Birding Many Glacier Campground
Name: Many Glacier Campground, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn
Both the Many Glacier Campground and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn are interesting birding spots, especially for nests. With this in mind, the main species of interest in the Campground and Motor Inn are Red-naped sapsuckers, Mountain, Black-capped, and sometimes Boreal Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Varied Thrush, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Both areas have had nesting Cooper’s Hawks and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and are great places to hear Swainson’s Thrushes singing at dawn and dusk. Northern Pygmy-owl, Great-horned Owl, and Northern Saw-whet owl have been heard in the Swiftcurrent area, though none appear to be regular. If you happen to be camping in the early summer, you may be awakened by the bawling of baby American Crows. They are desperately hungry, apparently all the time, and let everyone within a quarter mile know about it. Especially early in the morning.
Also in the Many Glacier Campground are vultures, circling and circling each morning from about July 4 to September, hoping to get a campsite. Many Glacier is always one of the earliest campgrounds to fill in the morning. No reservations are accepted, so in order to get a site, it is necessary to get there early – usually before 8:30 a.m. Here’s how you do it: as you enter, grab a registration envelope, drive around and find a site where the little yellow ticket is not on the post, ask to make sure the folks in the site are really leaving, if so, put up your own ticket and a paper plate saying occupied with the dates you are staying, then go off birding until noon to give the current occupants time to pack up without you there watching their every move.
Surprisingly, the primary nest creator in the area is a fungus that causes heart-rot in quaking aspen trees. Without the help of this fungus, Sapsuckers and other excavators could never bore through the interior of the tree to build a nest. These then couldn’t be usurped by other bird species like chickadees, nuthatches, and Dark-eyed Juncos. All these birds rely on aspen and the fungus that attacks it for their survival. The GNP environment is full of an interconnecting web of interactions such as these! One of the issues with habitat fragmentation is that often some of the parts of the web are left out of any particular patch. And, the web in some cases falls apart, making it impossible for some species to continue to exist in these patches.
Top of page photo by Randy Patrick
David Benson Ph.D.
White-tailed Ptarmigan researcher and National Park Service Ranger Naturalist in GNP since 1995. "The Bird Ranger"