On Friday, 9/21, participants in our Bird Migration Celebration field trip witnessed an unusual bird flying over our raptor observation site. One of the visitors first called the bird to the group’s attention. Raptor Counter Eric Rasmussen quickly got it in the spotting scope. Its flight pattern looked falcon-like. As it moved closer, Eric noticed its owl-like facial disk, unlike any hawk. But it also had an unusually long tail for an owl. Northern hawk owl!!
The northern hawk owl flew right over the observers, made a few passes at the great horned owl decoy, and then continued flying south.
This observation represents a first for the Bitterroot Valley. In Montana, most northern hawk owls breed in the northwestern part of the state, in and around Glacier National Park. People occasionally see them in other areas, but usually in low numbers in the non-breeding season.
Many thanks to field trip participant Nathan DeBoer for photos of the northern hawk owl.
Kate graduated from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Conservation Biology in 2000. She pursued a M.S. in Forestry at the University of Montana where her thesis focused on the habitat associations of snowshoe hares on U.S. National Forest land in Western Montana. After completing her M.S. degree in 2003, Kate alternated between various field biology jobs in the summer and writing for the U.S. Forest Service in the winter. Her fieldwork included projects on small mammal response to weed invasions, the response of bird communities to bark beetle outbreaks and targeted surveys for species of concern like the black-backed woodpecker and the Northern goshawk. Writing topics ranged from the ecology and management of western larch to the impacts of fuels reduction on riparian areas.
Kate coordinates bird-related research at the MPG Ranch. She is involved in both original research and facilitating the use of the Ranch as a study site for outside researchers. Additionally, Kate is the field trip coordinator and website manager for the Bitterroot Audubon Society. She also enjoys gardening and biking in her spare time.