With autumn settling in, Montana Audubon has begun its annual two-month count of migrating raptors in the Big Belt Mountains: 2018 marks the fourth year of the Golden Eagle Migration Survey (GEMS) project. Working with our partners Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, we will count an estimated three to four thousand raptors known to pass through the site on their migration south along the Rocky Mountains. The count location is located along a 75-mile long northwest-southeast ridgeline where raptors harness prevailing winds to increase lift and speed during migration. This behavior often brings birds very close to observers, allowing their species, age, and occasionally sex to be determined as they pass by.
In 2017, observers counted 2,929 raptors during 41 of 47 survey days between September and 15th and October 31st. Sixteen species were counted, including 2,159 Golden Eagles. The GEMS site, well known as a primary migration area for migrating Golden Eagles, recorded more of this species than any other U.S. migration site in 2017. We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!
Unlike last season which began with 18” of fresh snow on the ridge, our weather during the first week of the 2018 GEMS count was pleasant and sunny, despite some haze blown in from fires in Idaho. Partners will be surveying four days a week and the count, launched on September 5th, will continue through early November, weather permitting.
You can follow the progress of daily counts by visiting dunkadoo.org/explore and navigating to Montana’s GEMS count at “Radio Tower West Slope” which is the name of the main data collection site. You can also follow this season’s progress by joining us on Facebook and Instagram. See below for information about joining us for a Raptor ID workshop or field trip. To learn more about the project and to view reports from our past survey seasons, click here for the GEMS page on mtaudubon.org
Please contact Amy Seaman, Conservation Program Manager, at [email protected] for more information on the project. Click the following link for information regarding upcoming Raptor Identification Workshops.