Last weekend we had our latest Glasgow Feather Fest bird festival. We are the longest running local bird festival in MT (Montana Audubon has been doing a bird festival every year for longer than us but they move around from town to town across the state).
We generally don't get a lot of people but we certainly get some good birds. This year we had about 3o people registered, about three for every Baird's Sparrow we found at one stop on Saturday.
One of the many Bairds Sparrow observed at one spot on our Saturday field trip to north Valley County.
We also found at least as many Sprague's Pipits at the same spot. Chestnut-collared Longspurs were all over the place.
*I recently worked up some rough population estimates for the grasslands of Northeastern Montana and found that for many of the grassland species of concern (Baird's Sparrow, Sprague's Pipit, McCown's Longspur), this area contained over 100% of the estimated global population! I treated all grasslands in our area equal and that could account for over-estimating these populations because most certainly only a portion of the grasslands function at the level where most of our surveys were conducted. On the flip side, our density estimates for most species are probably under-estimates somewhat making up for the over-estimate of the extent of habitat. There is also the possibility that the global population estimates may be low for some of these species too. The bottom line is that this part of the world is near the top of the best places left for North American grassland birds.
Oh yeah, the bird festival. Our Saturday trip wasn't able to get to all the places we would have liked because the roads were still quite muddy after our couple of weeks of much needed rain. We spent a bit of time next to a pothole type wetland before heading home.
We also conducted a bird banding demonstration on Sunday morning lead by Ryan Rauscher from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park. We also had a couple of local Boy Scouts join us. Not many birds this year all the way around (I should write more about this later - it is rather disturbing). We banded about 15 individuals that morning but the best bird was our first bird. A male Yellow Warbler that we had originally banded last year during the demonstration at last years festival.
Other field trips included one that toured the Fort Peck area, another that went to the southern part of the county where we should have been able to find Mountain Plovers and McCown's Longspurs but the rain and the roads conspired against us. The most popular tour is a canoe trip down the Missouri River below Fort Peck Dam where we found Red-headed Woodpeckers among many other species.
All in all it was a pretty good weekend and we must be doing something right. It rained for two weeks before the festival but not during the festival and the wind even let up on Sunday for the canoe trip!