12 March 2010

Some Montana Winter Birds

With winter beginning to fade here in Montana, I decided to take a look at what I had acquired for bird photos over the past 4 months or so. Compared with past years, the results are on the meager side. There are at least several reasons for that - less effort on my part and what seemed to be fewer bird species and numbers in the Helena area this winter.

As a general observation, our winter birds are not as colorful as the spring migrants and summer breeders. An exception to this may be the waxwings that are among our most photogenic winter visitors. But what our other winter residents may lack in color, they seem to make up in being quite photogenic. That is to say that their color patterns make for very good photographs. And there is no better example of this than Black-capped Chickadees. Last winter, a friend who feeds birds where he lives in the pine hills south of Helena invited me to take photos of the good variety of birds he had attending his feeders. A visit there last week was productive for several species such as Red-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers, many of the species present last year were no where to be seen on this latest visit.
Out in the Helena Valley, one of the species that seems to be relatively plentiful are Gray Partridge. And the few open water areas that we have in winter usually support several of our hardier waterfowl species such as one of my favorites, the Hooded Merganser. And the Missouri River below Hauser Dam is a great place to view Common Goldeneye numbering in the hundreds. Perhaps surprisingly, our National Bird - Bald Eagle - is also quite easy to find in winter, with some of them likely being residents breeders and other maybe migrants that winter here. Now, as the weather warms and the ice loses it grip on our ponds and lakes, the spring waterfowl migration is upon us. This is a great time to get out into the frozen cattail marshes and wait for opportunities to photograph some of the abundant ducks, geese, and swans that stop over on their way north. Assuming we will get some nice weather in the next week or so, my next blog will feature some of images of these fast flying targets.


  1. Great pictures. Don't forget that you spent part of your winter in Ecuador. That just might have interfered with your Montana bird photograpy and I can't imagine another winter where you ended up with more great images, just not all in Montana.

  2. not a common Goldeneye