The fourth installment of the Town Bound Birding Series took place the morning of Sunday August 14th at Maclay Flat. About 12 participants gathered at 8 a.m. in the parking lot, where we gave a quick explanation of the plan for the outing and then went around the circle introducing ourselves. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the air temperature was quite comfortable for mid-August as we began our jaunt. The group took the right from the parking lot along the Maclay Flat Nature Trail and made frequent stops to look for birds amongst the ponderosa stands, in the scattered wetlands, and ensconced within the grassy areas.
The first birds were heard before they were seen. Western Wood-Pewees called confidently from all directions. They soon became easy to see and were the birds that we saw most abundantly during the walk. Yellow Warblers soon made themselves known. A bevy of Chipping Sparrows flitted about in the woodlands. Five Wood Ducks had quietly stationed themselves in one of the ponds below Blue Mountain Road. We suspect there were juveniles, females, and eclipse males present.
The next pond that we visited produced the crown jewel of the day. In the center of shallow waters, a Sora meandered about with complete indifference to our presence. We trained our binos, scopes, and cameras on it for 20 minutes. Though we were tempted to spend the rest of our time observing this bird, we departed before it did. What a great encounter with a normally furtive species!
In the meadows towards the western section of the loop, we encountered two Cedar Waxwings, a male Western Tanager, a Downy Woodpecker, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Tree Swallows, and Red-winged Blackbirds.
We finished off our morning with a stop by the Bitterroot River. Here, many Cedar Waxwings were hawking insects on the wing, two Spotted Sandpipers bopped their rumps characteristically along the rock banks, and we had an unconfirmed sighting of an American Robin.
The group’s mood was jovial as we returned to our cars. The heat of the day was rising, but we dallied to discuss enthusiastically what we had seen. It was a very satisfying morning spent appreciating winged creatures in one of the beloved recreational spots of Missoula. Please join us for the next in the series at Council Grove State Park Saturday September 10th 8-10am.