The sun rises on Ballena Blanca at Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area.
August 16 – 21, 2020.
After our trip to Glacier National Park, we were once again looking for a place where we could just relax and pursue our newest hobby, stalking birds. Along our path to our next provisioning stop in Great Falls, I found Freezout Lake.
Freezout Lake is a Montana Wildlife Management area (WMA). Most states have WMAs or something equivalent. Usually, they are intended for the conservation of wildlife habitats and recreational activities such as birding, hiking, and hunting. Each state has different rules for their WMAs. Some you can camp at, some require an entrance fee, some encourage hiking and birding, and some seem to be strictly for hunting. Here in Colorado where we are right now, entering the equivalent of a WMA (called SWAs – State Wildlife Areas) one has to have a valid hunting or fishing license. Guess birds will be safe from the click of my camera in SWAs in Colorado.
We have visited a few WMAs before but Freezout Lake has topped them all. Over two hundred and thirty different species of birds have been documented on the WMA 12,000 acres. Of course, we didn’t get close to that number with our sightings but saw lots of birds we have never seen in the wild before along with a few critters, bugs, and reptiles. There was a nice free designated camping area plus you were allowed to camp at any of the designated parking areas throughout the WMA. Although there were no large towns nearby we had a great internet connection for our phone and tablet. The WMA has a couple of named lakes and many smaller ponds. One of the lakes has a boat ramp so we took the opportunity to blow up our kayak, Pirogue Bleue, and paddle her around a couple of times. And the sunrises and sunsets were spectacular!
It’s just too bad we visited in the summer and not the spring when Swans and White Geese stop by Freezout Lake during their migration. According to the Freezout Lake website as many as 300,000 white geese and 10,000 swans have been observed at the WMA at one time – although they point out this isn’t the norm.
The website also has some great resources for download on birds found at the WMA and White Geese. Check out those resources here on the WMA Map & Information tab.
* All pics are click to enlarge.
** We use iNaturalist for all of our wildlife ids. Sometimes we make mistakes. To see all of our iNaturalist observations, click here.
On our first day at the WMA we saw this Muskrat swimming in Freezout Lake.
Sunset over Pond Number Four. The sunsets and sunrises were amazing at the WMA. I could have done a whole post of just waning and waxing light.
Day two, early morning hike along Freezout Lake.
Banded Garden Spider.
Sunset over Davis Lake at Freezout Lake WMA. We’d put the kayak in here the next day.
Day three, kayaking on Davis Lake.
Northern Shovelers. These were some of the first birds we saw on the water that morning. As we paddled towards them they appeared to be asleep. We were able to get pretty close before they woke up.
Great Blue Heron.
Day four hike. View across Freezout Lake.
Sunrise on day five, another kayaking day.
Pelicans and Cormorants on Davis Lake with wind turbines in the background. I posted this picture on Instagram and a friend made a comment about how wind turbines kill birds. I had never really thought about it. We had previously lived on a boat and had a wind turbine and loved it for giving us the ability to live off-grid. So I looked into the wind turbine/bird issue and found out that they do kill birds. But not nearly as many as cats, buildings, cars, powerlines, and pesticides. I don’t mean to minimize the threat of the big whirly blades in the air but I also learned through my brief research that there are ways to make wind turbines safer like painting the blades. It may be a bit irresponsible to have turbines so close to a WMA but keep in mind that ironically one of the purposes of conserving birds at this WMA is specifically for killing them.
Kayaking through the reeds on Davis Lake.
Black-crowned Night-heron. As we kayaked passed the reeds in the lake birds that were hidden would suddenly jump out and fly away. It took us a while to realize that they were Night-herons and just a bit longer to anticipate them and get a few good pictures.
On day six we went for a drive to another part of the WMA and spotted this Swainson’s Hawk.
And her mate standing watch nearby.
Banded Garden Spider
We finished up the day with a hike along Pond Number Three where we saw this Black-necked Stilt.
Prairie Sunflowers at Pond Number Three.
I will be sharing this post on Wild Bird Wednesday, Through My Lens, and My Corner of the World this week. Click the links to see what birds and people all over the world are up to.