August 01, 2006


My lack of trip preparation paid big dividends on the outskirts of Bozeman. From earlier visits for photography, my brother had reported yellow-headed blackbirds around a marshy pond near the East Gallatin River. Once there we saw them instantly. For the next hour or two I was in a perfect birding situation thanks to having almost no idea what I would find: either I was surprised and pleased to see familiar birds like the house finch, catbird, and eastern kingbird, or surprised and pleased to see new birds, namely lemony yellow warblers and cedar waxwings.

The next day at Sourdough Creek I had a similar experience, seeing an old standby—brown-headed cowbird—and two list newcomers, a pine siskin and western wood-pewee.

All over Bozeman, unmissable, were black-billed magpies, flamboyantly large and loud. On one especially hot afternoon the half-dozen I saw all held their bills open to cool down.

For reasons I don't understand, I saw eastern kingbirds and no western kingbirds. Actually, I understand the eastern part: despite their name, eastern kingbirds range well into the western United States. But I'd expected westerns to be a dime a dozen perching on trees and utility poles, when in fact I would have spent money to see one.


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