tumblr_oquwv1fhs91tmun60o1_1280

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) Trochilidae, male

Missoula, MT
May 31, 2017
Robert Niese

I spent a whole weekend trying to photograph Calliopes visiting this feeder, but they refused to participate. The RUHUs on the other hand, tolerated my presence much more and were happy to pose for me. This male was so aggressive he nearly chased me away from his feeder! How does such a tiny animal possess so much spunk?!

Advertisements

tumblr_oquwgxxzd01tmun60o1_1280

Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) Bombycillidae

Missoula, MT
April 18, 2017
Robert Niese

In early April, waxwings were migrating through town in the thousands. They paused in freshly blooming trees to gorge on buds and, in this case, last year’s fruits before continuing their trek northward. The noise and mess they created was astounding! I loved waking up to the roar of their high pitched calls. This flock consisted of around 600 Bohemian Waxwings and a few dozen Cedar Waxwings. The easiest way to tell them apart (for me, at least) is by their vent and under-tail colors. Bohemians have a rufous under-tail and a gray vent while Cedars have a gray-white under-tail and a pale yellow vent.

tumblr_oql4yzlxy91tmun60o1_1280

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) Trochilidae, male

Missoula, MT
June 12, 2016
Robert Niese

Just as the sun is setting, this hummingbird feeder becomes a hub of activity. We can have as many as 12 individuals feeding all at once! I love it! In addition to RUHUs, we also see many Calliopes and some Black-chinned hummers here.

tumblr_oql4ya7v3g1tmun60o1_1280

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) Trochilidae, male

Missoula, MT
June 12, 2016
Robert Niese

Male RUHUs are probably the first hummingbirds to arrive here in Montana in the spring. They are our most aggressive hummingbirds and will chase anything that gets too close to their territories. Look for them in moist or riparian woods throughout the Pacific Northwest from April to September. In Western Washington, males will arrive with the first blooms of Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) and Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) in late February and March.

tumblr_o956b50i4u1tmun60o1_1280

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) Pelecanidae

Yellowstone River, Saugus, MT
13 May 1975
prep. Larry DePute; photo. Robert Niese

Unlike their brown counterparts, the American White Pelican is an overland migrant, spending its winters in the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico before flying thousands of miles to breeding grounds in Canada and the northern United States. To facilitate this epic travel, these birds have an 8-10 foot wing span, the second-largest of any bird in North America. Now that we have fully articulated this massive specimen, we’re not entirely sure what to do with it… He can hardly fit through doorways!

tumblr_o8j4ukduyv1tmun60o1_1280

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) Emberizidae

Blue Mountain National Recreation Area, MT
May 13, 2016
Robert Niese

These charming birds are relatively abundant and widespread throughout North America and are a quite underappreciated bird. Here in the west, they are generally only found in or around coniferous forests and pineland savannas, whereas their eastern cousins are a much more urban or suburban bird. Their song is a loud trill which, often to the chagrin of field ornithologists, varies substantially among individuals and can easily be confused with the trills of Dark-eyed Juncos, towhees, and many species of warblers.

tumblr_o5w6l5nvd71tmun60o1_1280

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) Icteridae

April 2, 2016
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge
Robert Niese

I could photograph and listen to these birds singing all day! Unfortunately, not everyone in the car felt the same way and I only had a single joyous hour with this little guy. Learn more about the “neglected” Western Meadowlark here. Listen to its lovely song here.

tumblr_o3flgk3lkw1tmun60o1_1280

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Ardeidae

May 6, 2012
Tacoma, WA
Robert Niese

GBHs are master predators. I’ve watched these creatures consume everything from fish and insects to frogs, snakes, and rodents the size of small dogs! They also have a terrifying, rattling, squawk that never fails to make me jump out of my skin whenever I stumble upon an unsuspecting individual while I’m creeping around docks at night (looking for cool nighttime marine invertebrates, of course!). They truly are dinosaurs.

tumblr_o54wcrk3xy1tmun60o1_1280

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) Icteridae

April 2, 2016
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, MT
Robert Niese

The Western Meadowlark performs a lovely metallic flute-like song throughout the spring and summer. Its Eastern counterpart, on the other hand, has a much flatter, whistled song. Easter and Western Meadowlarks are so similar in appearance that until quite recently they were considered the same species. Since the Eastern species was discovered and named first, the Western, when it finally gained full species distinction, became known as the “neglected” meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). This species is one of the 37 (including subspecies) named by John James Audubon throughout his career as one of  America’s first ornithologists.