The snow stopped, and melted, turning from a blizzard-like flurry, into a beautiful spring evening, in a matter of minutes, yesterday. You've got to love the spring! So, while we had clear roads, and fairly clear skies, we gathered the children, binoculars in hand, into the van, and headed out on a nest spotting drive (with the younger children anyway, because we had to drop the two oldest at youth group, on the way).
The Man of the House took us by a cavity nest, he'd spotted earlier in the week, on a business call.
But, for the most part we were looking for nests in trees...
Some, like this hawk's nest, even had a mother bird in residence. We kept our distance, but even so, she gave us a nice loud hawk scream of greeting/warning.
Of course, we had to stop to take a quick picture of a neighbor's domestic Bison, for you non-Montanans, just to prove we are in Montana (in case the mountains in the backgrounds of our photos aren't proof enough).
And, we spent quite a bit of time trying to count a herd of elk, grazing near the road. We lost count somewhere around fifty-nine.
On the way to take a look at an osprey nest, we caught sight of this little guy, fleeing the scene.
It was a good thing too, because near the osprey nest (which also had a bird in residence), we spotted a hawk's(?) nest, and while we were watching it, a large hawk (so large in fact it may have been a golden eagle) popped up, and soared off for some evening hunting. Needless to say, we'll be returning to that spot with a spotting scope, to get a better look at the gorgeous raptors.
We'll also be returning to our church with a tape recorder (or some modern equivalent), because while we were waiting to pick up the older children, after youth group, we could hear an owl calling from a group of large trees, and being answered by what we assumed was a mate, from somewhere further away. We spent quite a bit of time listening to owl vocalizations from the online Montana field guide, but would like a recording of "our" owl, for comparison.
Taking an idea from the online resources of Carol L. Malnor and Sandy F. Fuller's The Blues Go Birding Across America, we made started a habitat map...
...first, outlining our drive on a mapquest map...
...then sketching it out larger, so we could glue on thumbprint photos from our drive...
...and finally, taking a look at the satellite images on mapquest to add in some details, like the large pond to the east of the osprey, and hawk/eagle nest, and the river, and our favorite fishing hole, to the west.
We also spent some time reading Dean T. Spaulding's Housing Our Feathered Friends, a nest themed, nonfiction book, probably best for ages 8-12...
...Yvonne Winer's Birds Build Nests, a very simple, poetic, beautifully illustrated, picture book, about all different kinds of nests, including an identification guide at the back.
And, we watched a number of the "Inside Birding" tip videos from Cornell Lab's "All About Birds" site, which proved extremely helpful on our drive.
It's great to be a homeschooler.