This last weekend was a good one for birdwatchers at Freezout Lake west of Great Falls. Some folks from Hamilton were there and experienced the spectacle of an estimated 25,500 Snow Geese and Ross's Geese, along with about 2,400 migrating Tundras and Trumpeter Swans in their annual spring stopover at the ponds of the Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks daily updates show Sunday, March 21st, as the largest migration day so far this season. Click on "migration status" in the top right of that Freezout page. The site is updated on a regular basis. Compared to the average migration numbers from years past, the observers noted that the geese numbers are below average, but are increasing, while the swan populations have dropped a bit, but this is one of the main weeks of the migration. Ducks are also gathering at the lake.

Because of it's location along the Rocky Mountain Front, on a main flyway, Freezout usually has visits from over 230 species of birds throughout the year, but the days of the migrating geese and swans are memorable.

If you go, there are rules:

  • Motorized vehicles must remain on designated roads or in designated parking areas.
  • Camping is permitted, free of charge, in the established camping area or designated parking areas.
  • Open campfires are not permitted.
  • Hunting and trapping regulations are strictly enforced. Refer to current hunting or trapping regulations for further information.
  • VERY IMPORTANT! PETS shall be restrained in a manner that does not cause or permit a nuisance or danger to persons, property, or wildlife.
  • And, of course, littering is prohibited.
  • The birds on the ground, and then ...
    ...the geese lift off. (Mike Daniels, Townsquare Media)
    Take your camera! (Mike Daniels, Townsquare Media)

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