Friday, April 8, 2011
Migration in Montana
It started mid afternoon on Thursday. Laura and I were returning to Fort Peck from Billings when I noticed the first flock of Sandhill Cranes push north up the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Lake. We pulled over so we could listen as they passed overhead, heading north west towards the town of Fort Peck. When we got close to Fort Peck I could see a flock heading right over town. We called my Dad to let him know but no one answered the phone. "Must be out on the porch watching the cranes already" Laura said. And sure enough there he was when we pulled up. He told us they had been streaming over for most of the afternoon.
As we watched I noticed a few Red-tailed Hawks at the edge of the crane flock. And then there were a few more. And more. And MORE.
This photo is all Red-tailed Hawks. It just one portion of this group of birds and there were a number of groups like this. There were probably at least a thousand birds that passed overhead in about an hour, although it was tough to count because they were high in the air, scattered, and moving around in twirling kettles as they took advantage of the winds from the southeast. In that short time we also observed one Cooper's Hawk, a Prairie Falcon, four American White Pelicans, a number of Northern Harriers and one Long-billed Curlew. It was spectacular. Everywhere I looked there were groups of hawk twirling north.
Occasionally a bird would come over quite low. The overcast clouds produced light that was not very good for taking photos. I wound up with lots of silhouette photos and found out just how dirty the sensor on my camera is again.