Monday, January 17, 2022

Bird slog

Editor | December 22, 2021 6:30 AM

We did the Christmas bird count in Glacier Park on Sunday. The boy and I have been doing one of the longer routes — to Avalanche Creek and back — for a few years now.

This year was more work than usual, as there was about 10 inches of fresh snow to break trail through

I’ve been in much worse, of course, but it was still a slow go and took four hours to get to Avalanche. Then soles on the boy’s boot developed cracks and wouldn’t stay on. So the way back he had to walk the last couple of miles, his skis strapped to his back.

But by mid afternoon enough snowshoers had been up the road so the walking was pretty easy.

I’m glad the boots held out until we were almost done. A failure back at Avalanche would have been a far worse slog. The snow depths at the creek were about 24 inches. In the old days, when Glacier stopped plowing the road and closed the gate at the lodge in November, a base would form.

But now they plow it into December and the beginning of December was super warm anyway, so there is zero base. Even with two feet of snow, you could hear the tips of the poles hit the pavement.

The whitetail deer back there were belly dragging it.

Capping it off, there wasn’t much in the way of birds. It was kind of windy and birding in the wind is a challenge. Plus the snow had a thin layer of ice on top, which made the skiing noisy.

Hard to hear birds when the skis are so loud.

Still, we picked up some birds I admire, like American dippers and a few chestnut-backed chickadees, which are one of my favorites.

I also saw a big flock of Canada geese, way up. With such a warm fall, it seems like the migratory geese (as opposed to the local geese, which stick around all year long) are just now on the move. At any rate, they were headed west at about 6,500 feet, as opposed to south.

They had a good tail wind, it was gusting about 30 mph in the valley floor and I bet it was blowing much harder up there.

At any rate, a ski track is now broken to Avalanche Creek. Until it gets buried in snow, enjoy it. It was a fast track coming out.


Author and biologist John Fraley wrote me a quick email saying that the weasel we wrote about in last week’s paper was likely a short-tailed weasel, because it had a black-tipped tail. Least weasels don’t have a black tip tail.

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