Sounds impressive, eh? Surely The Montana Bird Project has the sponsorship of the Nature Conservancy or Audubon. It even sounds like there are concurrent projects going on in every state, all leading up to a whiz-bang finish: The American Bird Project!
Well, no. It’s actually My Montana Bird Project, which I’m pretty sure is not going to bring in the funding from the big boys.
The Eastern Kingbirds are all a-twitter about it, though.
Luckily, it’s pretty low-budget. Here’s the goal: to get a photograph of every species of bird in Montana. In, say, the next 150 years. Depending on how long I last, of course.
There are 429 species of birds in Montana. That’s a lot. So far, I’ve nabbed 162 of them. The first 75 or so were a piece of cake: robins, chickadees (although I’m still on the hunt for a Chestnut-backed), magpies, crows…all those guys we see all the time. Then it got a bit more difficult, but stalking migrating waterfowl in the spring was pretty rewarding. I’ve got all the grebes, for example. (Yay, me!) Here’s my favorite grebe. (Remember these guys?)
But the danged sparrows. There are twenty species of sparrow. And yes, they all look alike. OK, not really. But here’s a Song Sparrow and a Vesper Sparrow. Different, sure, but not when they’re flitting around the bushes.
And there are 15 species of owls! I had no idea. So far I have six of them. I’m especially pleased when I find a batch of babies.
I keep hearing about a Northern Pygmy Owl hanging out near town, but so far, no luck.
My favorites are the birds that are full of personality. That Kingbird family, for example, or this cheeky young Sandhill Crane who seemed to be sassing his mother:
Or this Western Kingbird who just looked plain crabby:
Sometimes the birds take on magical poses, like this levitating Wilson’s Warbler:
The search has even led me to capture some odd bird behavior, like the tiny Yellow Warbler madly feeding the giant Cowbird baby who had infiltrated her nest.
The hunt slows down in the winter, of course, but just last weekend I got my first Horned Larks, all puffed up and trying hard to stay warm on a 10 degree day.
When I get that Pygmy Owl, you’ll all be the first to know!