There are a variety of other good birding places in the Flathead Valley encompassing a variety of different habitat types. Below is a great list to get you on your way! (See the publications at the bottom for maps and lists to take with you.)
- Owen Sowerwine Natural Area
- West Valley Ponds
- Lower Valley
- Lawrence Park
- Smith Lake
- Lone Pine State Park
- Jewel Basin Hiking Area
- Tally Lake Campground
- Danny On Trail
Glacier National Park Area
Areas west of the Flathead Valley
Areas southeast of the Flathead Valley
Areas northwest of the Flathead Valley
Owen Sowerwine Natural Area
This gem is an outstanding 442 acres of undisturbed riparian bottomland located along the eastern outskirts of Kalispell. Flathead Audubon and Montana Audubon manage this special birding hotspot. Most of the area lies on the east side of the Stillwater River, accessible primarily by boat. There is a network of maintained trails on the west side of Owen Sowerwine and the first 600 feet of the main trail (Treasure Lane entrance) is ADA accessible.
Birders who will be visiting Owen Sowerwine (one of the brochure’s “hotspots”) may wish to look at the list of birds specific to the area which can be found on the Owen Sowerwine page. Birders are encouraged to report any species they see at Owen Sowerwine that are not on the OSNA list.
to access by boat: Float about a mile downstream from the Conrad Drive bridge over the Stillwater River located just east of intersection with Willow Glen. Or, paddle up river (it is very slow in the summer) from 2 miles downstream via the county river access located at the end of Leisure Lane (off Willow Glen). Floaters get a chance to explore the islands that comprise the bulk of the area, and the highest quality habitat. There are no maintained trails on these islands, please use caution in the dense understory.
Directions for hiking: From downtown Kalispell, take 2nd Street east towards Woodland Park. Continue about a mile on Conrad Drive to the flashing red light. Turn right (south) on Willow Glen and drive 0.9 miles and turn left onto Treasure Lane, or drive 1.1 miles south and turn only Greenridge Drive (then left and right to parking). Limited parking is located at both entrances; please do not block any driveways. From Highway 93 heading north to Kalispell, access Willow Glen from the Toyota dealership (Four Corners) intersection, about 3 miles south of town. Greenridge Drive is 1.5 miles north of Four Corners, and Treasure Lane is 1.7 miles north of Four Corners.
Habitat: The area consists of mature cottonwood gallery forests with dense understory, riparian shrubs, backwater channels and the Stillwater River. Birch, spruce and forest openings add diversity.
Birds: Over 150 species of birds have been recorded in this designated Important Bird Area. A spring hike on the unimproved trails will provide Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos, Gray Catbird, Bullock’s Oriole, Black- headed Grosbeak, White-breasted Nuthatch, Least and Willow Flycatcher, Red-naped Sapsucker and Yellow Warbler. Look around the huge cottonwood snags for Pileated Woodpecker and Vaux’s Swift, as this is one of the best local areas for both. Along the river you will find Common Goldeneye, Hooded and Common Mergansers, Wood Ducks, Osprey, Eagles, and Great Blue Heron (there is a heronry on the north end of Leisure Island). There is also a small resident flock of Wild Turkey.
Seasons/regulations: Year-round but trail may be icy and slick in winter and flooded in the late spring/early summer. Because this is DNRC property, State Lands Recreation Permits are required, and the area is open to hunting – see FWP regulations for the area.
West Valley Ponds
The area known locally as “West Valley” lies between Kalispell and Whitefish west of Highway 93 and offers a variety of habitats from lakes and wetlands to agricultural fields and conifer forests. This birding loop can start at either Whitefish or Kalispell with a return via Highway 93. Many of the roads are not paved and can be muddy in the spring or after rains; in winter some roads may be drifted over. On your return, you can turn west into the county sanitary landfill and observe a number of gull species that often concentrate there. The length is about 20 miles one way.
