By Janet Ellis, Senior Policy Director
During the Helena Christmas Bird Count this year, one of the first species we saw was a Northern Shrike, perched high on a bare tree. Everyone in our party was able to observe him. This shrike is the only songbird that is a true predator—feeding largely on rodents and small birds, just like a hawk or owl. They are known for their habit of hanging the remains of their prey on a sharp object (thorn, stick, or barbed wire fence), to store it for later consumption. We were pleased to see a shrike first thing—and it was still perched at the same sentry post at the end of the day. He had settled into the neighborhood!
Everyone participating in a CBC comes away with a few close encounters with birds and/or fellow birdwatchers—and a few stories to tell. Montana Audubon networks our state’s CBCs. This year, so far, we have a few tidbits to share:
· Thanks to Gene Reckin of Libby for stepping up to the plate to lead the 46th bird count in that community. When it was discovered that last year’s leader had moved, Gene volunteered to take the reins.
· Missoula was all in a tizzy over the Russian/Norwegian/Not-from-Montana fieldfare, a new bird species for the state. Read more about this rare, robin-sized bird HERE.
· The Eureka CBC had one Snowy Owl and one Varied Thrush—summer meets winter.
· This winter is a Common Redpoll year in Montana. Redpolls, which nest in the Arctic, periodically arrive in Montana in large numbers.
· We had a ‘dry run’ of a potentially new CBC this year at Little Bighorn National Monument. This was the second year for a CBC in the Cut Bank area.
· Bozeman marked its 75th year of CBCs this year—but 77 CBCs have been conducted there. What does that mean? In 1908 and again in 1911, two counts were done in Bozeman. Evidently, double counts were done for two years before the protocols were formalized.
Join a CBC near you—and learn about what feathered neighbors are hanging out in your community this winter.