31 August 2010

What Have YOU Seen?

We so appreciate Kim Birck sending us her observations this summer, and we want to know what everyone else is seeing on their excursions out and about in Montana (and beyond!).  So, what have you seen this summer?  



Bald eagles?  

Cedar waxwings?  

Here's a picture of a western tanager that I saw while hiking up the main trail of the Rattlesnake at the beginning of the summer:

Post your observations in the comment section, or send an email to adejong [at] montananaturalist.org if you have pictures you'd like to share.  We can't wait to hear from you!

26 August 2010

American Dipper Nest

We have a few more pictures from MNHC friend Kim Birck, this time of an American Dipper nest she and her husband observed while backpacking in Idaho's Sawtooth Wilderness.  Here are her comments:

These pictures are of the mossy nest of an American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), also known as the Water Ouzel. The dipper was reportedly John Muir's favorite bird. The name "dipper" is for the bobbing motion this little gray bird makes as it stands on a rock or log in fast-moving water.

This nest was located on the side of a large rock in the middle of the falls between Middle and Upper Cramer Lakes in the Sawtooth Wilderness area near Stanley, Idaho. 

We were camped right above the falls from July 24 - 27, and were able to watch the parents coming and going, and hear the excited noises made by the chicks during each visit. 

According to my bird books, both parents feed the young, but the female does most of the work. We witnessed both parents in action, though we could not tell who was who. This may have been a second nesting, as the bird books indicate that dippers nest as early as late April. (Or maybe because of the elevation and late snowmelt, it could be a first nest.)

We watched the parents "dipping" and walking right into and under fast-flowing water in search of aquatic invertebrates to feed their young. As they entered the water, we could see a couple of their adaptive features: the protective white nictitating membrane that slides over their eyes and the extreme water repellency of their feathers.

We have seen dippers in the Missoula area, particularly in the upper reaches of Grant Creek, and have been aware that they had a nest - somewhere - but this was the first time we could actually SEE a dipper nest and watch the feeding activity.

It was fascinating to watch, and listen to, the dipper family during our 3 nights on the Cramer Lakes.