Directions: From Highway 2 west of Kalispell, head north for 3/4 mile on North Meridian Road Turn left on Three Mile Drive (which becomes Farm to Market Road) and continue about 4 miles north and west to West Valley Drive, passing farm land and spring creek habitats. Turn right (north) on West Valley Drive, go north 2.5 miles, almost to Clark Drive looking for raptors and farmland species. Stop at the new West Valley Ponds Viewing area and scan the ponds for a variety of wildlife.
Get back on West Valley Drive and continue north to Clark Drive. Turn right onto Clark Drive, which soon turns to a gravel road.
North of the road is a wetland and pasture complex that holds migratory waterfowl spring and fall, Sandhill Crane, shorebirds and nesting grassland birds. Continue east on this gravel road up a hill and bear left (north) on West Spring Creek Road and continue north past other nice wetlands/ponds to Church Drive (paved). Go left on Church Drive for 1/4 mile along a large shrubby shelterbelt, and continue north on Fox Farm Road where Church Drive turns left. You will jog north and west, passing from farmlands to patches of Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine, and crossing a spring creek.
After 2 miles, Fox Farm Road joins West Valley Drive. Turn north to the intersection with the paved Spring Prairie Road continuing left (west) onto Kuhns Road passing the Kuhns Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which is open for foot traffic from May 15th to November 30th each year. Continue on Kuhns Road for 2 miles to Farm to Market Road near milepost 12. Turn right (north) on Farm to Market Road passing forested state lands on the west (parking areas are open for biking and hiking year round) and Kuhns WMA on the right. After 1.7 miles, turn right (northeast) onto Lodgepole Road, which becomes Twin Bridges Road, bear right as it approaches Whitefish. Where you intersect with Highway 93 west of Whitefish, you will be at the west end of Spencer Lake (a loon-nesting lake) where you can pull over and walk along part of the south shore (better views exist at a large pull-out off the highway above the lake). Head east 4 miles to Whitefish on Highway 93.
Habitat: This loop includes a mix of grain fields, haylands, spring creeks small shallow pothole wetlands, and low elevation Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine stands. The route passes by or through several patches of coniferous forest where you can find a variety of woodland species. Near Whitfish, the route passes by Spencer Lake, a nesting lake for Common Loon, usually there from ice-out in early April through early fall.
Birds: These pothole wetlands offer great views of migratory waterfowl during spring and fall, as well as the best local diversity of shorebirds during fall migration (July-October) including Pectoral Sandpiper, and Long-billed Dowitchers Raptors are abundant along the rural roads year-round, but this is one of the best areas of the valley for observing high density of wintering raptors such as Red-tailed (including Harlan’s) and Rough-legged Hawk, Bald Eagle and Prairie Falcon, and in some winters, Snowy Owl. This entire area is private land, but offers great viewing from the roadsides. On the ponds look for Eared and Horned Grebes, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Cinnamon Teal in spring and summer. Many species of ducks breed here while the surrounding fields usually support a few pairs of Sandhill Crane, which also gather here in large numbers in the fall. Less common, but regular migrants include Snow and Ross’s Geese (in spring) and Bonaparte’s Gull. Savannah and Vesper Sparrow, Western Meadowlark and Gray Partridge are common along the roadsides. Watch for flocks of American Pipit, Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting in winter (October-March).
Seasons: Year-round with some roads being icy, snow-covered or drifted in winter and muddy in spring.
Directions: Lower Valley Road is acessible from Highway 93 (along with Willow Glen) at the Toyoto Dealership (Four Corners) south of Kalispell; turn east and immediately southeast again onto Lower Valley Road. Continue on Lower Valley or other farm roads south and east toward Bigfork (about 15 miles) where you will end up on the cuttoff road (Highway 82) between Bigfork and Somers.
