Birding Week in Glacier
Instructor: Denny Olson
June 27 at 6 p.m. – July 2 at 4 p.m.
Accompany us for this five-day bird extravaganza detailing the diverse and brimming biomes of Glacier. We will discuss “the things with feathers”, large and small, mottled and brilliant! By traversing through each bird paradise, we will look to the skies in search of our feathered friends, learning of their habits, morphological characteristics, and ecological importance. We will discover that these beautiful soaring creatures not only perch in our stunning park, but also in our souls.
Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp
Itinerary: (subject to change due to trail closures, weather and bird activity)
Day 1: We will meet at Field Camp at 6 p.m. for check-ins and introductions. The group will participate in a fun and engaging “Bird Synonym” quiz to get acquainted with the variety of bird species in Glacier. Afterwards, Denny will discuss his “Favorite Glacier’s Bird-Brain Stories”, before retiring for the evening.
Day 2: Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m. The group will then venture to the western shores of Lake McDonald, walking along the even-aged stand of lodgepole pines created by the Half Moon Fire. We will discuss a variety of bird species, including the numerous warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, waterfowl, and much more! After our lake area excursion, we will load up in the Glacier Institute vehicles and drive along the Inside North Fork road. Denny will lead us into the forest in hopes of finding the woodpeckers that frequent the burned tree trunks of the North Fork Valley, as well as the wetland species that inhabit the nearby meadows. We will make several stops along the old deciduous forest, burned areas, creeks, and swamps to listen for our feathered friends.
We will enjoy sack lunches in the field. The group will then hike to Howe Ridge trail, paying special attention to the colorful songbirds that frequent the flower-filled fields. Denny will also discuss the warblers, sparrows, and captivating raptors that call the North Fork Valley home. The group will then load back up in the vehicles and head to Field Camp for an afternoon break before dinner at 6 p.m. After dinner, we will preview the bird species found in the western biome of Glacier.
Day 3: Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m. After breakfast, we will venture into the northern section of the Inside North Fork Road. Along the way, we will stop at a variety of creeks and marshy areas to spot waterfowl. At Winona Lake, we will discuss the Common Loon, its nesting habits, and mating rituals. Hopefully, we will spot a pair with chicks! We will discuss the wide variety of connections between the bird species of the area – including the waterfowl, birds of prey, and songbirds. Next, we continue down the bumpy road to Quartz and Logging Creeks to observe dippers, tanagers, and more warblers.
We will have lunch at Logging Creek and then take a hike to Hidden Meadow. While hiking, we will search for more loons and possibly even see Trumpeter Swans! At the conclusion of the hike, we will make a pit-stop at Polebridge Mercantile for their delightful pastries before returning to Field Camp for the afternoon. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., followed by a short program entitled, “Birds of Glacier’s Alpine”.
Day 4: Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m. The group will then depart for the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, receiving geology and history lessons along the way. We will then stretch our legs along the McDonald Creek trail to look for Harlequin Ducks and Pacific Wrens. We will have lunch in the field before departing for the eastern side of Going-to-the-Sun road. At Siyeh bend, we will look for dippers in the creek and then take a trek along the St. Mary Falls Trail. Here, we will traverse through the burn from the Reynolds Creek Fire in search of woodpeckers, tanagers, and buntings. We will then head back to Field Camp for the afternoon. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., followed by a short program entitled, “East Side Birds of Glacier”. We will begin an introduction to different bird songs and how to identify each one by ear.
Day 5: Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m. The group will then depart for the Many Glacier area and hit the Grinnell Glacier trail to search for loons, grouse, jays, chickadees, and various other birds. The group will enjoy a sack lunch in the field, before completing the remainder of the hike. We may pit-stop at St. Mary’s Lake to look for the elusive American White Pelican. The group will arrive back to Field Camp by late afternoon. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. After dinner, we will have a free evening and perhaps enjoy a campfire and s’mores.
Day 6: Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m. Our final excursion for the trip will venture towards Marias Pass, along the eastern fringes of the park. We will stop at Tunnel Creek and Lubec Lake to search for waterfowl. The group will continue along the east side Aspen Parklands and enjoy a sack lunch at the Blackfeet Nation Overlook picnic area. We will then travel back to Field Camp, concluding the course by 4 p.m.
Food: The following meals are included: Breakfast on Day 1 through lunch on Day 5.
Accommodations: Five nights of lodging are included with the course fee. Our student cabins are basic, hostel-style cabins with 5 single beds, bedside lights, and electrical outlets. Students should be prepared to share a cabin with up to 4 other people, cabins are separated by gender. Couples may be paired up in the event there is ample space. We provide a bottom sheet for your bed as well as a pillow and pillow case, but please bring a warm sleeping bag. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp for night trips to the bathroom.
Park Entrance Fees: Participants are responsible for purchasing their park entry passes prior to the course. These can be purchased online at: https://www.recreation.gov/sitepass/74280.
Equipment: You will receive a Field Camp gear list once you register. Most importantly are comfortable hiking shoes, snacks, water bottle at least 1-2 liters, backpack, rain gear, hat, and sunscreen. Weather can be varied, especially in the higher elevations, so please be prepared with appropriate clothing, and warm layers. Binoculars are highly recommended, as well as bird field guides. Feel free to bring your spotting scope if you own one!
Physical Requirements: Moderate difficulty. Hikes each day will be a maximum of 6 miles, with up to 300 feet of elevation change.
Academic Credit: Please see our ‘2021 Academic Credit’ link on our website to learn about OPI credits for our courses.