by Darcy Thomas

Eric Godin scans with a scope and Darcy Thomas scans with binos while Grant Pegram records what they’re seeing – photo by Linda Du Lac

The first day of November brought overcast skies to the Flathead Valley making the 30 degree outside temperature feel even colder. But that was not daunting enough to stop 11 birders intent on looking for raptors around Creston. And we were well rewarded. The first bird seen was a Sharp-shinned Hawk flying around a wooded area near a field. Before long, the group had added several Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk, a Merlin, and 14 Bald Eagles.

The Merlin was sitting in a treetop at the fish hatchery, and everyone got a great view through the scope. That is except for one birder and his carpooling buddy who had dropped a phone at a previous stop and had to backtrack to find it. Thanks to location services and great memory, the phone was retrieved but the Merlin flew just as they pulled up to rejoin the group.

What we thought was our grand finale was watching five Bald Eagles on a carcass on Robocker Lane. We almost didn’t drive far enough down the road, but a passerby told Mark and Evan who led the rest of us to the spectacle. Our actual grand finale was watching two Rough-legged Hawks work a field near the hatchery. Their beautiful plumage and field markings easily seen as they were so close to us. Some of the other birds that made the day great were a Belted Kingfisher, Bohemian Waxwings, and six Great Blue Herons. 23 taxa total.