Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Meeting Rich and some of his family at the lodge in East Glacier, we drove to the Two Medicine entrance and spent the morning birding the South side trail. Most of the Rocky Mountain species were new for the group, so we focused on getting good looks at the classics, like Western Tanager, MacGillivray's Warbler, Red-naped Sapsucker, Pacific Wren, Varied Thrush, Mountain Chickadee, Northern Waterthrush, and Calliope Hummingbird. The morning was sunny and beautiful, and the spruce forests along this trail glew in the morning light. On the walk back to the car, I spotted a pair of Black Swifts flying low over the treetops, and the whole group got to see this Glacier NP specialty! I was pretty excited to nab this tricky bird and Rich remarked that "it must be a pretty good bird to get the guide excited!"
Indeed it is! Our next stop was the short walk to Running Eagle Falls, where we saw the family of American Dippers and watched as the parent fed the fledglings! After a delicious lunch in St. Mary, we drove to the east with prairie bird in mind. The beauty of birding Glacier NP is that in the morning you can bird the spruce forests surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and in the afternoon you can be surrounded by shortgrass prairie and open-country birds that specialize in living in this endangered habitat. Along highway 89, we stopped a nest I knew about and got the group their first Ferruginous Hawk. Freezout Lake was our primary birding destination for the afternoon, which is one of the most bird-rich sites in Montana!
Right away we got a whole bunch of new birds for the day! California Gulls, Common, Black, and Forster's Terns, American White Pelicans, White-faced Ibis, Black-necked Stilts, and American Avocets were flying around between the ponds. With some work, we got point-blank looks at a Sora in the reeds, and had Wilson's Phalarope, Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal swim right by.
We even found an American Bittern, Black-crowned Night-Heron and few Franklin's Gulls to round out the list!
It's hard to pull yourself away from so many spectacular birds, but we had some prairie specialties to find! Along a road near Choteau, MT, we found some of the best prairie species. We got great scope looks at both Thick-billed (McCown's) Longspurs and Chestnut-collared Longspurs. A pair of Long-billed Curlews added to the fun of birding the shortgrass prairies.
Wanting to get back to the rest of the family for dinner, we called it a day around 6:30pm to drive back to East Glacier. We tallied just over 100 species for the day, with dozens of new species for Rich and his family!