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Birding in North Central Montana

Russell Country recently published a comprehensive birding trail brochure titled Wings Across the Big Sky. There are 12 specific routes described in the brochure noting highlighted species, habitats, driving directions, facilities available and contact information for each route.

Diversity of bird species is most notable in this region of Montana. On some birding trails there are fewer than 30 miles between the prairies and the continental divide. Others have lakes, prairie marshes, fens and rivers to attract birds. Several island mountain ranges are also scattered throughout the area.

East and West mix in this area of Montana giving bird watchers from both sides of the country a chance to see something new. American dipper and rock wren would be a treat for Easterners while brown thrasher, upland sandpiper, ovenbird and alder flycatcher offer variety for Westerners.

Spring offers the chance for two different bird events in Russell Country. The snow goose migration brings tens of thousands of birds to Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area near Fairfield, Montana along the Rocky Mountain Front. Snow geese numbers are building and should continue to grow until early April. Tundra swans are currently on the water along with strong numbers of pintails. The snow geese are resting and feeding while on their way to summer nesting grounds farther north. According to MT Fish, Wildlife & Park officials, the snow geese are later this year due to spring weather conditions. Best times to view the geese are at dawn when they lift off for the nearby grain fields and at 10 AM when they return. A similar feeding schedule also happens around 4 PM when they once again go in search of food.

The second notable bird watching event is when the sharp-tailed grouse do their courtship dances. Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge a few miles north of Great Falls has a blind that can be reserved for viewing this spectacle.

To receive a copy of the birding brochure call Montana’s Russell Country at 800-527-5348.

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