We seek to understand how birds use the habitats available and how that will change as we work to create more diverse plant communities. We also host researchers that document migrations of raptors and songbirds across MPG.
In this section of the research pages, you will find links to reports and updates from all the researchers involved with avian ecology, posted chronologically. The links will show you more in-depth reports on our findings. The three main projects covered here are:
Songbird Counts- A grid of sampling points covers MPG with 560 points. We visit each point 3 times a year, once in winter and twice during the songbird breeding season. We record, by ear or by sight, all the birds near that point for 10 minutes.
Songbird Banding- The University of Montana Bird Ecology Lab, UMBEL, runs several trapping stations at MPG as part of their regional songbird monitoring program. UMBEL sets up very fine nets that are nearly invisible to birds in brushy habitats. Songbirds fly into the nets and become entangled. The researchers take the birds from the nets and affix a numbered band to their leg before releasing them.
Raptor Research- The Raptor View Research Institute monitors raptor populations on MPG and counts raptors that migrate past MPG in the spring and fall. Raptor View researchers have placed transmitters on osprey and golden eagles that use the Bitterroot Valley.
Suppose your horse slips on a patch of ice, breaks its neck, and dies. Now what? There’s fifteen hundred pounds of carcass sitting in your pasture that needs to be disposed of. The soil is frozen, so you’re not digging the poor thing a grave. Maybe a veterinarian would take it, but I don’t know, I’m more of a goldfish type of pet owner. What if you just left it for the birds? Don’t they deal with carcasses for free?
This happened in Stevensville where birds pecked a dead horse down to bones. At the height of scavenging, more than 30 bald eagles showed up. Watching that many bald eagles is not just patriotic, it shows how important human-provided carrion is to scavengers. The Fall 2018 issue of Montana Naturalist ran an article of mine about the topic. It frames the subject around Kate Stone’s research that recruited citizen scientists and private landowners to document scavengers in the Bitterroot Valley.
Mike shot his first weapon before he could recite the alphabet. Now, understanding weapons is part of his job. His career took this trajectory after Mike gained a B.S. in Environmental Chemistry. Curious about potential pollution at a historic shooting range at MPG Ranch, he earned an M.S. in Geosciences studying the site. Strangely, the sulfur inside the trap and skeet targets posed the main threat, not the lead in the shotgun pellets. Regardless, lead contamination soon grabbed Mike’s focus. Each winter at MPG Ranch, biologists caught eagles that had lead coursing through their veins. Lead can cripple eagles flightless and even kill them. Mike soon initiated studies on scavenger ecology and began investigating the wound ballistics of rifle bullets, the suspected source of lead.
Mike often connects with the public through his writings and speaking engagements, whether it be to a local group of hunters, or a gymnasium full of middle schoolers. He frequently writes about the outdoors, with work appearing in Sports Afield, The FlyFish Journal, Backcountry Journal, and Bugle. When he escapes the office, Mike explores wild landscapes with his family, always scanning the horizon for wildlife.