As the end of October soon approaches I have found myself surprised at how fast the time has gone by and how quickly the composition of migrants has shifted. The skies here are no longer dominated by the somewhat chaotic, but absolutely beautiful kettles of Swainson’s hawks. They are now filled with the elegant, arctic-breeding rough-legged hawks. Many rough-legged migrants have been taking their time to hover hunt the nearby fields and coulee in hopes of a convenient meal while passing through, showing me a lovely display of their gorgeous plumage as they fan their tails and wings wide as they stay locked in place midair.
There were a few exciting days earlier this month where the red-tailed hawks took flight in great numbers (many taking their time and frequenting the local fields or perched on poles waiting for the perfect moment to take flight). I hope to still see some more Harlan’s hawks as well; we have seen a fair number, but usually no more than a handful or so in one day.
It was interesting seeing the waterfowl start making their way south as well. The tundra swan and sandhill cranes have been some of my favorites to learn with their unique bugles and calls that can be unmistakably recognized in the distance and overhead.
I’ve had a small sample of the charismatic winds and chilly temperatures of Cut Bank. I know they are nowhere near a Montana winter yet, but definitely a good enough taste for a Virginian that loves the heat. I experienced my first snow in October which did not stay for too long in Cut Bank, but has kept the mountains in Glacier with a beautiful snow-cladded appearance.
I am looking forward to what the last week or two has in store for the migrants!