Monday, July 22, 2013

Glacier National Park; Alpine Birding

Living here in NW Montana puts me within 3 hours of Glacier National Park, this past weekend I did a 3 day camping trip focusing on the birds the park has to offer, and to unsuccessfully search out a wolverine! The 1,013,527 acre park boasts over 2,000 plant species, 60 species of mammal and 260 species of birds. I focused mostly on the east side of the park, in the Many Glacier Valley as well as Logan's Pass at over 6.500 feet elevation. 
Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park
 My first morning I headed up Logan's Pass, the highest point on the park's famous Going to the Sun Road located along the Continental Divide. Here I easily picked up Gray-crowned Rosy-finches(lifer) and plenty of American Pipits. On my way back down from the Hidden Lake observation deck I was able to watch a female White-tailed Ptarmigan with her chicks feeding not far from the trail. Recent trends have shown the ptarmigan numbers at Logan's Pass dropping in recent years with the rise in temperatures and the rapid snow melt. This birds rely on the snow-line at this elevations to help remain cool during these hot days, this particular morning was ranging in the low 80's well before noon. The bird was situated just below the snow-line in a small wet spot, created a sort of airconditioning effect to tolerate the abnormal temperatures. 
Heading over the divide I ended up in east end of the park in the Many Glacier Valley. Boreal Chickadees were abundant through out most of the trails I hiked, especially the crowded Iceberg Lake Trail. White-crowned Sparrows, American Pipits, Pine Siskins, and Gray-crowned Rosy-finches were present through out as well. 

The Many Glacier Valley is also excellent for the mammal species of the park. Glacier NP is one of the few places left in the lower 48 states where all the native carnivores remain intact. Wolves independently returned to the park from Canada to den in the late 80s. In the late evenings the local lakes are excellent for moose viewing. I had 7 moose in one day of hiking in the area, including a cow moose with twins at Fishercap Lake. 

Hopefully I can make it back to Glacier at least once more this summer, and my goal is to spend a weekend in Yellowstone this fall.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you saw a ptarmigan! I'm the guy that does research on Ptarmies up there at Logan Pass. If you don't mind, always look for bands and let me know who and where they are. If you are interested, take a look at the Birder's Guides to Glacier National Park on . It's a blog and forum for GNP bird sightings I started this summer.