North to Montana

It’s really not a very lengthy trip  for me to visit Montana.  I live only 30 miles from the border.  This trip, to photograph migratory birds at several National Wildlife Refuges, took me to Northeastern Montana an area that locals call the highline.  My first stop was Bowdoin NWR.  It’s a good-sized refuge with  nearly16000 acres surrounding Lake Bowdoin.  Water levels seemed quite low this year with many of the marshy areas dry.

Lake Bowdoin at Sunrise

Lake Bowdoin at Sunrise

Here’s a sunrise image taken from the 15 mile wildlife tour loop.  Some species of birds that I was looking for were present in much lower numbers than expected or not there at all.  I speculate that Northern Montana was having a very late spring and some species still haven’t arrived.  Here’s an example of the type om images I was able to capture.

Stilt Takeoff

Stilt Takeoff

Flying Phalarope

Flying Phalarope

Ring-necked pheasant

Ring-necked pheasant

Breeding season was going strong for the pheasants and these colorful males were everywhere showing off for the ladies.

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Just as the sun was about to go down I found this common snipe calling from this fencepost along the wildlife tour loop.  Unable to approach any closer I put my 2x teleconveter on my EF800mm F5.6L lens.  Since my Canon 1d4 cannot autofocus at F11 I used a trick that’s not well-known.  Focusing in live view is possible with this combination.  It’s a bit slow but very accurate.  Works great with static subjects.

Medicine Lake NWR

Medicine Lake NWR

I then traveled several hundred miles to the east to visit Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  I had not been to this refuge before and was very anxious to try to photograph upland sandpipers and chestnut-sided longspurs which are supposed to be abundant on the refuge.  When I arrived it was obvious that spring was lagging ever further behind here.  I never did see either of these species and birds numbers seemed low.

Blue-winged teal drake

Blue-winged teal drake

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe

I ended up leaving a few days  early.  I didn’t get everything I was looking for but overall I came home with some great images.  I’d really like to visit Medicine Lake another time.  It’s beautiful country and if you could hit it right it should be a very productive place to photograph.

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Posted , updated