March, 2014

Smith Lake & West Valley Wetland Birding Tour

Photos, March 22, 2014

mtbluebird-birding guideSigns of spring are here as large flocks of ducks, geese, swans, and other migratory waterfowl arrive in the Flathead Valley’s wetlands scattered throughout the valley’s farm fields and the shores of Flathead Lake.

P1050127Over 26 people joined bird expert Dan Casey, guiding Saturdays’ birding tour around Smith Lake and West Valley wetlands, to observe migratory waterfowl and other birds that use wetlands and surrounding uplands.

Beginner and advanced bird enthusiasts were able to enjoy a close view of many birds thanks to several experts joining the tour and sharing their knowledge and spotting scopes. Birds observed ranged from Mallards, Northern Pintail, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, and young bald eagles around Smith Lake, to Tundra Swans, Common and Barrow’s Goldeye, Northern Shoveler,  Green-winged Teal, American and Eurasian Widgeon, Wood Ducks, Lesser Scaup, and in the open wetlands and ponds scattered throughout the West Valley agricultural fields.

Photo by JukkaJantunen, VIREO

Photo by JukkaJantunen, VIREO

Landowner and farmer Pete Wade talked about his efforts to place 50 acres in a conservation easement around the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area. The conservation easement would help protect both the farming soils and the wetland habitat that is so important to migratory waterfowl. The Flathead Land Trust recently secured two grants (Small North America Wetlands Conservation Act and Traveler’s for Open Lands grants) to help protect these wetlands – critical stopping, feeding, and breeding places for birds. To read more about this click here..

P1050123The tour was organized by Flathead River to Lake Initiative partners, including the Flathead Land Trust, the Flathead Lakers, and the American Bird Conservancy. The Flathead Lakers work closely with Flathead River to Lake Initiative partners to find solutions that work for landowners to help protect critical lands for sustaining clean water.

Thank you everyone for a great birding field trip! To view a map and guide to birding in the Flathead Valley click here.



North shore swans by Karen Nichols

Flathead Audubon’s expert birder Craig Hohenberger will be leading an East Flathead Valley Early Migration bird field trip on Sunday, March 23 from 9 am to noon.

Explore a wide variety of waterfowl, eagles, raptors, and other early migrants on a relatively new wetland area near Creston, along Riverside Road, Flathead River, and around Egan and Half-Moon Sloughs.

Flooded fields, sloughs, and open water will make it possible to observe hundreds of swans including both tundra and trumpeters, snow and Canada geese, a wide variety of diving and dabbling ducks including Eurasian wigeon, early song-birds, and other interesting birds and wildlife.

Meet to carpool at 9 am at the south end of the Creston Fire Hall parking lot located in Creston along Highway 35 and the north end of Riverside Road. We will return about noon.

Bring binoculars and/or spotting scopes, snacks and dress for the weather.  For further information and to sign up, call Gael Bissell at 261-2255.  All ages and birding abilities are welcome.



Flathead Lake North Shore property protected

20070315 north shore flight pt. 1617A conservation project protecting 189 acres along the north shore of Flathead Lake was completed last Friday.

The project was the result of a collaborative effort by landowner Darrell Worm, Flathead Land Trust, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Bonneville Power Administration.

“My hope for this unique property has been that it could be preserved for the people of Montana to enjoy and that its historic character could be protected,” Worm, a Kalispell attorney, said. “I am thrilled that through the efforts of the Flathead Land Trust and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks this hope can be realized.” To accomplish this he agreed to a “bargain sale” of his property to the state and, using proceeds from the sale, to fund the restoration of the historic barn built by the original homesteaders of the property, Katzman said.

North_shore_conservation_projectFWP-WormThe Worm property will be managed as the North Shore Wildlife Management Area and adjoins the sate Wildlife Management Area and State Park that are 161 acres in size. The property is also adjacent to the 1,887-acre Flathead Lake Waterfowl Production Area administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation easements held on private land by Montana Land Reliance and Flathead Land Trust.

