While exploring Southwest Montana, why not take a step back and focus your energy on an emersion in nature? Birding may be an activity that you have never thought of trying, but why not? Maybe you don’t even know what ‘birding’ entails. Birding is an opportunity to step into the natural world and observe its inhabitants, obviously focusing on our feathered friends, in an honest, no commitment location. Birding is a rapidly growing hobby across the United States, and is an enjoyable activity for people of all ages. Birding is an educational experience, allowing participants to focus on each individual species, opening doors to learn about migration patterns, behavior, territories and preferences. One of the most attractive aspects of birding however, is its flexibility in definition. Birders tailor the hobby to their specific interests; some focus on the science behind the birds, while others use it as an opportunity to get outdoors (hiking, gardening, woodworking, etc), still others focus on an art aspect (photography, drawing, painting, etc.).
Southwest Montana is the perfect place to begin your involvement in the birding community. The varied landscape of Southwest Montana creates numerous habitats enriching your birding experience. Southwest Montana birding trails showcase one National Wildlife Refuge, two National Historic Sites, four Wildlife Management Areas, two State Parks, five campground / recreation areas, and numerous tracts of Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands. A few of these areas are highlighted below, but be sure to explore all of the birding options in the area.
Located at the foot of the majestic Centennial Mountains, the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Lakeview, Montana is a beautiful preservation of the natural habitat. The Refuge encompasses a variety of habitats, including: lakes, marshes, wet meadows, willow riparian, grasslands, and forest habitats. This diversity provides homes to a variety of species, such as: Trumpeter Swan, Greater Sage-Grouse, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron along with a large variety of other species.
The Beartooth Wildlife Management Area is owned by Fish Wildlife and Parks, and spans over 31,000 acres and can be accessed by foot, car, boat, on horseback, or mountain bike. Located between Augusta and Wolf Creek, the Beartooth WMA is home to Trumpeter Swan, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Upland Sandpiper, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Common Loon, and so many more!
Nestled just outside of Deer Lodge is the Warm Springs Wildlife Management Area. This refuge is a complex of ponds created by ARCO in an attempt to restore and treat surface water that was affected by historic mining in the area. This area is therefore primarily wetlands, and showcases a variety of cattail, rush, sedge, water birch, alder, aspen, and willow. The birds that make their home in this area range from Snow Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose to Double Crested Cormorant and Western Flycatchers and a plethora of other species.