Feathered Friends of the Madison Valley

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The Madison Valley is well-known for large numbers of four-legged wildlife – elk, bear, pronghorn, deer and moose. But for those of us who take special delight in the feathered, flying world of birds, the Madison Valley is a bird-watching jackpot. The entire southern half of the valley, from Ennis Lake to Hebgen Lake was designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society in 2004. The valley has varied habitat for raptors, waterfowl, migrating flocks and songbirds by the thousands.

At El Western Cabins & Lodges we have been bird-watching on our 16 acres for more than 30 years and are an Audubon counting site. We awaken to the hoot of Great Horned Owls as they return from hunting – they have been nesting here since 1985 and many years we have a front-row seat to the first flights of the hatchlings. We get our official spring announcement from the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes and their weird call – we call them our “noisy neighbors”. Snipes, dippers, swans, geese, eagles, hawks, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, larks, finches, magpies and dozens of other species call our Bear Creek Meadow and giant spruce trees home.

One of my favorite stories was the visitor from New York City who came into our office one morning to enjoy some coffee. As usual, the door was open to a beautiful Montana morning and she approached the front desk and earnestly asked me where she could get that recording. Puzzled, I asked her what recording she meant. “The birds,” she said. “That CD of all the birds singing would be lovely to have back in the city.” I’m not sure she still believes it wasn’t a recording instead of just the natural morning sounds of our bird world!

For more information on birding in the Madison Valley, visit the link at:

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