Habitat: Agricultural lands, homesteads, and some developments, interspersed with riparian forests, creeks, sloughs, upland shrub (hawthorn, rose and snowberry) and grassland areas. Notable pothole wetlands are located on North Somers and Farm Roads. Some of these wetlands may be dry in drought years.
Birds: The pothole wetlands support breeding Eared Grebe, Redhead, Ruddy Duck, Common Goldeneye, other ducks and small numbers of Black Tern. Sora, Virginia Rail and Wilson’s Phalarope families can be seen in summer, followed by a wide variety of sandpipers (mid-August is best). The agricultural lands are interspersed with riparian and upland shrub areas where Clay-colored Sparrows breed, Savannah Sparrows are abundant also. Common breeding raptors include Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle and Northern Harrier. Church Slough, about 5 miles from Highway 93 just east of the Ashley Creek bridge, is one of the best places for migratory waterfowl in early spring, with thousands of Tundra Swan, geese, and a wide variety of duck in late March and early April. It is the most reliable place in the Flathead Valley to find Greater Scaup and Eurasian Wigeon. Rough-legged and Red-tailed (including Harlan’s) Hawks, falcons and even the occasional Snowy Owl hunt the lower valley fields in winter. The Blasdel Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) on North Somers Road is the only sizeable piece of public land here, and offers grassland, shrub and wetland birds such as Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Marsh Wren and several sparrow species. The WPA is closed from March 1st through July 1st to protect nesting birds.
Seasons: Year-round. Some roads are gravel and can be dusty in summer and slick in winter.
This city park is located below the Buffalo Hill Golf Course at the north end of Kalispell. Lawrence Park includes a developed park, wetlands, mature trees and a walking/biking trail through mixed riparian habitats along the Stillwater River.
Directions: From downtown Kalispell, follow Highway 93 North (Main Street) across Highway 2; in about 1/4 mile bear right on Main Street where Highway 93 veers left (notice public golf course signs). The entrance to Lawrence Park is on the right, just before the road heads uphill to the golf course. There are several parking areas.
Habitat: This area along the Stillwater River has birch, large cottonwoods, and dense dogwood understory. There are also cattail wetlands associated with a backwater slough of the Stillwater. If you park at the farthest (east) end of the road, you can walk on the bike trail to the original waterworks for Kalispell, with a mixture of thinned forest and dense riparian shrubs.
Birds: A variety of woodpeckers nest here, from Downy up to Pileated. Wood Ducks are easily found. Black-chinned Hummingbird and Lazuli Bunting are among the more interesting breeding birds and Cooper’s Hawk have also nested in the past. At the south end of the park, near the playground and pavilion, is the most natural area. This swampy tangle supports Red-eyed Vireo and Black-headed Grosbeak in the overstory, Northern Waterthrush and Yellow Warbler in the understory. Blue Jays are common in the neighborhoods surrounding the park. Listen for them here.
Seasons: Open year-round.
A short drive west from Kalispell takes you to this complex of large, shallow wetlands and marsh scattered, among agricultural lands, ringed by productive stands of willow and other shrubs and a few stands of dry coniferous forest.
Directions: From the intersection of Highway 93 and Highway 2 in Kalispell, head west on Highway 2 for 9 miles, turning left at the fishing access sign toward the town of Kila. Continue around the lake by bearing left across the Ashley Creek bridge and continuing to the public fishing access. From here you can continue driving on gravel roads around Smith Lake, past the Batavia Waterfowl Production Area back to Kalispell.
Habitat: Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area is a large shallow wetland and extensive peat marsh that supports bull rush, cattails, and tall inpenetrable grasses. This area can flood dramatically in the spring but will dry out considerably in hot summers. The Smith Lake Road that goes along the back side of the lake borders upland grasslands and Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir stands as well as some rocky cliffs. Ashley Creek is lined with riparian shrubs such as willow, red-osier dogwood and Douglas hawthorn.
