus) grazing on mountainside (hard to see on photo):
Daybreak at Lolo, MT
Shortly thereafter heard first bird of the year, a black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) calling. Black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia) and house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) were also heard calling in the next seven minutes. Retired inside for couple of hours, then gathered gear, and drove to Missoula to find one of several ferruginous hawks 'wintering' there. No luck, but did find common redpoll (Acanthis flammea) and northern shrike (Lanius excubitor) both hunting weedy fields.
Northern Shrike

Common Redpoll
Exited stage left and stopped at Maclay Flat (USFS). Found a nice grouping of 14 pygmy nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea) including white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatch on the flanks of the flock.
A second smaller flock of black-capped chickadee and golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa) flushed a Northern pygmy-owl (Glaucidium gnoma) roughly 120 yards from the parking area (typical location). On the drive home quickly pulled over with the appearance of a small, dark raptor atop power pole...yep, a merlin (Falco columbarius), probably the dark, taiga subspecies. Had incredible luck over a three-hour period of birding for the first day of the year. Hoping you also found something great :-)
Merlin