Friday, September 4, 2015

Bird bonanza in the Beartooths as feathered friends flock to High Chaparral

Variety of summer visitors flies off the charts in glorious Montana summer of 2015 

A ruby throated hummingbird visits our feeder each morning, enjoying nectar we make twice weekly. Soon, he'll head south.


Raptors out our door near the river enjoy a partly dead cottonwood perch.

Grosbeaks are frequent visitors at the feeder, passing through. 








STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

EVEN IF YOU don't know a finch from a flicker, you would be impressed by the abundant bird life at High Chaparral, here in our hide-out high in the Beartooth Mountains of the Northern Rockies of south-central Montana.
In a lifetime of summers in Montana, I've never seen such a proliferation of birds. Remember this when days grow short.
Bluebirds, buntings, flickers, finches, chickadees, grosbeaks, towhees, wrens, many kinds of sparrows and more hawks than we have ever seen have graced us with their presence from early spring to late summer.
We're told by experts that the bonanza has to do, logically, with both food and water.
A mild winter meant that more birds survived. Migratory birds stopped here and stayed longer. Food was plentiful and water didn't freeze for as long as usual.
WE'RE HOPING for fantastic bird watching into late autumn, like last year -- a month longer than usual, almost to November.
There are so many birds in our yard and gardens this summer that we are hard pressed do get our writing and carpentry done. More fun to grab the cameras, binocs and bird books!
The lazuli bunting: sure sign of summer at High Chap.


We keep seven feeders filled -- with thistle, mixed seed, sunflower seeds -- plus suet rectangles along with three hummingbird feeders. Orange and apple if the raccoons don't devour. Both orioles and catbirds have visited, with redwing blackbirds, siskins and even jays in the spruce.
Mockingbirds, cardinals, woodpeckers and morning doves are abundant, along with grosbeaks, song sparrows and tree swallows doing their ariel shows - ballet like dips and dives below the cliffs out back. 
THE SAME titmouse I fed in Arizona is up here in the northern Rockies -- the bridled titmouse.
Watching the wrens feed their young, then observing the fledglings is a joy.
Blue grouse have finished off the berries in the berm, soon to move high in the mountains to feed on conifer needles.
From our living room picture windows, we've seen an abundance of little birds -- two types of chickadees, red-topped and yellow finches, nuthatches and many warblers, plus lazuli buntings with their striking blue and copper colors.
AS IN past summers, we enjoy watching the peripatetic house wrens raising their young. With their industry, beautiful singing and warnings to keep our distance, they studiously tend the wee ones until all safely fledge. Ah, glorious!
Making hollyhock dolls is a tradition in my family.

UP NEXT: Hollyhocks, those stately spires in country gardens, evoke memories of childhood, grandmothers, doll making and more.  We even find medicinal uses for this uncommonly beautiful "common" garden plant. Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com



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