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The Uncommon Crow Great Backyard Bird Count

Great Falls 02/12/14

Wadsworth Lake/Pond. 10:30am-11:45am

Weather- 43 degrees F, clear sunny skies, wind 30-40mph, very windy, Ground snow cover.

wadsworth lake

wadsworth lake

Even though we knew it was a very windy, winter day, we decided to brave the cold and venture over to the frozen Wadsworth Lake. I was not expecting to see much, but before we even entered the park, we saw a few Black-billed Magpies and a flock of European Starlings. We didn't see anything else until we reached the end of the lake road.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a large number (60+) of Bohemian Waxwings enjoying breakfast. It was such a delight to spend time around these beauties. They didn't even seem to mind our presence. They went about their business as usual, preening, eating berries in the trees, and foraging on the ground. They made constant cricket-like sounds. I noted the rusty under-tail coverts, which IDs them as Bohemian rather than Cedar waxwings.

Wadsworth Bohemian Waxwings

Wadsworth Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwing Great Falls Montana

Bohemian Waxwings

A small flock of starlings joined the waxwings. They started on the ground, then worked their way into the trees. The starlings were slightly more cautious of us and kept their distance. The waxwings seemed more carefree and curious. The difference in demeanor between certain species is quite interesting to me.

starling wadsworth

There were six Canada Geese flying overhead and starlings flying toward the entrance and over the road. A magpie was hopping around bushes near the entry road.

Wadsworth

Wadsworth

11:30 am

A big flock of starlings flew across the ice and toward the entrance. There was another group of waxwings in the bushes near road. They were flying up into the wind and back into the bushes repeatedly.

11:51 am Gibson Park

We parked at Gibson and were immediately surrounded by Canada Geese, Mallards, and Rock Pigeons. A single sparrow joined in the frenzy. The birds are used to people feeding them here. In fact, one man showed up with a bag of dog food and dumped it on the sidewalk. Well, it's certainly more nutritious than bread.

Gibson geese

Gibson mallard

Mallards can be comical when landing. For example, one mallard landed clumsily on the pavement, then another landed the same way on top of him! It cracked us up!



12:28pm Skatepark, River's Edge Trail

A Northern Flicker was flicking dirt and debris near the base of a tree. It was very exciting, because this was only the second Flicker I'd ever seen! The first was the yellow-shafted variety, this one was red-shafted, and they both seemed to be females. Perhaps next time I will see a male. A house finch flew out of a conifer and into a deciduous tree. I heard additional chirping, and noticed a few more finches flutter in and out of the conifer.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

We were heading down River Drive toward the bridge, when a rather large, black bird caught my eye. We pulled into a parking spot by the river, so I could get a better look. I think it was a raven that had landed on the ice, but I'm still a bit rusty on distinguishing between crows and ravens, particularly when it's a brief encounter like this. I know the different signs, in theory, but I find it more difficult in practice. It doesn't help when you experience the dilemma of not knowing whether to go for the binoculars or camera first! The corvid barely stayed long enough for me to decide. Oh well, it was a marvelous sighting anyway. A white and black duck flew by and landed in the water. There were other ducks in the distance on the ice.

Missouri River

Common Raven

1:14pm

On our way to West Bank Park, I noticed a Bald eagle flying over Little Caesar's.

1:30

We Made a quick stop at West Bank Park, but did not see anything besides a quick glimpse of what may have been a raven.

WMA 02/07/14

Williston Wildlife Management Area. 4:45pm-5:30pm

Weather- 13 degrees F Clear Skies Wind 0mph Humidity 43% Precipitation 0%

Sunset 6:02pm

We were driving down the road when a blue bird appeared out of the brush and flew in swooping arcs across the road and landed in the brush on the other side. It was possibly a swallow, bunting, grosbeak, or bluebird. Most range maps indicate these are breeding North Dakota species only, but I know some of the bluebirds, at least, are around in the winter months.

We spotted a hawk in a tree across the fields to the left. It flew off and landed in another tree further down.

wma williston hawk

wma williston hawk

I saw male and female ring-necked pheasants walking in the field to the right and perching in a tree. I saw others flying across the road and flying in the tall grass to the left.

wma williston

wma williston pheasants

The hawk we spotted earlier flew away and landed in a tree at this location, so we assume this is the same bird. We got out of the car to watch it through binoculars. I took a few long-distance photos. It was a very large hawk perched at the top of the tree. It had a light head and chest, dark belly, and light underside of the tail. It looked very similar to a hawk I saw at Spring Lake Park in December. My best guess is a Rough-legged hawk.

williston wma hawk

williston wma hawk

williston wma hawk

Ring-necked pheasants were calling as we observed the hawk.

williston wma

A large hawk was flying above the field behind the gun range. It landed atop a tree. Again, it had a light head and chest, dark belly-band, and light underside of the tail. The colors were more distinguishable in this lighting, and I was pretty sure it was a Rough-legged Hawk.

williston wma hawk

williston wma rough-legged hawk

On our way back out, a small songbird flew up into the branches of a roadside tree.

Further down the road, a smaller hawk was perched in a tree. We observed it for a few minutes, then it flew off. I noticed flashes of white on the wings.

williston wma hawk

williston wma hawk

williston wma hawk

williston wma hawk

williston wma hawk
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Spring Lake Park