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    Published September to May Helena, MT February 2019

    A Birding Tour of Montana’s

    Wildlife Refuges

    Tues., February 12, 2019

    Program begins 7:00 p.m.

    Cookies and Conversation 6:30 – 7:00

    Montana WILD 2668 Broadwater Ave.

    Explore some of Montana’s Wildlife Refuges and Important Bird Areas (IBAs) with Dan Ellison as your guide. This program will take you on a tour from Medicine Lake to Stevensville, Broadus to West Glacier, and points in between. Learn where you might find a Black Swift nest, a Snowy Owl or a Broad-winged Hawk. Now in full retirement mode, Dan is methodically pursuing a goal to visit every wildlife refuge and IBA in the state, while documenting birds and other wildlife with his camera and through e-Bird checklists. His program provides highlights of his visits to diverse natural resource areas with photos showing the many excellent birding opportunities across the Big Sky State.

    Dan Ellison grew up in the Bitterroot Valley, graduated from the Naval Academy, and served on active duty for 26 years as a Navy pilot. He returned to Montana in 1999 and settled in Helena where he worked for several years in state government including as Chief Financial Officer for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. In 2009 he was elected to the Helena City Commission and re-elected in 2013. Now retired from public service, his personal time is divided between managing the family ranch near Stevensville, bird watching, fly fishing, wildlife photography, and other outdoor pursuits with his wife, Jane Fournier.

    Upland Sandpiper by Dan Ellison.

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    As many of you know, “Eagle Scout” is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Sean Felter came to us during the summer of 2018 as a boy scout hoping to become an Eagle Scout.

    At Montana WILD, education is a big priority. They teach students of all ages the value of managing fish, wildlife, and birds. Sean approached them in hopes of finding an appropriately challenging project. Kurt Cunningham and Lisa Rhodin suggested a building endeaver: raptor silhouettes that could be installed in the backyard of Montana WILD, but could also be transported to educational events elsewhere.

    Sean approached the LCAS Board asking us to sponsor his effort. Promoting understanding of birds through education – it seemed like a good fit for our mission. We recognized Sean’s project would not only promote bird education at Montana WILD for years to come, but would also be an educational project for Sean and his scouting friends and family. They would have to study each raptor’s size and plumage in order to make accurate silhouettes.

    On Monday, January 14, Sean presented his silhouettes to Montana Wild’s Kurt Cunningham. Members of the LCAS board were there to present Sean a check to cover his costs.

    Congratulations, Sean Felter, Eagle Scout! Janice Miller President, LCAS

    Janice Miller congratulates Sean Felter. Photo by Janene Felter.

    Kurt Cunningham, Sean Felter, and Janice Miller pose with the finished silhouettes. Photo by Sue Jackson.

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    Just One March Program This Year

    Please note that we will not be having a March Natural History Lecture Series this year. Mark

    your calendars for a single program on Tuesday, March 12. Tom Forwood will be giving a

    presentation about owls in Montana.

    Birdseed Recap

    The tally for the 2018 birdseed sale is in! 27

    people purchased 1060 pounds of birdseed

    and LCAS earned $215. Thanks to everyone

    who bought seed and to Sandy Shull and the

    staff at Birds and Beasleys for their help with

    this fundraiser every year.

    -- Sue Jackson

    Christmas Bird Count Results Over 60 volunteers tallied 62 species and 6,673 individual birds on the 2018 Helena Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Thanks to everyone who came out and made our 64th CBC a great success! A few notable birds tallied included 16 Trumpeter Swans, 32 Buffleheads, 8 Western Bluebirds, 12 White-crowned Sparrows, and 2 Western Meadowlarks. Observers spotted only 20 Bohemian Waxwings – quite a difference from our all-time high count of 16,101 in 2005. Full results are posted on our website, http://www.lastchanceaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Count2018-summ.pdf.

    Wings Across the Big Sky: June 7-9 Mark your calendars: Montana Audubon will be having its 20th Wings Across the Big Sky bird festival in Glasgow, Montana on June 7-9, 2019. The lead sponsor for the event is the American Prairie Reserve. Presentations and field trips on grassland birds, prairie ecology and other unique features of Montana’s Glaciated Plains will be the focus this year. Please visit mtaudubon.org for updates and festival information in the coming months.

    A Prairie Falcon skims over a field in Section 9 during the Helena CBC. Photo by Janice Miller.

