As the above photo shows, Sandhill Cranes are among the birds spending "quality time" in the Bitterroot. In fact, some of the large cranes have used the valley as a breeding area through the years. They are not alone.

The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to see many of the different varieties of large birds - including the rookery of Great Blue Herons that fill with newborns every year just west of the large ponds at the refuge. Other large birds that you can see almost every afternoon, with some flying in circles in convenient air thermals, are bald eagles, golden eagles, Canada geese and, to a lesser extent, tundra swans, trumpeter swans and a few pelicans. Of course, we have all sorts of large owls hiding in the trees, too. Take the time to look. You might be surprised at the huge variety.

Sandhill Crane and blackbird. (Mike Daniels, Townsquare Media)
Sand Hill Crane, close-up. (Mike Daniels, Townsquare Media)