Lone Pine State Park
Lone Pine State Park was established in 1947 and is the second oldest state park in Montana. The park covers 270 acres of forest habitat and has over seven miles of hiking trails. Lone Pine offers an excellent birding opportunity and is home to several different species of songbirds and raptors. The park is located five miles southwest of Kalispell, above Foy’s Lake. From downtown Kalispell, go west on U.S. Highway 2 to Meridian Road. Turn left on Meridian Road and follow through a roundabout, where it becomes Foy’s Lake Road. Follow this road up a long hill and through a series of curves. Watch for a brown state park sign and turn left onto Lone Pine Road. Follow the road to the top of the hill and through the park entrance gate. There is a $5 entrance fee for out-of-state vehicles.
For information, contact Lone Pine State Park
300 Lone Pine Road
Kalispell, MT 59901
Jewel Basin Hiking Area
Jewel Basin is a specially designated backcountry area at the north end of the Swan Mountain Range east of Kalispell and southeast of Columbia Falls. It includes 15,349 acres for hiking and camping, 27 alpine lakes and 50 miles of hiking trails. The mountains are forested with spruce, fir and some whitebark pine. Mount Aeneas is the highest peak at 7,528 feet. Mount Aeneas is the site of the American Bird Conservancy’s Hawk Watch. Seventeen species of migrating raptors, particularly accipiters, have been counted here between late August and mid-October. Jewel Basin also offers opportunities to observe many other bird species, such as, Cassin’s Finch and Olive-sided Flycatcher, in addition to fishing, wildlife and wildflower viewing opportunities. Jewel Basin may be accessed from the west from near Bigfork and Echo Lake and also from the east from Hungry Horse Dam. Group size is limited.
For information, contact:
Hungry Horse Ranger District Office
10 Hungry Horse Drive
Hungry Horse, MT 59919
Swan Lake Ranger District Office
200 Ranger Station Road
Bigfork, MT 59911
Flathead National Forest
Forest Supervisor’s Office
650 Wolfpack Way
Kalispell, MT 59901
Tally Lake Campground
This Forest Service Road heads to a popular large lake within the Tally Lake Ranger District northwest of Kalispell and southwest of Whitefish. It offers a pleasant (though sometimes bumpy and dusty) drive through forested streamsides and mature mixed larch forest. The Tally Lake Road eventually brings you to a Forest Service campground (follow signs) with parking, swimming and walking trails through great streamside birding habitat.
Directions: From Kalispell, go north on Highway 93 to Reserve Drive, and continue west 4 miles to Farm to Market Road. Turn right on and proceed north 9 miles to the Tally Lake Road (FS 913), where you turn left. From here it is about 7 miles on dirt road to the campground. From Whitefish, take Highway 93 west 4 miles to Twin Bridges Road, proceeding just over 2 miles west to Farm to Market Road. Turn left (south) on Farm to Market Road, and proceed 2 miles to the Tally Lake Road (FS 913) and proceed west about 7 miles to the campground.
Habitat: Low elevation mixed mature larch and Douglas fir forests, streamside willow, alder, and cottonwood forest habitats, and lakeshore.
Birds: Beginning from the start at Farm to Market Road, look for Northern Waterthrush and more around milepost 3 in the roadside willow/alder habitats. Townsend’s Warbler can be heard and seen in the mature larch near milepost 4. At Tally Lake where Logan Creek enters the lake (north shore), you can find Wilson’s, MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warblers during the nesting season. Watch also for American Redstart, Fox Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Willow Flycatcher, Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds, Gray Catbird and Cedar Waxwing. Both Common Loon and Bald Eagle breed along the lakeshore. Late evenings along Logan Creek upstream of the lake might yield Great Horned, Northern Saw-whet, Barred or even Great Gray Owls.
Seasons: Best in late spring, summer and fall.
