Greg Miller's Big Year Tour Series

MONTANA: Prairies, Potholes & Glaciers



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2021 :: June 20 - June 27



From: $2,100 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Kalispell, Montana (FCA)


3 - 5 Participants


5 spaces available


This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

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Highlights of MONTANA: Prairies, Potholes & Glaciers

  • Many nesting birds in the prairies and potholes
  • Breeding displays of many species possible
  • Varied habitats to enjoy
  • The optional Glacier National Park extension will be the icing on this fantastic trip!

Description of MONTANA: Prairies, Potholes & Glaciers

Visiting the Upper Great Plains is a unique and fabulous trip. We’ll be in the rocky canyons near Bozeman to prairie grasslands in northeastern Montana. Glacial potholes and sloughs, broad areas of grassland, and canyons with scrubby growth will be our lot on this tour.

This is Big Sky country with wide, expansive views and crystal blue skies. At times you might even feel like you are in the Wild West. Lewis and Clark ventured here more than 200 years ago. And did I mention Montana is HUGE? Our itinerary is pretty large, too. But I think you’ll find the locations and birding are more than worth the effort.

So much is possible here in such an interesting mix. Almost 300 species of birds have been recorded here during the last week of June. This includes 20 species of waterfowl and nearly 30 species of shorebirds, not to mention a goodly number of sparrows and flycatchers. Stately Trumpeter Swans will be on bodies of water. Long-billed Curlews will be feeding along shorelines with brightly-colored American Avocets and clean-cut Black-necked Stilts. Cinnamon Teals may be on the ponds and Western and Eared Grebes may be on some of the lakes. Ferruginous Hawks and Golden Eagles might delight us in the blue skies above. The color of blue that you see on a Mountain Bluebird makes you feel like the light is coming from the inside! We might get lucky with any number of specialty birds of the Plains like Baird’s Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, Lark Bunting, Mountain Plover, or Chestnut-collared or McCown’s Longspurs. A couple of the prairie dog towns may produce a sighting of a Burrowing Owl, too. This will be a delightful trip!

Glacier National Park Extension (Optional)
[Click to register for extension] $1500 per person

Glacier National Park is recognized as the “Crown Jewel” of our National Park System. Straddling the Continental Divide in northwestern Montana, the watershed flows into three oceans… Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic! While hiking through Glacier we will be treated to countless mountain peaks, alpine lakes and the few remaining glaciers in the lower 48. This time of year can offer astounding displays of wildflowers. Wildlife abounds in the park and sightings of Mountain Goats, Mountain Lions and Black Bears are regular and we may even see a Grizzly! The scenery in the park is beautiful, and with the long summer days, sunsets and sunrises are often spectacular.

  • 2

Length of Tour


Brief Itinerary

Note:  this trip begins in Kalispell, MT and ends in either Great Falls, MT or Kalispell, MT (extension

Day 1 – Arrivals at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Bozeman, MT (BZN)

Day 2 – Birding in the Bozeman area

Day 3 – East Gallatin Rec Area / Missouri Headwaters area / Lewis and Clark Caverns.

Day 4 – Mount Helena County Park / Cottonwood Reservoir / Harlowton area hotspots / Prairie Dog Town

Day 5 – Pictograph Cave / hotspots en route to Northeast Montana

Day 6 – Bentonite Rd / Bowdoin NWR

Day 7 – Freezeout Lake / Benton Lake NWR / Giant Spring State Park

Day 8 – Flights home or Drive to Glacier National Park for optional extension

EXT – Day 9 -10 – In Glacier National Park

EXT – Day 11 – Drive through the park with many stops, ending in Kalispell

EXT – Day 12 – Return Home

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Kalispell, MT (FCA)

Arrival at Kalispell International Airport in Kalispell, MT. Orientation at dinner. If all of our arrivals are earlier in the day, we’ll spend the afternoon birding the area hotspots. Night in Kalispell, MT.

Day 2 – Bozeman Area

Today we will explore areas along the way to Bozeman… known for owls and Prairie Falcons as well as bison and other wildlife. Night in Bozeman, MT.

Day 3 – East Gallatin Rec Area / Missouri Headwaters area / Lewis and Clark Caverns

Glen Lake is a part of East Gallatin Recreation Area. It’s a birdy location in Bozeman, Montana. Lazuli Bunting and Say’s Phoebe are easier here than other spots on our itinerary.

Our next destination is the area around the headwaters to the Missouri River. We will have more chances of seeing many of the species already named plus the possibility of seeing Hammond’s Flycatcher, Evening Grosbeak, and Say’s Phoebe. We may drive a section of Bench Rd to look for Sage Thrasher, Brewer’s Sparrow, and Ferruginous Hawk based on time.

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is Montana’s oldest park. It is also home to one of the largest known limestone caverns in the Northwest. For the birder, this area represents some drier habitat and a surprisingly diverse mix of birdlife. New birds we may find could be Western Tanager, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Common Nighthawk, White-throated Swift, Rock Wren, Dusky Flycatcher, Clark’s Nutcracker, and Green-tailed Towhee. Less likely birds include Dusky Grouse, Lazuli Bunting, Canyon Wren, and Pinyon Jay. Night in Helena, MT.

