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The fifth winter raptor survey of the northern Bitterroot Valley was conducted on January 11, 2012. Again, the results are similar to the first four surveys. The one exception was an increase of bald eagles. There have been a few reports of bald eagles appearing in higher numbers around the state.

The ‘hot spot’, a couple miles east of Stevensville, continues to provide more than half the total of each survey. This area consists of private agricultural land that is uncultivated, but is irrigated and used for grazing cattle. Many of the raptors detected are on or near the ground actively searching for prey. These fields seem to be teeming with rodents. Mounds in the field are indicative of the northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides). I have also seen prey that appear to be mice and voles.

Results from 1/11/2012

Red-tailed hawk—23

Rough-legged hawk—16

Bald eagle—14

Golden eagle—5

American kestrel—4

Northern harrier—1

Total= 63

Rough-legged hawk at the ‘hot spot’. Eric Rasmussen

About the Author

Eric Rasmussen

Eric received a B.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana in 2000, and soon after volunteered for his first bird research job in the arctic tundra of Alaska. Afterwards he worked for nine years, mostly in western Montana, on bird-related research projects for the U.S. Forest Service.

In 2010, Eric was hired by MPG Ranch as the Bird Research Technician and now conducts breeding bird surveys, raptor migration surveys, and winter bird surveys, as well as participating in other ranch projects such as owl and raptor banding and community field trips. In his free time, Eric enjoys searching for wild mushrooms, playing ultimate Frisbee, and backcountry skiing.