Danny On Trail
Named for a favorite local outdoor enthusiast and naturalist from Whitefish, this trail starts from the base of the Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort and ends at the Summit House on the top of Big Mountain. Between Memorial and Labor Days, the resort offers chair and gondola rides for a fee both up and down the mountain so that you have the option of hiking just up or down the trail rather than a round trip. The trail gains about 2,000 feet vertically passing through some wonderful birding habitat. Plan at least 2 – 4 hours going up depending on your fitness and how many bird stops you make. Wear good hiking shoes and take a lot of water.
Directions: From Whitefish, follow the signs to Whitefish Mountain Resort by driving north on Wisconsin Avenue across the railroad tracks for a few miles, turning right on the Big Mountain Road. The road will continue climbing for 4 miles, ending at the Whitefish Mountain Resort. Follow signs to the public parking area, Birch Lot, located just below the upper village area. You can access the lift next to the lot or head to the trailhead by hiking up the stairs to the left of the quad lift (to the upper acess road) and turning right to find the start of the trail.
Habitat: The trail winds through mid-elevation forests, open meadows, and numerous emphemeral streams, up to subalpine and exposed near-timberline habitats on the very top.
Birds: During late May and early June on the lower part of the trail you will hear Townsend’s Warbler. Watch the tops of the trees for this exceptionally beautiful bird. The trail is also an excellent place to see Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped, and MacGillivray’s Warbler, as well as Golden-crowned and Ruby- crowned Kinglet. Other common birds on the lower part of the trail are Swainson’s Thrush, Townsend’s Solitaire, Cassin’s Vireo and Warbling Vireo. Most of the flycatchers can be seen here, particularly Olive- sided Flycatcher. About half way up, the trail turns north up the left side of a deep draw. After the next ski run the habitat becomes wet subalpine forest and brushfields. Here you will find Pacific Wren, Hermit Thrush and Varied Thrush, as well as Fox Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow near the top of the mountain. The deck of the Summit House is a good place to relax and enjoy a stunning view as well as watch for raptors.
Seasons: Best Memorial Day through late July. Late summer can be ideal for hiking, but birding conditions do slow by August. The lift is open daily for sight-seeing mid-June through Labor Day and then weekends through the end of September.
Glacier National Park
No visit to the Flathead is complete without a trip to Glacier National Park, and indeed this is often where visitors focus their time. Pick up a park map at the entrance. Some of our most unique and rewarding birding opportunities are found in the park, which is about 35 miles northeast of Kalispell off Highway 2.
Foremost among these are close-up views of the Harlequin Ducks that breed along McDonald Creek. Look for them in May and June along the upper reaches, from Avalanche Creek to Logan Creek along the roadside. The “Red Rocks” pullout above Avalanche is often best. American Dippers are all along this reach as well.
LoganPass is the place for White-tailed Ptarmigan, one of our most sought-after birds. Look along the trail (boardwalk) to Hidden Lake, especially right after daybreak. The tundra here also supports Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and American Pipits, and check the surrounding low spruce for White-crowned Sparrow and Hermit Thrush.
The rustic Inside North Fork Road offers the best chances in the region to find Spruce Grouse, Great Gray Owl, Three-toed Woodpecker, LeConte’s Sparrow and a host of other forest and meadow species. Check the meadow edges, burned stands and small lakes (Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe) especially, along this 30 mile route from Apgar to Polebridge. Black-backed Woodpecker and Northern Hawk-Owl have nested in the burned areas here in recent years.
A more vehicle-friendly option is to check the Fish Creek Campground first for such cedar specialties as Varied Thrush; then take the Camas loop to the North Fork, stopping at McGee Meadows for Common Snipe and LeConte’s Sparrow. Watch for Boreal Chickadee in these areas as well.
