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Birding Hotspots

The “Birding Guide to Flathead Valley of Northwest Montana” is a map featuring numerous locales to see birds as well as descriptions as to what kind of habitats and birds expected to see.

Flathead Audubon’s Birding Hotspots in the Flathead Basin guides birders to 13 local areas to see a wide variety of birds.

Birders who will be visiting the Owen Sowerwine Natural Area (one of the brochure’s “hotspots”) may wish to look at the list of birds specific to the Natural Area. Birders are encouraged to report any species they see at OSNA that are not on the OSNA list.

There are a variety of other good birding places in the Flathead Valley, besides those identified in the “Hotspots” brochure, encompassing a variety of different habitat types. Many birders enjoy checking out one of the following, for example:

1. National Bison Range
The 18,500-acre National Bison Range, established in 1908, is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation and consists of native Palouse Prairie, forests, wetlands and streams. More than 200 species of birds share the area with 350 to 450 bison. The entrance to the National Bison Range is located off Highway 200 at Moiese and is most easily accessed from Highway 93 about 75 miles south of Kalispell.

For information, contact National Bison Range
132 Bison Range Road
Moiese, MT 59824
Phone: 406-644-2211
Email: bisonrange@fws.gov


2. Ninepipe and Pablo National Wildlife Refuges
This exceptional wetland complex contains over 800 glacial potholes and a 1,770-acre reservoir. It was established in 1921 and is located within the Flathead Indian Reservation. An access road and paved trail provide for waterfowl and shorebird viewing where about 200 bird species have been recorded. Great Blue Herons, Double-crested Cormorants, ducks, grebes, Short-eared Owls and a wide variety of songbirds can be observed, along with superb viewing of raptors during the winter. Ninepipe NWR is located just south of Ronan along Highway 93; Pablo NWR is north of Ronan to the west of Highway 93. Watch for refuge, Waterfowl Production Area, and Wildlife Management Area signs. The refuges are crossed by several county roads.

For information, contact Ninepipe and Pablo National Wildlife Refuges
132 Bison Range Road
Moiese, MT 59824
Phone: 406-644-2211
Email: bisonrange@fws.gov


3. Thompson Chain of Lakes
This 3,000-acre area, reaching from McGregor Lake to Loon Lake, offers opportunities for camping and fishing as well as birding. Waterfowl is abundant and loons have historically nested on these lakes. Adjacent uplands provide opportunities for viewing prairie and forest birds. The Thompson Chain of Lakes is located along Highway 2 approximately 40 miles west of Kalispell.

For information, contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
490 N. Meridian
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: 406-752-5501


4. Bull River Wildlife Management Area
The 1800-acre Bull River WMA is located between the East and West Cabinet Mountains in the headwaters of Bull River and Lake Creek drainages. It encompasses wetland, lake and streamside habitats, as well as an upland boreal forest, to provide outstanding birding opportunities. The Bull River WMA is located about 20 miles south of Troy and immediately South of Bull Lake along both sides of Highway 56.

For information, contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
490 N. Meridian
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: 406-752-5501


5. Lone Pine State Park
Lone Pine State Park was established in 1947 and is the second oldest state park in Montana.  The park covers 270 acres of forest habitat and has over seven miles of hiking trails. Lone Pine offers an excellent birding opportunity and is home to several different species of songbirds and raptors. The park is located five miles southwest of Kalispell, above Foy’s Lake. From downtown Kalispell, go west on U.S. Highway 2 to Meridian Road. Turn left on Meridian Road and follow through a roundabout, where it becomes Foy’s Lake Road. Follow this road up a long hill and through a series of curves. Watch for a brown state park sign and turn left onto Lone Pine Road. Follow the road to the top of the hill and through the park entrance gate. There is a $5 entrance fee for out-of-state vehicles.

For information, contact Lone Pine State Park
300 Lone Pine Road
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: 406-755-2706


6.  Jewel Basin Hiking Area
Jewel Basin is a specially designated backcountry area at the north end of the Swan Mountain Range east of Kalispell and southeast of Columbia Falls. It includes 15,349 acres for hiking and camping, 27 alpine lakes and 50 miles of hiking trails. The mountains are forested with spruce, fir and some whitebark pine. Mount Aeneas is the highest peak at 7,528 feet. Mount Aeneas is the site of the American Bird Conservancy’s Hawk Watch. Seventeen species of migrating raptors, particularly accipiters, have been counted here between late August and mid-October. Jewel Basin also offers opportunities to observe many other bird species, such as, Cassin’s Finch and Olive-sided Flycatcher, in addition to fishing, wildlife and wildflower viewing opportunities. Jewel Basin may be accessed from the west from near Bigfork and Echo Lake and also from the east from Hungry Horse Dam. Group size is limited.

For information, contact:
Hungry Horse Ranger District Office
10 Hungry Horse Drive
Hungry Horse, MT  59919
406-387-3800

Swan Lake Ranger District Office
200 Ranger Station Road
Bigfork, MT  59911
406-837-7500

Flathead National Forest
Forest Supervisor’s Office
650 Wolfpack Way
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: 406-758-5200
www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/

Copyright 2016 Flathead Audubon Society