Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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Christmas birding

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | December 23, 2020 1:00 AM

I did a route for the Christmas bird count on Sunday in Glacier National Park.

It seems counter productive to try to count birds on one of the darkest days of the year. But a biologist friend of mine noted it’s about keeping track of common birds. If you see something exotic, or unusual, that’s icing on the cake.

When I started out at 7:50 a.m. the wind was swaying the treetops and it was raining steadily.

My route was to Avalanche Creek and back from the Lake McDonald Lodge parking area.

For a good hour or so, I saw nothing. I always start that route out in what is almost dark because it can take awhile. For one thing, it’s about 11.5 miles round trip. Sometimes it takes a good three hours just to get to Avalanche. I’ve done the route for several years now and you never know what to expect. I’ve had deep snow, no snow and just enough snow to make life miserable.

I packed the skis in the car just in case, but there was hardly any snow on the road and there was virtually none in the woods.

So I donned my speed spikes, which are a running shoe with spiked soles. The spikes work great on icy trails and roads.

I’ve tried YakTraxs, but typically I can destroy a pair of them in a few miles. The spiked shoes, by comparison, have lasted several seasons now and show no signs of wearing out. Just don’t wear them on hardwood floors, or you’ll punch it full of little holes.

The birdwatching was uneventful. I heard more than I saw, which is a good things. I got no photos of birds. It really wasn’t light enough out to even taken a picture until 10 a.m. or so and even then, it was pretty dark.

Despite the poor weather, the birds were fairly active. The highlight of the day was a small gray bird flying through the trees at the Trail of the Cedars. I’d like to think it was a small owl, but I can’t say for sure. I also saw a flock of crossbills, which I don’t see very often. Unfortunately they were in the top of the trees and tough to ID, even with binoculars.

The walk itself is pleasant enough. I saw no people whatsoever until I got past John’s Lake on the way back. Almost everyone turns around by the time they reach Moose Country.

It’s sooooo much fun to have Avalanche to yourself. Makes it worth the effort.

Have a happy holiday.