Day 4 – Mount Helena County Park / Cottonwood Reservoir; Harlowton area hotspots / Prairie Dog Town

Mount Helena County Park is one of Helena’s many good birding parks. Birds here are of a montane nature. It’s one of our better places for Western Tanager. And although uncommon and unpredictable, Red Crossbills are possible.

We’ll stop at Cottonwood Reservoir for a shot at finding Golden Eagle, Sage Thrasher, and Brewer’s Sparrow while looking at Trumpeter Swans, Franklin’s Gulls, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

By exploring some of the area roads around Harlowton we will look for McCown’s Longspur, Sprague’s Pipit, and Mountain Plover. Greater Sage Grouse, Gray Partridge, Baird’s Sparrow, and Ferruginous Hawk are all possible, too. A few of these birds will be more likely on Day 5.

Along Eastlick Road northwest of Billings is a prairie dog town. We’ll look for Upland Sandpiper, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Gray Partridge, Ferruginous Hawk, and Burrowing and Short-eared Owls. Night near Billings, MT.

Day 5 – Pictograph Cave / hotspots en route to Northeast Montana

Our first stop will be Pictograph Cave State Park. Both Rock and Canyon Wrens are here, Lazuli Bunting, and Green-tailed Towhee. And we may be able to find Prairie Falcon.

Heading north out of Billings we’ll make a stop at one or more of the prairie hotspots along our route for birds like Burrowing Owl and Mountain Plover. We could see Golden Eagle, Swainson’s Hawk, and Ferruginous Hawk along the drive, too. Night near Malta, MT.

Day 6 – Bentonite Rd / Bowdoin NWR

Bentonite Rd. will be our easternmost stop. This road goes through habitat producing a unique mix of birds. Here we may find Ring-necked Pheasant, Gray Partridge, Greater Sage Grouse, or Sharp-tailed Grouse. Mountain Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, and Marbled Godwit are here as are Sprague’s Pipit, both Chestnut-collared and McCown’s Longspurs, Baird’s Sparrow, and Bobolink.

A total of more than 160 species have been recorded in June at Bowdoin NWR. We’ll get to search for many of the same birds we looked for on Bentonite Rd but with the addition of a bevy of breeding waterfowl and shorebirds. This is a fabulous area for prairie birds of the northern Great Plains. In Montana, Bowdoin NWR is second only Medicine Lake NWR located 200 miles to the East near the North Dakota border. Our chances are almost as good here for many of our grassland target species. Birds include 20 species of waterfowl, Western and Eared Grebes (Clark’s is less likely), Greater Sage Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Gray Partridge, American White Pelican, White-faced Ibis, nearly 30 species of shorebirds, Sprague’s Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur (McCown’s Longspur is not likely here), Lark Bunting, and Baird’s Sparrow. Night near Havre, MT.

Day 7 – Freezeout Lake / Benton Lake NWR / Giant Spring State Park

A stop at Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area will give us our best possibilities for Black Tern, Clark’s Grebe, and Red-necked Grebe on this itinerary. Franklin’s Gulls should be here in good supply.

Benton Lake NWR is part of the Upper Great Plains. Some birds of the prairies in eastern Montana and North Dakota can be found here in the Great Falls, Montana area in small numbers. We’ll search for Wilson’s Phalarope, Swainson’s Hawk, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Upland Sandpiper, and Chestnut-collared Longspur.

Giant Springs were discovered in 1805 by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is one of the largest freshwater springs in the country. We have chances of seeing Cliff Swallow and Bobolink here. Night in Great Falls, MT.

Day 8 – Flights Home or continue on Optional Extension to Glacier NP


Drive from Great Falls to St Mary on the east side of Glacier to our accommodations.

Day 9 – Many Glacier Area

Explore the Many Glacier area of the park in search of moose and bighorn sheep as well as owls and waterfowl.
Night in St Mary.

Day 10 – Going to the Sun Road (Eastern side)

Enjoy driving the Going to the Sun Road in search of birds and wildlife with short hikes at Logan Pass and other locations. Night in St Mary

Day 11 – Going to the Sun Road (Western side)

Short hikes will include Trail of the Cedars and other locations on the western side of the park. Night in Kalispell.

Day 12 – Return home from Kalispell, MT


Cost is $2,100 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Kalispell, Montana (Airport code FCA).
This trip ends in Great Falls, MT or Kalispell, MT (extension) (Airport code GTF or FCA).

Cost Includes

Cost includes airport transfers, all ground transportation, accommodations, entrance fees and services of your professional leader(s).

Cost does not Include

All meals, flights to/from destination city, trip insurance, or anything that is not specifically mentioned in the itinerary.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of participants registered the trip can still run with a small-group supplement fee per person determined by the number of participants.

Glacier Park Optional Extension

Extension Cost: $1500 per person, double occupancy.
[Click to Register for Extension]

Single Supplement

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $400 will be assessed.

Deposit Requirements

A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

This trip includes standard hotels.

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

Much of this trip is easy walking, however, the elevation rises at Glacier national park with a few trails that are a bit more rugged. No worries, we’ll be birding, so the pace will be slow.

Recommended Field Guide

Sibley Birds West (2nd Edition, 2016, Knopf)
by David Allen Sibley

Sibley Birds is also available as an App


Climate / Weather

Temperatures and weather conditions vary widely during the trip.

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

Trip Reports/Species Lists:

MONTANA: Prairies, Potholes & Glaciers 2016 SPECIES LIST

Additional content:

Location Map

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