by Terry McEneaney…
On March 30, 2013, a group of over two dozen participants traveling in two waves descended on Lee Metcalf Refuge to shake off the winter cobwebs. Collectively we tallied slightly over or near 66 species of birds. The weather was extremely nice and warm. The Bitterroot Valley appeared to be drier than normal, and preliminary signs of a possible drought could be on the horizon.Most notable highlights included: a newly arrived Osprey; a Rough-legged Hawk and California Gull in passage; a pair of Trumpeter Swans setting up what appears to be a territory; a flock of 50+ Snow Geese feeding yet alert in a stubble field; Virginia Rails calling; Marsh Wrens defending territories; high flying, paired, and vociferous Sandhill Cranes; two closely viewed American Tree Sparrows; a tent of Canvasbacks; a newly arrived Pied-billed Grebe; several horse laughing White-breasted Nuthatches; and the exotic primitive calls of the Pileated Woodpecker.
Other raptors for the trip included Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel.
The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. So Happy Birthday Lee Metcalf, wherever you are! I am not much for naming public places after people, but this refuge is well deserved. For it took the strong will and vision of a conservationist like Lee Metcalf to have the foresight to set aside a unique piece of wildlife habitat, an urban refuge island of sorts, surrounded by a sea of current and future human impacts and developments. Lastly, hats off to the Metcalf NWR staff as well for a job well done.