Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is near Great Falls, Montana at the western edge of the northern Great Plains and 50 miles east of the Rocky Mountains. It has many of the birds I saw at Camas Refuge in Idaho, with a few differences.
Above, eared grebe with offspring. Still seeing some young ones riding on a parent’s back. The other parent dives for food for the baby during this time. Have seen some young ones like the one above, start diving. The just stay under water a few seconds though.
Breeding sora in the marsh.
A standing yellow-bellied marmot. Have also seen a muskrat.
A night heron carrying a black bird in it’s beak, with the black bird’s significant other chasing after them. The heron disappeared with it’s prey into the marsh foliage.
A pair of western kingbirds are nesting near the refuge visitor center. They fuss at you when you pass by. Have also seen eastern kingbirds.
When I first got to Great Falls, I stayed two nights at Walmart. During the day, I took my trailer to the refuge. One night, there were around 25 other rv’s staying in the Walmart parking lot. After two days, I moved to Fort Benton. It is an unusual small town, in that it’s in a canyon made by the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark thought this area was paradise when they stopped here. It later became the last stop for steamboats from St. Louis and then a major railway stop. The fort was built to protect people from outlaws and indians.
In looking on the web for information on the Upper Missouri River Breaks, found that cattle have caused a lot of problems here, as they have elsewhere.
“The BLM reports that past grazing management has resulted in almost complete elimination of important woody shrub species such as red-osier dogwood, chokecherry, serviceberry, currant, and gooseberry – all of which are highly important as food sources for mammals and birds. Another grazing related problem is the impending demise of riverside cottonwood forests. Presently almost all of the cottonwood trees along the river germinated from seed in the 1880s, before grazing was occurring on the river. As cattle grazing became an entrenched use on the river, cattle have systematically eliminated virtually all young cottonwoods, leaving no replacement trees to take the place of the old and dying mature trees.”