Wild Planet Nature Tours, Montana
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May 8 - 12, 2014

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Northern Saw-whet Owl in nest

Join biologists Denver Holt and Megan Fylling for five days of owl observation and research. The state of Montana holds the largest number of breeding owl species in any state in the United States. Fifteen species of owls occur in Montana, of which 14 species breed: Flammulated Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Boreal Owl, Eastern and Western Screech Owl, Burrowing Owl, Northern Hawk-Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Great Gray Owl. Snowy Owls can be seen somewhat regularly in the winter. With some luck, we will be able to observe 5 to 8 species of owls during the workshop.

During the workshop, you will observe biologists capture, band, weigh, and measure Long-eared owls as part of an ongoing long-term study conducted by the Owl Research Institute. We will also collect and dissect owl pellets in the field. We will take time to address questions about the natural history and adaptations of owls. One evening (weather permitting) will be used to "owl prowl" for Western Screech Owl and we will attempt to observe the sky-dancing courtship display of Short-eared owls.

There will be some light to moderate hiking involved in our quest for owls. We will systematically check woodpecker and natural cavities in trees for Northern Pygmy and Saw-whet owls. We will also check stick nests in tree groves and woody thickets for the other species of owls. Please remember that the schedule, locations, and numbers of owls can change, depending upon prey species populations and the timing and whereabouts of the owls.



Thursday, Day 1:  Arrival in Missoula, Montana; Doubletree.  Participants should plan to arrive in Missoula. Travel arrangements from the airport to the hotel are available through the Doubletree Hotel.  We will meet at 6:30 pm in the Doubletree lobby, where we will depart for one of Missoula's finest restaurants for a get-acquainted dinner. Night: Doubletree Hotel, Missoula, MontanaGreat Gray Owl, R. Domenech

Friday, Day 2:  Arrival in Charlo, Montana; Ninepipes Lodge.This morning after breakfast, we will meet in the lobby at 8:30 AM. We will be packed and ready for our departure to the Mission Valley. Along the way we will look for Pygmy Owls and Long-eared Owls around Missoula before heading north for the hour trip to Charlo and the Mission Valley. We will return to Nine-Pipes Lodge for dinner. Night: Ninepipes Lodge, Charlo, Montana

Saturday, Day 3:  Charlo, Montana; Ninepipes Lodge. This morning after breakfast, we will meet in the lobby at 8:00 AM. We will collect and dissect owl pellets in the field. We will then search for Pygmy, Saw-whet, and Great Gray owl nests.We also hope to observe the “sky-dancing” display of the Short-eared Owls in the evening. After an early dinner, we will get together for an evening viewing or calling for owls.Night: Ninepipes Lodge, Charlo, Montana

Sunday, Day 4: Missoula, Montana. After breakfast, we will make a long drive to search for Boreal owls at their nests before heading back to Missoula. This evening there will be a farewell dinner at one of Missoula's best restaurants.Night: Doubletree Hotel, Missoula, Montana

Monday, Day 5: Depart for home.
Participants may leave at any time today.

We will be traveling in a suburban or a van, depending on group size.


Denver Holt is a wildlife researcher and founder and president of the Owl Research Institute and the Ninepipes Center for Wildlife Research and Education, located in Charlo, Montana.  His particular focus since 1978 has been researching owls and their ecology.  He has published numerous papers for scientific as well as popular publications, and co-authored two children’s science book on owls.  He has conducted research in North and Central America.  He has led numerous birding and nature tours throughout the U.S., Central America, and Africa.  He is an avid naturalist with additional interests and knowledge that include insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, plant identification and geology.  The Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society named Denver as Biologist of the Year for 2000. His research on Snowy Owls was published in the December 2002 issue of National Geographic Magazine, featuring a Snowy Owl on the cover.

Megan Fylling is a wildlife biologist who earned a bachelor’s degree in Zoology before moving to Montana to pursue her career. She has studied birds and their ecology throughout the western U.S. and enjoys birding as a hobby. Most recently, she has worked for the Avian Science Center at the University of Montana as part of a fire ecology study. Megan has also volunteered for several organizations including the Owl Research Institute and RaptorView Research. Aside from wildlife, her interests include botany, reading, hockey, traveling and backpacking.


Weather: During this time of the year in Montana, it is advisable to dress for the unexpected.  We recommend warm, cold and wet weather clothing.  A hat, gloves, coat or jacket, shelled parka or overcoat, and boots are a must.  We recommend layered clothing, as opposed to bulky, heavy clothing.

Equipment: You should pack a pair of binoculars that are in good repair, along with a belt pack or day- pack (good for carrying books, water, sunscreen, extra film, etc.). Your leader will have a spotting scope, but if you have one and wish to bring it, please feel free to do so. 



Tour size will be limited to eight participants.

Costs: The fee for the tour is $1350 per person for double occupancy.  This includes all meals from dinner on Day 1 to dinner on Day 4, lodging as stated in the itinerary, ground transportation during the tour, and guide services provided by the tour leader/s.  It does not include airfare, airport departure taxes, alcoholic beverages, special gratuities, phone calls, laundry, or items of a personal nature.  Rates are based upon group tariffs; if the tour does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may have to be charged. As noted in our itineraries, tipping (restaurants, porters, drivers, local guides) is included on our tours.  However, if you feel your leader/s has given you exceptional service, it is entirely appropriate to tip.

Single: The single supplement for this tour is $250. You will be charged a single supplement if you desire single accommodations or if you prefer to share but have no roommate and we cannot provide one for you.

Registration: closes 45 days prior to tour departure. To register for this tour, please complete our Tour Registration Form and read/sign our Agreements Form and return both with a deposit of $300 per person to the address on the form.  The full payment of the tour fee is due 45 days prior to tour departure.

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