I finally have gotten around to another post. Since coming back from Antarctica the first week in February I have been traveling every week except for one. This week was no different and according to my schedule I will be traveling pretty much every week until the end of April. I do need to eliminate a few things in April as that is Greater Sage-grouse month. I have a number of leks to monitor and I have a graduate student, Jason Tack from the University of Montana, trapping a number of hens for the beginning of a study examining habitat use and movement of a population that is considered endangered in Canada and extends into the northern part Valley, Phillips and Blaine counties in Montana. This population is unique because it is associated with Silver Sage. This landscape does not look like typical Great Basin sagebrush country and is properly classified as a grassland rather than sage system. Anyway, trapping birds and censusing leks requires very early mornings in April and is one of the more fun (and important) parts of my job so I need to be sure to clear calendar time for that.
This week I took a short trip to Chinook, MT for a planning meeting (I am the lead biologist for a planning effort that spans much of northern MT from the continental divide in Glacier National Park to the western boundary of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, south to the Missouri River (more or less) and north to the border with Canada). We drove to Chinook on Tuesday morning through the fog and I didn't notice much different in the bird life along the way. It was still late winter and not much was observed. The drive back on Wednesday afternoon was much different. We had two days of 50+ degree weather and the Canada Geese were taking advantage of it. There were long strings and short bunches of geese heading up the Milk River drainage the whole way back to Glasgow. I think there wasn't any time during the two hour drive to Glasgow that I wasn't able to find at least one bunch of geese northwest up the river.
On Tuesday night I walked around Chinook a bit in the evening and the most common bird I observed was the Eurasian Collared Dove. I posted the observation to our Montana birding listserve and pondered when observations of this species will be so commonplace that I no longer think them notable enough to warrant mentioning. Probably not too much longer at this rate (the first observation for this species in Montana occurred less than 10 years ago).
This morning I had two male robins in the yard for the first time this spring and it was nice to hear them calling amongst the buzzy Common Redpoll songs as I put more feed out for the horde of redpolls now coming to the feeder. There is at least one Hoary Redpoll in the area. It has been coming fairly regularly to my parents feeder a few blocks away but I haven't been able to add it to my yard list yet this year.
So anyway, one of my goals for this weekend other than getting out and enjoying our first blast of spring and getting my boys and dogs out of the house for a while, is to finally get another Chile/Antarctica post with photos done so please check back. I will leave with a photo of a Wood Duck from a recent trip to Boise, ID.