You can spot common mergansers like these bobbing in eddies along the Gallatin River, like this one near the “Green Bridge” leading to the Deer Creek Trailhead.

New homes, new nests for local songbirds and waterfowl

I saw my first bluebirds of the season this past week. They were checking out nesting boxes to see if any were the “right home” for them. 

     The return of mountain bluebirds is always a sure bet it’s spring… right? 

     On the drive up the canyon I noticed the Canada geese were paired up and some of them already were sitting on-nest. Look at the head and tail points of the islands and you can make out the shape of a bird on a nest. 

     The mallard ducks have been paired for some time so the hens will be on-nest and the drakes will be hanging out in bachelor groups along the river.

     The Barrow’s goldeneyes, the black and white divers making all the splashing below riffles on the Gallatin as they search for mollusks and snails, are also pairing up and the courtship antics are fun to watch.

     Common merganser, orange colored sawbill (the males have dark green heads) are also looking for mates between dives for small fishes.

     This is the type of spring that may offer the opportunity to see the Harlequin duck. Rare in Montana, but they do nest here in the small mountain streams. I have spotted them in the past sitting on the Gallatin waiting for the snow to melt so they can access their nesting areas. Best keep watch for them in areas between the 35-mph. bridge by the Lava Lake Trailhead and Deer Creek. Males look like they are dressed in a blue tuxedo. They do stand out.

     As the snow recedes and we get some more open meadows, the sandhill cranes will return to the high country. I have seen lots of pairs in the Gallatin Valley and they soon should be trumpeting to the rising sun in the mountain meadows.

     As you head up into the Meadow Village area, look and see what kind of birdlife the water and sewer district holding ponds have on them. These offer great viewing of many different species of birds from swallows to swans.

     The sediment pond—also known as Little Coyote Pond—on Little Coyote Road is always worth checking out. A flock of American avocet sifting through the mud flats for invertebrates or a pair of trumpeter swans may make the day. The sounds and colors of spring will be here soon.

               Dan Pluth runs Animal Control Solutions (www and is an avid wildlife watcher.


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Lone Peak Lookout

235 Snowy Mtn Circle
Big Sky, MT 59716

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