Marias Pass to Browning
Marias Pass (90 miles east of Kalispell on Highway 2) offers some of the most accessible higher elevation wetlands in this portion of the state. The ponds, streams and willow flats (e.g. along the Firebrand Pass Trail) support Willow Flycatcher, Wilson’s and MacGillivray’s Warbler, Lincoln’s and Fox Sparrow, Northern Waterthrush, Common Snipe, Ring-necked Duck, and Barrow’s Goldeneye. Continuing east toward Browning you pass through marshy potholes in grassland, with nesting Horned Grebes, Black Terns, many duck species, and even a few pairs of Trumpeter Swans. Watch here also for Golden Eagles and migrant shorebirds. Pull well off the road when viewing here; the highway traffic is fast-paced.
Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge
Thirty miles west of Kalispell is one of the newest additions to the National Wildlife Refuge system. It is most easily reached by turning north off Highway 2 on the Pleasant Valley Road at Marion, which passes by Bitterroot Lake and goes over Haskill Pass before dropping into the Pleasant Valley. During the summer months this intermountain grassland supports Vesper and Savannah Sparrows, Mountain Bluebirds and Western Meadowlarks. Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Black Terns, Horned, Eared and Red-necked Grebes, among others, nest around the shores of Dahl Lake. In the spring and fall the lake hosts thousands of migrating waterfowl. Pleasant Valley Road passes through wet meadows (look for Common Snipe) and along Pleasant Valley Creek. In the bushes and trees beside the road look for Willow Flycatcher, Western Tanager, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler and Red-naped Sapsucker. The refuge headquarters are at the western end of the refuge off Lost Prairie Road.
Thompson Chain of Lakes
This 3,000-acre area, reaching from McGregor Lake to Loon Lake, offers opportunities for camping and fishing as well as birding. Waterfowl is abundant and loons have historically nested on these lakes. Adjacent uplands provide opportunities for viewing prairie and forest birds. The Thompson Chain of Lakes is located along Highway 2 approximately 40 miles west of Kalispell.
For information, contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
490 N. Meridian
Kalispell, MT 59901
Bull River Wildlife Management Area
The 1800-acre Bull River WMA is located between the East and West Cabinet Mountains in the headwaters of Bull River and Lake Creek drainages. It encompasses wetland, lake and streamside habitats, as well as an upland boreal forest, to provide outstanding birding opportunities. The Bull River WMA is located about 20 miles south of Troy and immediately South of Bull Lake along both sides of Highway 56.
For information, contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
490 N. Meridian
Kalispell, MT 59901
The 18,500-acre National Bison Range, established in 1908, is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation and consists of native Palouse Prairie, forests, wetlands and streams. More than 200 species of birds share the area with 350 to 450 bison. The entrance to the National Bison Range is located off Highway 200 at Moiese and is most easily accessed from Highway 93 about 75 miles south of Kalispell.
For information, contact National Bison Range
132 Bison Range Road
Moiese, MT 59824
Fifty miles south of Kalispell at the outlet of Flathead Lake, Polson provides the best local opportunity to find rare gulls and serves as the gateway to the Mission Valley, one of the best winter raptor areas in the western U.S. Stop at Boettcher Park, along the lakeshore behind (north of) the golf course east of town, to scan the lake for migrant loons and waterfowl. Pacific Loons occur annually here among the migrant flocks (Nov.). Pygmy Nuthatches are common in the ponderosa pines here. The waterfront along downtown is often good for gulls; Mew, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, and Thayer’s occur most years among the larger flocks of common species (mostly Ring-billed). The Polson sewer ponds often host these species as well and are a great place to find Barrow’s Goldeneye. Take 7th Avenue west off Main, which becomes Kerr Dam Road. Montana’s only Little Gull was sighted here in November of 1999. The river below has yielded Pomarine Jaeger, White-winged and Surf Scoter, Dunlin, and Rusty Blackbird in recent years (in fall). Continuing south from here past the Pablo National Wildlife Refuge into the open habitats of the Mission Valley provides extraordinary opportunity to study the various plumages of wintering Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, as well as Prairie Falcons (common) and Gyrfalcons (rare but regular).
