Last Chance Audubon Society offers birding trips lead by experienced birders to local areas around the Helena valley. Trips are free and open to members and nonmembers. Participants at any level of skill and experience are encouraged to attend. Trip leaders provide information on bird identification, natural history and conservation. Bird trips are most commonly scheduled between March and June. Trips are a half day or longer depending on the area visited and usually involve car pooling among trip participants.
Each trip participants needs to have binoculars. Bring snacks or lunch if appropriate, water, and dress for the weather. A bird identification field guide is useful. All field trips are free for LCAS members. For non-members, they cost $15 – which includes an annual membership. RSVP required – contact the field trip leaders (listed below) to sign up (or if you’ve already signed up and need to cancel).
May 15: K-MART WETLANDS
Join Kyle Strode for a morning of birding at the K-Mart Wetlands – an urban ecotone site that includes a marsh, ponds, woody thickets, and small patches of open grassland. An impressive 188 species have been observed here over the years, including many waterfowl, sparrows, and warblers. Meet at 7:30 am at the intersection of Cole Ave and N Harris St. Most of this area has dry ground; footing is uneven in some spots. This meandering walk will last roughly two hours. Contact Kyle Strode, firstname.lastname@example.org, to sign up.
June 3: NATURE JOURNALING FOR BIRDERS
Keeping an observational journal is a great way to add to and improve your birding skills. Nature journaling combines words, pictures, and numbers to help focus our observations, and can enrich the time we spend in the outdoors. There are many ways to journal, and artistic talent is definitely not a prerequisite! The most important skill is simple curiosity, which birders have in abundance. This field trip will provide some ideas and resources to help you start your own journaling practice. Cindy Greiman will share information, resources, and tips on some different ways to approach journaling, and then we’ll find a good spot to sit and make some observations. Bring something to sketch on, a pencil, an eraser, binoculars, and water. If you’d like, you can also bring colored pencils or ink pens, and a blanket or camp chair to sit on. Meet at the fishing access at the west end of the Helena Regulating Reservoir at 7:30 am. This trip will last until around 11:00 am. Contact Cindy Greiman by June 1 to sign up: email@example.com or 406-422-7033.
June 4: MULLAN ROAD
Join Sharon Dewart-Hansen for a trip to Mullan Road on the west side of McDonald Pass. As many as 46 species can be seen. Possible birds in this area are Veery, Northern Waterthrush, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Red-naped Sapsucker, and Lazuli Bunting. Meet at the west end of the Lundy Center (on Euclid Ave) at 6:30 am and expect to return by roughly 12:00 pm. Contact Sharon Dewart-Hansen by May 30 to reserve a spot: firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 12: NORTH JEFFERSON COUNTY
Join Dan Ellison and Jane Fournier for this field trip focused on two riparian areas: Prickly Pear Creek (at Ash Grove Park east of Montana City) and Buffalo Creek (northwest of Clancy). The streamside cottonwoods, alders, willows, and chokecherries attract warblers, woodpeckers, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, and sparrows. Likely sightings include Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Veery, and Black-headed Grosbeak. Spotted Towhee, Belted Kingfisher, and raptors are also possible, as is a stop to observe Mountain and/or Western Bluebird nest boxes. Walking will be on mostly level ground along an improved trail, as well as some exploring within streamside vegetation. Hiking boots, hats, binoculars, sunscreen, insect repellent and rain parka are recommended. Restroom availability is a serviceable port-a-pot at Ashgrove Park. Maximum group size is 10 participants; early reservations are encouraged. To avoid cancellation, at least four confirmations are needed by June 7. To sign up, email Dan at email@example.com and provide your name(s), phone, and a good number for exchanging text messages. Participants will meet at 6:45 am in the parking area for Ash Grove Sunderland Park, one mile east of the Montana City I-15 exit. Maps of the two parking areas will be provided to participants when the field trip is confirmed.
The trip will conclude by 11:00 am.
June 24: BIRDING AT VISTA DA SERRA
Welcome to the Ranch on Trout Creek! Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons and Osprey regularly fish the creek. Watch for Golden and Bald Eagles soaring overhead. The songbird residents include Mountain Bluebirds, Lazuli Buntings, and Common Yellowthroats. A pair of
Sandhill Cranes inhabit the wetlands and yodel their throbbing cry. Thanks to Tia and Derek Nelson for inviting us to their ranch. Meet Janice Miller in the northeastern corner of the Costco parking lot at 6:30 am. We’ll return by 12:00 pm. Contact Janice to RSVP:
August 5: AQUATIC INSECTS
Join Sara Owen, ecologist and the author of Seth and Mattie’s Big River Adventure, for an early evening trip to Tenmile Creek Park to learn about aquatic insects and the hidden world in the stream bed. Participants will have the option to get their feet wet, or participate from the bank. Participants will also have a chance to look for emerging insects, predatory spiders, birds, and maybe even a bat or two as the evening progresses. Wear shoes or boots for getting wet (or not). Sara will have bug guides, a few hand lenses for magnifying bugs, and a few shallow containers for viewing bugs up close. Meet at 6:30 pm at the kiosk near the bridge between Tenmile Park & Spring Meadow Lake. Email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.
September 3: WORLD SHOREBIRD DAY
Stephen Turner will lead a trip to Canyon Ferry WMA to survey for migrating shorebirds. Several shorebird ID experts will be on hand. Meet at the northeast end of the Costco parking lot at 7:00 am (please arrive a few minutes early). Return no later than 1:00 pm. This trip has limited space. Expect a 1.5-mile round-trip walk on dirt roads. Contact Stephen to register: email@example.com.