When my friend Chuck Tague led an outing he’d ask us at the end, “What was your Best Bird?” Now that I’m back from Montana I’ve made a list. (The photos are from Wikimedia Commons.)
Best of the Best: Mountain bluebird. While standing next to a short spruce at Logan Pass, I saw a Life Bird(*) fly in and perch just above me. This bluest Bird of Happiness completes the trio of bluebird species in North America: eastern, western and mountain.
Two of my Best Birds were named for explorers, Lewis and Clark.
I’d seen a Lewis’s woodpecker fly by the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch on October 20, 2002 (very unusual!) but in Missoula I was hungry to see more. My friend Keith Kuhn asked a resident if we could walk across her property to the shore of the Bitterroot River where they’d been reported the day before. She was very accommodating when he said “Lewis’s woodpecker.” The birds come to her suet feeder. It was a thrill to see three pink-bellied woodpeckers fly-catching over the river.
I was afraid I wouldn’t see an American dipper but I shouldn’t have worried. Because they were nesting we saw adult dippers gathering food and a fledgling waiting for its next meal at St. Mary’s Falls. Very good looks! (Click here to see one swim.)
In only eight days I saw 105 species and 11 Life Birds in western Montana. It was hard to pick just four of the Best!
(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the images to see the originals)
(*) A “Life Bird” is a species you see for the first time in your life.