This exceptional wetland complex contains over 800 glacial potholes and a 1,770-acre reservoir. It was established in 1921 and is located within the Flathead Indian Reservation. An access road and paved trail provide for waterfowl and shorebird viewing where about 200 bird species have been recorded. Great Blue Herons, Double-crested Cormorants, ducks, grebes, Short-eared Owls and a wide variety of songbirds can be observed, along with superb viewing of raptors during the winter. Ninepipe NWR is located just south of Ronan along Highway 93; Pablo NWR is north of Ronan to the west of Highway 93. Watch for refuge, Waterfowl Production Area, and Wildlife Management Area signs. The refuges are crossed by several county roads.
For information, contact Ninepipe and Pablo National Wildlife Refuges
132 Bison Range Road
Moiese, MT 59824
Swan Lake Area
A visit to these sites about 38 miles southeast of Kalispell along Highway 83 on the southeast shore of Swan Lake always produces some birding rewards, especially in spring and summer. Start at the boat ramp and swimming area, at the base of the hill before the Swan Lake townsite. Trails from the generous parking available here wind through a stand of cottonwoods, dogwood and other shrubs. Red-naped Sapsucker, Hammond’s Flycatcher, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, and Black-headed Grosbeak are easily found. The swampy area across the highway at the entrance to the campground, also with parking, offers Vaux’s Swift, Rufous Hummingbird, and Warbling and Red- eyed Vireos. Next visit Bog Road, part of the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge. This is a small dirt road to the right 2.2 miles south of the boat ramp area, marked with a Watchable Wildlife sign. A viewing platform here helps yield views of Common Snipe, American Bittern, Black Tern, and other marsh residents. Less common visitors have included Bobolink, Loggerhead Shrike, Lark Sparrow and even an Eastern Phoebe. Watch for Vaux’s and Black Swifts overhead on overcast summer days. Check the area around the Swan River bridge on the Porcupine Creek Road, which heads west 1.6 miles further south on Highway 83, and round out your day’s list with Fox Sparrow, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Ruffed Grouse and Varied Thrush. The Nature Conservancy owns the Swan Oxbow Preserve off Porcupine Road (see signs) that offers several hiking trails. Chestnut-backed Chickadees nest here.
Eureka and vicinity
70 miles northwest of Kalispell and just 7 miles south of the Canadian border, the town of Eureka sits on the edge of the Tobacco Plains, an area of remnant Palouse Prairie with some pothole lakes. The Dancing Prairie Preserve near the airport north of town (owned by The Nature Conservancy) offers the best remaining example of this habitat and supports Grasshopper, Vesper and Savannah Sparrows, Long-billed Curlew, Mountain and Western (rarer) Bluebirds. About 4 miles north of town on Highway 93, Burma Road heads east up onto the foothills through irrigated hayfields (Bobolink), natural shrubfields (Clay-colored Sparrow, Willow Flycatcher, Lazuli Bunting, MacGillivray’s Warbler), and aspen groves (Red-naped Sapsucker, Warbling Vireo), ending at the DeRozier Wildlife Management Area. This state-owned area is managed as winter range for elk, and offers great birding for all the above species and more (e.g. Blue Grouse). For the more adventuresome, the Ten Lakes Hiking Area on the Kootenai National Forest above and to the east of Eureka is accessible by trails from the valley or from the end of the Grave Creek Road south of town. Hikes to Bluebird and Wolverine Lakes pass through spruce-fir forest with nesting Boreal Chickadees and White-winged Crossbills.
Montana FWP has released their lates list of birds found across the state of Montana. The Checklist of Montana Birds – August 2018 includes whether the birds are breeding in the state as well as their presence in winter.
Flathead Audubon has published a printable bird checklist and hotspot guide called Birding Hotspots in the Flathead Basin.
In cooperation with a few area chambers, Flathead Audubon published a brochure with a list of local hotspots with descriptions.