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HMANA (Hawk Migration Association of North America) has set up a nationwide effort for winter raptor surveys. Following their protocol, we initiated the first of a winter-long survey on November 20th. Our route is a 55-mile loop from Lolo south to Stevensville, and ending on the ranch. We use small side roads that cover both sides of the valley. The route is driven the same direction every time, using the odometer reading to note the location of raptors. The direction and distance from the road are recorded, and when applicable the age, sex, and morph.

Through her work with Bitterroot Audubon, Kate has also enlisted someone to conduct surveys at the south end of the valley. Our data will reflect wintering raptors on and around the ranch. At the end of the season we will have combined data for the entire Bitterroot drainage.

Our results this week:

Red-tailed hawk—32

Rough-legged hawk—14

Bald eagle—8

American kestrel—2


Northern harrier—1

Cooper’s hawk—1


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.