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18527Re: RFI: Birding Advice Eastern MT in May

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  • jamesrswanson
    Apr 14, 2014
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      I don't know if Glendive is better than Miles City, but I can tell you about some good spots in the Miles City area. 

      The Pumpkin Creek Ranch Recreation Area south of Miles City is good for prairie birds.  There are entrances at about 17 and 19 miles south of town.  At the 17 mile entrance, there is a sizeable prairie dog town where I found burrowing owls last year.  I have also found a variety of sparrows there, including Grasshopper and Brewers.  I usually don't walk in further than the reservoir near the entrance.

      At the 19 mile entrance, there is more sagebrush.  I usually walk in a mile or so and then back out.  There are Greater Sage Grouse here and Sage Thrashers.  There is also a nice assortment of sparrows in this area.  Western Meadowlarks are abundant at both locations and in the Miles City area in general.  Watch the fenceposts on your way out to these areas for Upland Sandpiper.

      Another place closer to town for prairie birds is the Spotted Eagle Recreation Area on the edge of town.  Park near the swimming area and walk past the beach and onto the trails leading into the riparian woods.  You will soon come out the other side into sage habitat that is part of the Ft. Keogh Agricultural Range.  There is not a lot of habitat here, but you can find Meadowlarks, Clay-colored and Brewers Sparrows.  You never know what will be on the lake.  I have found Clark's Grebes here.

      If you want to try a different habitat, the Pine Hills east of town on highway 12 have Pinyon Jays, Plumbeous Vireo and Cassin's Kingbird.  Strawberry Hill at the edge of the hills is an area where you can get out and walk back into the hills a little.  Check around the small reservoir near the parking area.

      As you come to the top of the hill, there is a small development of ranch homes on large plots.  I have found Krider's Red-tailed Hawk along the main road (Main Ridge Road).  Leaving the ranch home area, you pass a cattle guard.  Veer right down the hill (not a full right that does not descend) and drive about a quarter mile to a small reservoir with a picnic area.  There are turkeys here and I once flushed a Poor-will on the top of a nearby bluff so I suppose if you were there in the evening, you would hear them singing.  Plumbeous Vireos are in the pine woods.

      A little further along, near the 16 mile marker is Woodruff Park.  There is no longer a sign along the road, but a few hundred yards back at the parking area where it is partially obscured by some bushes.  You have to open a gate to get in.  Make sure to close it.  Near the gate I have had good luck finding Cassin's Kingbirds.  There are Mountain Bluebirds in the park and last year, I was lucky enough to find a Townsend's Warbler.  All through this area, there are lots of Red-breasted Nuthatches, also Western Wood Pewees and irregularly, Red Crossbills.

      Along the Yellowstone, you can check out Pirogue Island State Park and Matthews Recreation Area.  Pirogue Island is typical riparian habitat and you can also check out what is on the river from here.  Matthews is more open country and tends towards sparrows and Sharp-tailed Grouse.

      Good luck if you visit!

      James Swanson

      Miles City/Atlanta

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