By Margaret Parodi.
Seventeen people participated in the Flathead Audubon field trip to the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge (northwest of Marion) on June 19. Participants met at the refuge headquarters at 8:30 am. The day was cool, breezy, and sunny, with morning temperature in the lower 50’s, later reaching a high of 65 degrees. The trip was led by Lost Trail Wildlife Biologist and Manager Beverly Skinner.
Lost Trail NWR consists of a remnant of Palouse prairie, riparian/wetland, and larch/pine habitats. Waterfowl, shorebirds and forest birds can be seen in the area. Roads along the north and south sides of Dahl Lake are regularly closed to motorized vehicles, but field trip participants were allowed access to these roads by Beverly Skinner. This enabled us to see a lot more of the area and more birds as well.
The trip was divided into two sections. The first was on the north shore of Dahl Lake. Spotting scopes improved bird identification and viewing. At this area we saw and heard a variety of birds including trumpeter swans, ducks (including gadwall, northern shoveler – with chicks, redhead, ring-necked duck, scaup, bufflehead, and common goldeneye), and all three varieties of teal (cinnamon, blue-winged and green-winged). We were also treated to a close viewing of Wilson’s phalaropes. Overhead were turkey vultures, bald eagles, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, ravens, and ring-billed gulls. There were even sandhill cranes in the distance and a cow elk with a calf! In the marshy portions of this area were yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds, and soras were heard. Killdeer were present along the shoreline.
The second area we explored was on the south side of Dahl Lake and was a combination of lake viewing and woodland habitat. We viewed a bald eagle nest in a grove of aspens on the far side of the lake. There were three chicks in the nest. In a marshy area on the near side of the lake a red-necked grebe was sitting on a floating nest anchored in place by reeds. Other birds seen in the area included eared grebes, coots, common yellowthroats, sparrows (chipping, vesper, and savannah), and Brewers blackbirds. In the wooded area where we parked to observe the eagles, we saw and heard western wood-pewee, willow flycatcher, western tanager, warbling vireo, and Cassin’s vireo.
Thanks to Beverly Skinner’s knowledge of the area and of the birds and wildlife it was a very interesting and informative outing.