Friday, June 1, 2012

Birding Freezeout, Benton Lake, Giant Springs, MT

Okay, will tell you up front, if you don't like birding, and my sometimes fuzzy photos of exciting birds, you may want to skip this read.

Bryon and Diane came by with Klondike, a white Collie, and Amber, a Bernese Mountain Dog, to pick me up and go birding in the Great Falls area. They live in the Bitteroots area south of Missoula. The weather was supposed to be in the lower 70's, but it isn't the first time they were wrong about that. It was windy and, to me, cold. But we headed out.

First stop was the Freezeout Wildlife Management Area. This is a series of several large pond areas to small lakes. It is a place that has many birds in the migration because it is located in the central flyway. They are short on water and the levels are way down. There weren't as many species as we had thought that there would be. However, there were lots of Cinnamon Teal.  Remember if you double click these will increase in size for better viewing. Note his red eye is open while he is sleeping. Ducks can compartmentalize and shut down half the brain while sleeping and that is why they sleep with one eye open for protection but they are getting sleep on the 'other side of the brain' - or something like that.

This guy is doing a fine job standing one legged, but no he isn't sleeping, just ignoring us.
The female Wilson Phalarope is prettier than the male. He sits on the nest and raises the babies. She just lays the eggs and then leaves!

After lunch we went to Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This is about 12,000 acres and is managed for the various birdlife and small mammals that utilize this habitat. 

The Marbled Godwit. He uses that bill to feed himself in the muddy and low water areas. He was standing in the road, not thumbing a ride, just looking.

The wide open spaces of the NWR. It is gorgeous, cold but pretty.
The Chestnut Collared Longspur in breeding plumage. They are really outstanding in their breeding plumage. I normally see them in their winter gear and it's hard to ID them at that time. Not now!  
This one is fuzzy, he is singing and then he displayed by flying up in the air and signing some more. I wasn't successful in capturing that display.

That is three different birds. Each has set their territory and were protecting it and and advertising - or they may already be on nest. 
Male Yellow-headed Blackbird. What a funny call they have. Google it and listen to it. 
I think this is a Savannah Sparrow.

Upland Sandpiper that we caught just after it took a bath. That makes it look much darker than normal. Target bird #1
There were a lot of Eared Grebes on the water. Again they are really outstanding in their breeding plumage. I normally see them in their winter gear. This is much nicer on the eyes.

Now this guy, Red-Necked Grebe, doesn't belong here for the breeding season. Well, he would be a migrant through this area. But I'd have thought he would be on territory. But then he does have wings, so maybe he isn't ready to make a house and all that stuff and he'll go when he is ready. Then again maybe he didn't get the map that said he migrates but doesn't breed here! 
Grooming is hard work!
On our way out of the area, we saw an owl sitting on the ground. My first thought was Burrowing Owl, but then it didn't have enough light coloration. It was a pair of Short-Eared Owls. I have seen many in winter plumage this was a great change. Not a great pic though.
I thought I had a life bird - first time I had seen a bird. I thought this was a Northern Shrike, but on looking at it closer, I think it is " j u s t " another Loggerhead Shrike! Isn't it pretty. Known as the 'butcher bird' because it places it's caught food that it isn't ready to eat, on barbs, thorns, etc. Anything that is sharp pointed is it's pantry.

Then it was on to Giant Springs State Park. We had hoped for maybe an "oreo" or two. We had lots of birds but no oriole. 

In one binoc view I had 4 Swainson's Thrush and they were within 3 feet of each other. They must have just gotten in as they were really looking for food and not paying any attention to each other. 
A fuzzy pic of a Yellow Warbler gathering nesting material. Singing up a storm, then getting some nesting material. 
This House Wren was also singing repeatedly. Such a pretty bird. 
Home is where you build it!
A small creek in the park. The rock is shale.
The falls created by the springs. 
The Springs bubbling up. 
This tells you where the water comes from. Double click and it will enlarge.

The falls created on the down side of the springs. 
Bryon with Amber and Diane with Klondike.

Amber just couldn't understand why the squirrel wouldn't come down and run and play. 

We ended the day with Chinese at the Wok. By this time it is about 8 p.m. and this birder was a tired puppy. I still had to get my TracFone setup. There are lots of spots that AT&T or Verizon will work or not! Lots of times when one doesn't work the other does and lots of times a TracFone works when nothing else does. So Nan and I fell in line and picked up one to get us through the summer. Now that leaves Tina as the 'only girl out'. But she has one of those fancy shamancy phones and one of us will let her use our Trac if she needs to do so! I normally don't have problems with connectivity with my AT&T, but this trip I have been cell-less and have only had internet because of WiFi, but not all parks have that available. Those times you are out of luck and we post when we can. Write them up and save them until we get WiFi and the publish with or without photos.

Hope you enjoyed my day of birding. I certainly did. Thanks Bryon and Diane!

Tomorrow is a travel day to St. Mary's campground. It's possible I will not be able to post for several days. Will have to land at a WiFi place as I don't have a plan that includes utilizing communication devices in Canada.


  1. Wow, you really got some great shots Birdie. I think all these birds made an error in judgement when they headed north this early. Just saying. Of course, it is warmer further north than it is where you are now.

    1. You know they don't "normally" make an error in judgement on the timing. Mom nature will throw curves in, but the amount of day light determines their flight time.

  2. Eared grebes are rather gaudy in their blooming plumage. Nice capture. :)

    1. The Eared in the winter are pretty blah, not in the spring. I so enjoy your blog. Thanks Judy for the compliment!

  3. You will be glad to know that your friends have WiFi available and waiting for you in St. Mary's........

  4. Birdie, I've enjoyed those shots... I mean I know I would love seeing all those is catching..I'm birding here in my front yard will all the visitors...Maybe some day I'll join you...I love learning "New" goodies... God Bless Zeee and Critters 3

    1. Barb, we will have a mini GTG and "do birds". One day in your FL haven! Or, come join us to AK!

  5. Outstanding bird photos, Birdie. Most I've never seen before. Such beauty!

    1. They were really pretty. Their breeding is pretty in appearance and sound, then being the best displayer and territory owner. For them it's all about procreation and continuation of the fittest.