Mt. Brown Raptor Count

Immature Golden EagleI’ve really been enjoying the raptor counts in Glacier National Park. It’s always exciting to see loads of raptors and the company has been great. With Going-to-the-Sun Road being closed at Avalanche Creek, Swiftcurrent Pass was out. The weather precluded us from going on Tuesday, but with a good forecast for Wednesday, I put out a call for anyone on that day. A new friend in Diane Lundgren was available, so up the steep Mt. Brown Lookout trail we went.

( By the way, if you’d like to get involved in raptor counts, please check out Glacier’s Citizen Science Program or check out your local Audubon Chapter for local hawk watches and other raptor counts. It’s a ton of fun!)

Lake McDonald in the FallDiane I met and met up at Glacier National Park’s biologist offices and drove up to Lake McDonald. We started heading up to a spot below the lookout on a very promising day. The sky was beautiful and the larch trees were turning their breathtaking gold making the rather humble, wooded Snyder Ridge into something noteworthy.

Steller's JayAfter climbing for a couple of hours and enjoying some engaging conversation, we entered the alpine and our perch for the next four hours or so. Before the clock struck noon, we already had a couple of Golden Eagles and were excited for the possibilities. Over the next four hours we counted over 70 Golden Eagles, a couple of Sharp-shinned Hawks, a Bald Eagle and, probably the coolest of them all, was a Goshawk that flew about 25 feet in front of me at eye level, rounded the corner and started dive-bombing an adult Golden Eagle. In addition to the raptors, we saw a Mountain Goat, a few Steller’s Jays, Clark’s Nutcrackers, a Brown Creeper, and numerous Pine Grosbeaks. After we finished at 4pm, we had another wave of seven eagles, one of which was another Bald Eagle.

Frosted FirsOverall a wonderful day. It was a bit chilly on the ridge, with frost on the subalpine firs. Eventually, enough sun came out to warm us up. One thing I love about observing raptors at that location is that some of the eagles soar up from below you. There is something fantastic about looking down on the back of a bird with a six foot wingspan.

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