The Worm property includes agricultural lands that frequently flood in the spring during snowmelt and provide a food source for migratory waterfowl, Katzman said.7-11 North Shore WMA birds This conservation project helps protect Flathead Lake’s water quality and adds to the protection of land used by tens of thousands of migratory birds.

The north shore of Flathead Lake is as an important refueling stop each spring for migratory birds as they make their long journey from wintering grounds in Mexico to their breeding grounds in Canada, according to Laura Katzman of the Flathead Land Trust.

To learn more about Flathead River to Lake Initiative partners’ vision for the north shore click here.

The new state land will provide public opportunities for both wildlife viewing and hunting year round except during a seasonal closure from March 1 to July 15 for migrating and nesting birds. Future plans include maintaining agricultural production along with gradual wetland and riparian restoration.

To read the rest of the Bigfork Eagle article, click the following link:


Smith Lake & West Valley Wetland Birds Tour, Saturday, March 22, 1 PM

Tundra_Swan_The bird guideJoin us on Saturday, March 22, from 1 – 4 p.m. on a bird watching tour around Smith Lake and West Valley with bird expert Dan Casey. Learn about birds that use some of the beautiful wetlands found in the valley and how landowners’ conservation efforts help maintain these local gems.

The tour starts at 1 p.m. at the Smith Lake Fishing Access Site. Space is limited so please call to confirm. To reserve a space or for more information call Laura Katzman at 752-8293.

Directions to the Smith Lake Fishing Access Site: Go 7 miles west of Kalispell on Highway 2 milepost 221, then 3 miles on County Road. We will carpool from there.

What to bring: Binoculars, water, snacks, sunscreen. Dress for the weather.

Some birds we might see (click on blue ones to see a photo and information):

Smith Lake: Red-necked, Eared, and Pied-billed Grebes, Black Tern, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, Wood Duck, American Bittern, Willow Flycatcher, Mountain and Western Bluebirds, among others.
West Valley: Pectoral Sandpiper, Black-bellied and American Golden Plover, Stilt Sandpiper, and Long-billed Dowitchers. Red-tailed Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk, Bald Eagle and Prairie Falcon. Eared and Horned Grebes, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Cinnamon Teal. Sandhill Crane. Snow and Ross’s Geese (in spring) and Bonaparte’s Gull. Savannah and Vesper Sparrow, Western Meadowlark and Gray Partridge.

2013 Wetland Birds Tour

5-4-2013 Wetland Birds Tour (5) Last May, 2013, over a dozen folks, from beginners to bird experts, enjoyed an afternoon learning about migratory ducks and other birds that depend on wetlands for nesting and feeding.

The bird tour was led by Dan Casey, with the American Bird Conservancy, around Smith Lake and the West Valley area.

Folks saw a variety of ducks, although landowners around Smith Lake joined the group to tell us about all the great sightings we missed by a week, or two, or three.

With that in mind, we are planning to get out earlier in 2014 with the hope of catching some of these great flocks of ducks that visit Smith Lake and surrounding wetlands in the Spring.Birdwatching tourWValleystop050413b compressed

The last wetland stop took people’s breath away with the diversity of ducks, plus six Swans, four Sandhill cranes, and numerous other birds, all enjoying the same wetland.

5-4-2013 Wetland Birds Tour (2)The tour was organized by Flathead River to Lake Initiative partners, including the Flathead Land Trust, the Flathead Lakers, and the American Bird Conservancy.

Group organizers discussed the importance of protecting these wetlands so these birds have a place to stop, to feed, and to breed on their migratory routes.

The Flathead Land Trust discussed the land trusts’ role in protecting wetlands and surrounding farm lands and options available to landowners.5-4-2013 Wetland Birds Tour (3) The Flathead Lakers discussed the role of wetlands in protecting clean water, both surface and groundwater.

Check the following local guides for birding in the Flathead:

Click here to learn What You Can Do or contact one of us to discuss your interests.