The little birds are at the backyard feeders and the larger birds are out in the fields. Bob Danley looks at both in this week's Bitterroot Outdoor Journal.

First of all, there are two main Finch species at the feeders in Western Montana (photos above). The Cassin's Finch weren't seen in the Hamilton Christmas Bird Count, but Bob has seen them in Lolo. That finch has white eye rings and peaked head feather and straight pointed bill. There's usually a bit of raspberry red coloring on the chest. Though there weren't any seen in this year's Hamilton bird count, in 1988 they counted 144, which was a Montana record.

The House Finch was counted in Hamilton (78 of them), but a lot less than last year (267). They are about 6 inches in size with a red/orange face and blurry streaking with a brown body. The upper bill is curved. They moved into Montana from Idaho in the 1950's, Bob says. The first recorded on a Christmas Bird Count was in Missoula in 1969.

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The Rough-legged Hawk is in the open valley areas. Hamilton Bird Count saw twice as many as usual ( 85 this year). They are 21 inches in length with a 53 inch wingspan. They stretch out bit lankier than other hawks. (photos below) In flight, look for a white tail base with wide dark tip. Two dark "wrist" patches at the leading edge of the wings. When it's perched on a pole, look at the white head, streaked with brown and small yellow bill. There's some dark banding across the chest.

roughlegged hawk
Rough-legged hawk. (Bob Danley photos)

You can see some Powdered Beard Lichen on the branches and trunk of Ponderosa Pine trees. The little 3-inch sized light green to yellowish lichen are pretty common on the pines. (photos below)

powdered beard lichen
Powdered Beard Lichen (Bob Danley photos)

The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesdays on 1240 KLYQ AM Radio and at

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