Camping and birding at one of our favorite spots on earth…Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in the Centennial Valley, near the Continental Divide on the Montana-Idaho border. This year, the Centennial is lush, green and full of wildflowers with both the Upper and Lower lakes full to the brim. We saw over forty species. The weather was cool at night with a refreshing shower on day one. We fought the skeeters to a standstill. All photos are stock unless otherwise noted.

SHORT-EARED OWL. What a treat! Short-eared owls are one of the few owls to hunt during daylight and this one put on a show…soaring and gliding over the grasslands and wildflowers looking for prey, then coming to a complete stop on the ground to stare us down!!

Short eared owl (Asio flammeus)

The Lower Lake offers outstanding birding. This year we found a gravel/sand/mud bar that was loaded: Marbled Godwit, Franklin’s Gull, Long-billed Dowitcher, American Avocet, Wilson’s Phalarope, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and California Gull all gathered together.

Marbled Godwit…Lower Red Rock Lake

FORSTER’S TERN. Watching this athletic bird soaring and swerving and crash diving for baitfish…whatta show!

Family group of Ruddy Ducks. Photo by Janet Dochnahl.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT. This striking bird is easy to hear but hard to see. We finally caught up with one using the Merlin App. to ID the song and eventually spot the bird.

TRUMPETER SWAN. The Red Rocks NWR is a protected breeding ground for the swans. We found a pair of adults with five cygnets trailing behind (stock photo).

TREE SWALLOWS and MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS. The long fencerows of the Centennial Valley are dotted with miles of nesting boxes. The swallows and bluebirds compete for these boxes but it seems they co-exist peacefully after the dust clears. We saw good numbers of adult birds and fledglings and were wondering out loud do some of these birds double-clutch?

LINCOLN SPARROW. This jaunty, secretive bird takes some commitment to spot. They sneak and skulk near ground cover only to vanish in plain sight. Their distinctive song gives them away but a PID takes patience!

WHITE-FACED IBIS. It seems these impressive birds are on the rise at Red Rock Lakes and selective areas of Montana. We counted over fifty birds passing over us at low altitude in small groups. The Refuge is definitely a major breeding ground for them.

We love Red Rock Lakes. Walk The Earth.