Birding the Blackfoot Valley near Ovando
Directions: The Blackfoot Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) is located along Montana Highway 200. Two main access routes lead into Browns Lake from Hwy 200, one from the town of Ovando, the other from just west of the Blackfoot WPA. Aunt Molly Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located northwest of Helmville, and is best accessed from Hwy 141 via the Cut Off Road, which is about 1.8 miles south of the junction with Hwy 200.
General information: The Blackfoot Valley offers outstanding scenery as well as great wildlife viewing. Three core birding areas in the valley provide the best public access for birding. They include Browns Lake (mostly private shoreline, but public roads and a fishing access site provide boat access and camping), Blackfoot Waterfowl Production Area, and the Aunt Molly Wildlife Management Area Waterfowl Production Area complex.
Habitats: The Blackfoot Valley near Ovando is a “prairie pothole” landscape surrounded by mountains. A mixture of intermountain grasslands, sagebrush-grasslands, agricultural fields, aspen stands, and mixed-conifer ridgetops dominate the area. Cottonwood riparian habitats can be found along the Blackfoot River and its tributaries.
Species of note: A variety of waterfowl including Snow Goose, Ross’s Goose, Trumpeter Swan, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe. Osprey, Bald and Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Sora, Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Bonaparte’s Gull, Black Tern, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, American Redstart, Clay-colored Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow, Bobolink, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Bullock’s Oriole.
Best viewing seasons: April - September; June is prime for nesting songbirds.
Download the Southwest Montana Birding Brochure
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
3201 Spurgin Road
Missoula, MT 59804
Aunt Molly WMA
Southwest Montana, Ovando