Birdwatching at Freezout Lake

Freezout Lake (almost looks like it is spelled wrong but that’s correct!) between Fairfield (4 miles) and Choteau (7 miles) is the site of two major birding “events” – spring and fall snowgoose migrations. Tundra swans also are part of the two migrations.

Freezout Lake straddles US Hwy 89 and the lake is really a series of interconnecting ponds, ditches and dikes built to control water levels. With consistent water, marsh-dwelling birds, waterfowl and many other species make the wetlands their year-round home.

The entire Wildlife Management Area covers 12,000 acres and I’ve heard it referred to as a waterfowler’s heaven and a birdwatcher’s delight!

It didn’t disappoint the other day. The weather was a little unfavorable when I was there – cloudy, a dusting of snow, temp hovering around 25 degrees and a strong cold wind. Still, I had a superb time with binoculars and my camera!

The birds typically head out to the barley and wheat fields for feeding in the morning, then return about 11am to the ponds. They flock back to the fields again in late afternoon.

I was having trouble finding the largest concentration of birds and a local finally told me I’d have more luck on ponds 1 and 2 to the north. Note to self, stop at the headquarters and pick up a map!

As I waited and watched the birds I noticed license plates from several different areas in Montana.

I also found out that there was a large group of Audubon folks coming for the weekend and staying at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau.

Freezout Lake has a great variety of birds and they change with the season. The migration events are pretty spectacular but I’ve also driven through the ponds mid summer, parked my car and just watched the birds.

For photographers, the Rocky Mountains form a stunning backdrop if you are looking to the west. Freezout is really a shortgrass prairie habitat though.

There is a boat launch for nonmotorized craft on pond 5 and I saw a paddler out in the lake when I was there. He had to have been freezing!

It was a good day and I wished I had dressed warmer and I wished I had more time.

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