Trip to Montana

 

Bald Eagles roosting above the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River

Today we took a quick drive to Red Lodge, Montana.  It was a beautiful day – a heavy frost fell overnight so the trees and bushes glistened in the warming sun.  It was a normal trip but made extra special by the amount of wildlife observed:  mule deer (lots with a couple herds of at least 50), white-tailed deer (again, lots but not as many as the mulies), pronghorn (or antelope), robins, magpies, a huge flock of cedar waxwings, several wild turkeys, 1 golden eagle and 7 bald eagles.  The white-tails were everywhere in Red Lodge.  We saw one young doe looking in the window of a house!

I love seeing the eagles.  These birds migrate south from Canada and spend their winters fishing along the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River. Right now the water is mostly open so the birds are having an easier time feeding.  There are several favorite perch sites in the cottonwoods along the river, where you’re nearly always guarenteed to see an eagle roosting.  When one of these sites is empty it’s like missing an old friend.

Activity:  Keep a wildlife notebook.  Stash a notebook in the car and make a journal of the wildlife you see around your area.  Make sure to note the date and any special weather events.  Once you have a year’s worth of entries you can gain a better understanding about seasonal animal movements in your area.  At first you might just record a few birds and squirrels, but soon you’ll become more adept at identifying other bird species and maybe even telling apart types of squirrels.  Improve your observation skills by taking a second look.  That dark blob in the tree branches might be a hawk and not a piece of trash stuck up there.  Note color, size and where the animal is found (low to the ground, in the tops of trees, under bushes, etc).  You can even branch out and record interesting people you see!

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