Thursday, July 7, 2005: I started early today. There were a lot of birds on the road as I drove through the wooded part of Going-to-the-Sun Road. At first I thought they might be nightjars, but they didn't seem to fly like nightjars (and why were they diving into the woods?). I eventually decided they were mostly thrushes.
When I got to Logan Pass, I took the trail toward Hidden Lake. There was still a lot of snow on the trail. I soon saw American Pipits, and then some Gray-crowned Rosy-finches. Hoary Marmot too! Had no luck with the Ptarmigan. I went past Hidden Lake Overlook. Didn't see my first humans of the day until after I had returned to the overlook (as I said, I started early). On the way back, I found some rosy-finches near the boardwalk. I ended up just sitting down and watching them at close range.
|Snow-covered Trail||Logan Pass View|
By the time I got back to the parking lot, there were quite a few cars in it. Although some people would have liked me to give up my parking space, I just made some adjustments to my gear, had a snack and drink, and headed off across the road.
I then headed out the Highline Trail along the Garden Wall for a couple of miles or so (turned around near Haystack Butte). Near the beginning of the trail there's a section with a lot of exposure that seems to bother some people. Not sure why as it's a good double-wide trail there. Later on, there were a couple of snowpacks to cross over streams. One had a couple of breaks in it where you had to jump. Fortunately, it was solid enough that no post-holing occurred. It was a very pleasant walk along the trail, with spectacular views all along the way.
|Glacier Lilies||Lilies and Mountains||Highline Trail|
|Hoary Marmot||View from the
When I returned to Logan Pass, I noticed some people scanning the hillside across the road. I asked what they were looking at. Bighorns. Unfortunately, many of them were unable to find the sheep with binoculars (and the people without didn't have a chance to spot them). My car was very close (the advantage of being the first there), so I walked over and got my scope. Pretty soon I had a line of people, including an entire scout group, looking through my scope. Some couldn't believe the view was so good in the scope when they couldn't even find the sheep without it. I didn't count, but well over 100 people used the scope.
After lunch, I took a boat ride on Lake McDonald. It was pleasant enough, but I gather the other lakes are better for this. Later in the day I investigated the Inner North Fork Road. I thought about looking for the Hawk-Owls that had bred out there this summer, but decided I wasn't comfortable driving the road at that hour. It's one lane only and I was concerned that the late afternoon drivers might have had too many beers while fishing. Soon after, a Durango appeared on my tail and then whizzed by, going around blind corners at a speed that convinced me I had made the right choice.
Birds: 114. Mammals: 13.
|Lake McDonald Lodge||Lake McDonald|
Lake McDonald, MT
National Bison Range
Friday, July 8, 2005: I took some early photos of Lake McDonald, then made an early morning trip to the Avalanche Picnic Area. I finally managed to see one of the Varied Thrushes I'd been hearing, as well as an Evening Grosbeak. There were also a number of very visible MacGillivray's Warblers. When I was done birding, I returned to Lake McDonald to checkout. Before leaving the park, I made another stop: the Fish Creek Picnic Area. I turned up some Black-capped Chickadees there.
The drive south on US-93 was quite slow, and would have been slow even without the construction zones. I finally made it to Ninepipe NWR. At Ninepipe, I found some water and marsh birds, including Marsh Wren. It was clear I would find few new birds here, so I continued on to the National Bison Range.
At the Bison Range, I saw my first Buffalo of the trip, as well as Elk, Pronghorn, and Least Chipmunk. I did three short trails: the Bitterroot trail, the High Point trail (1/2 and 1 mile respectively, both off Red Sleep Mountain Drive) and the Nature Trail (1 mile, near the entrance). I also drove the West Loop and the 19-mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive. I was surprised at how birdy the Bison Range turned out to be. I found 26 species, including Golden Eagle, Willow Flycatcher, Grasshopper Sparrow, Lazuli Bunting, American Goldfinch, and Bullock's Oriole.
|National Bison Range|
|Giant Dandelion||Lazuli Bunting||Vesper Sparrow|
Birds: 123. Mammals: 17.