Friday, June 28, 2013

Big Sky Country

I am back in Montana for the third time in my life, but this marks the first time I will actually bird in Big Sky Country.  Lucky for me, Montana is home to some of the continent's coolest birds (at least in my opinion).

Just take, for instance, this Lazuli Bunting in the National Bison Range north of Missoula.  This is the West's far more striking counterpart of the Indigo Bunting I am used to seeing back home.  Instead of solid blue, the Lazuli Bunting, named for the beautiful blue gemstone Lapis Lazuli, sports a combination of deep turquoise, white, black, and buffy orange.  A spectacular bird, any way you look at it.  

I've also seen some new sparrows - Clay-colored and Vesper, which were also both at the Bison Range.  Here is one of the Vespers I saw, singing his heart out from the roadside:

Oh yeah, I forgot the mention the spectacular view:  

So far I've seen many Willow Flycatchers, a tricky Empidonax that can only be reliably identified by its "fitz-bew" call.  I also saw a Dusky Flycatcher, another empid, this one of brushy mountain slopes.  Black-billed Magpies are virtually everywhere.  Brightly colored Bullock's Orioles have also made quite an appearance so far on my trip, with great views of two adult males.  Upon our arrival at the cabin we are renting for five days, I immediately heard the "veeru veeru veeruuuuu" call of the Veery.  A short evening stroll yielded Black Tern, Sora, and Marsh Wren, leaving my life list total at 299.  I have more days to come in Montana, and I can't wait.
   
Wilson's Snipe near my cabin. Not a lifer, but still one of my favorite birds.

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