Each spring, we fade from the muted tones of late winter into the extravagant colors of life in abundance. Those colors come in no more greater illustration than the drake Wood Duck. These creatures of fantastic dreams have started to populated the sloughs and backwaters of the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers.
The weekend started off with going to Cottonwood Reservoir for a little birdingwith Sam Koenen. Ok, ok, a lot of birding. This little hotspot did not disappoint. The first birds out of the truck were Greater Scaup and Double-crested Cormorant. The reservoir held quite a few species with highlights being Ruddy Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Eared Grebes. Along the edges, we were able to locate Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, and American Avocets. In the benches above the reservoir, we heard Long-billed Curlews and Sandhill Cranes. The spring’s first Becker’s White was flitting about the sagebrush flats.
The real stars of the day were the raptors of the entire Shields River Valley. We had totals of 9 Golden Eagles, 2 Bald Eagles, 2 Rough-legged Hawks, 5 Ferruginous Hawks, numerous Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Cooper’s Hawk, 9 Northern Harriers, 2 Prairie Falcons, and a pair of American Kestrels. Not bad, not bad at all.
Now, time for lunch. Where, oh where, to go for lunch in Livingston on a beautiful spring day? Got it, how about Mark’s In and Out Beefburgers – home of the best burger ever. That’s right I said ever. Don’t believe, come up here and try it, I dare you.
Awaking Sunday morning, I headed over to the East Gallatin Recreation Area for, drum roll please, a little more birding. The lawns of the park had numerous Richardson’s Ground Squirrel. There numerous singing American Robins and Song Sparrow, while Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers drummed on the cottonwood snags of the floodplain. at the nearby wetland in the Cherry River Fishing Access, I heard my first Sora of the spring. That haunting sounds pierced through the dawn chorus of Red0winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Later in the afternoon, I went for a quick hike up the Drinking Horse Mountain trail. I guess that the rest of Bozeman had the same idea has the parking lot was so full that I parked out on the highway. I was able to attach the trusty, old macro lens and seek out the first wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain spring. I was able to locate 7 species today; however, the little white mustard has, as yet, defied identification. Oh wait, it was Hairy Rockcress. This Pretty Shootingstar Dodecatheon pulchellum bloomed on a drier, sun-soaked hillside. It is quite treat to see these flowers after such a long winter.