    The Missouri River Breaks overlooking Fort Peck Lake. Photo by John Lambing.

    http://www.lastchanceaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Count2018-summ.pdf https://mtaudubon.org/

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    The View from Sevenmile Creek: January Note: The surveys on Sevenmile Creek are a collaboration between LCAS and Prickly Pear Land Trust (PPLT). PPLT acquired the Sevenmile property in 2016 for open space and habitat purposes. Stream restoration activities in the area are ongoing, and public access is not permitted at this time. PPLT provides access to LCAS volunteers specifically to conduct these bird surveys. Questions? Contact Nate Kopp, nate@pricklypearlt.org.

    January's bare grasses stood dense and tall, legions of faded tan smooth brome and wheatgrass in the snow-free field. At 10:32 a.m., I spotted an orange- brown Northern Harrier for the second time that morning. It skimmed and tilted over the grasses, a silent searcher intent on the small mammals below.

    At 12:23 p.m. it was a mile farther west, spiraling on a thermal with the dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk that had been hunting over the foothills of the Scratchgravels 20 minutes before. At least, I suspected it was the same harrier. I watched it dive-bomb the Roughie, flaring wings and peeling off before circling around for another attack. The Roughie seemed to dominate: after four minutes the harrier glided off to the southeast, dropping down over the grassland, while the arctic hawk circled for several minutes more.

    When it comes to wintering raptors, the most notable change from last year is the harriers. At least two have been using the Sevenmile landscape recently: a brownish immature and a white- and-gray adult male. This is a stark contrast to last winter, when I didn't see any harriers between late October and early April.

    Though I can't track individual birds, I can get a sense of the minimum numbers of wintering raptors here by counting those I can distinguish by plumage. Over four surveys in the past month, at least 8 individual raptors have used the area! There's a lot hidden within this number. There are the stories of a Prairie Falcon hunting from a perch, of hawks and harriers circling and searching. There are many mysteries: how these individual birds make it through the winter, where they spend the night, how far they move, and how long they stay around. And underlying it all is this habitat and the small mammal prey it supports. These birds need grassland like this. I'm sure grateful it's here for them. -- Shane Sater

    Northern Harrier over the field by Shane Sater.

    Minimum numbers of individual winter raptors on the Sevenmile Creek landscape based on surveys, 2017-2019. Data provided by Shane Sater.

    mailto:nate@pricklypearlt.org

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    Membership Report

    Please welcome Last Chance Audubon Society new members: Lynne Grosfield, Deb Rainey & J im Maher, and Betsy Hamann.

    Sincere thanks to Last Chance renewing members: Catherine & Steve Askam, Jane Phillips, Candida Quinn, Carolyn Fox, Maryalice Chester, Barbara Belt, Stan & Glenda Bradshaw, Sara Toubman & Cedron Jones, Robin & Jay Carter, Stephen & Patricia Turner, Larry Urban, Ramona Turnbull, Jan Donaldson & Mary Anne Guggenheim, Sharon & Doug Hansen, Ed Rumsberger, Liz Hiltunen, Pat Grantham, Sumner Sharpe & Margaret Strachan, Pete Strazdas, Shane Sater & Erica Shuhler, Jim & Leslie Smith, Marilyn Hayes, Janice Miller, Donna Shull, Constance Fiske, Spencer Shropshire & Susan Epstein, Dan Ellison & Jane Fournier, Sandy Shull, Earl McCurley, David & Nancy Ewer and Birds & Beasleys.

    Please also welcome National Audubon Society new members: Barbara Clampitt, Kathy Hansen, Leonard John, Dave & Patty Mott, Claudia Dirkes, Nancy Hutton, Sandra & Tag Rittel, Kathleen Wanner, Jane Koehl, Felicia Head, Gayle Sandholm, Robin Le Neve & Kathleen Moran.

    Sincere thanks to National Audubon Society renewing members: Lucas Thomi, Ellen Bishop, Mary Kelley, Margaret Hubber, Everett Lynn, Don Bishop, Sally Hilander, Tvelone Hedges, Bonnie Bowler, Wendy Wheeler, Alan Nicholson, Eric Feaver, Kathleen Culver, William Ritts, Carol Shope, Cherri Murphy, Marilyn Kelly-Clark, John Potter, Constance Cole, Richmond Franklin, Fred Larsen, Mary Clark, Lesley Straus

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