Thursday, November 5, 2015

Plumbeous Vireo

If you ever find yourself in Spearfish, South Dakota, and want to drive to Crow Agency, Montana, you have a choice of routes. You can stay on Interstate 90 and drive 267 miles in three hours and 37 minutes. Or you can drive across on US Highway 212 for 216 miles and three hours and 31 minutes. The shorter route might seem like the obvious choice, except that passing is sometimes dangerous on this truck-laden highway. If you have mechanical problems along this sparsely-populated route, help can be problematic. Furthermore, 212 is occasionally flooded during spring rains. But the scenery is spectacular and roadside birding stops are often rewarding.

Our best stop this year, as we raced towards western Montana on 7 July, was the deserted Forest Service’s Red Shale Campground, just east of Ashland, Montana. Although the photography gods were not cooperating—these pictures should have been wonderful—I did manage to capture images of a new bird for my collection. This Plumbeous Vireo is a dark slate bird with a contrasting white eye-ring.

Plumbeous Vireos, until the late 1990s, were a race of the Solitary Vireo. Due to genetic studies, the Solitary Vireo was split into three species, the Plumbeous of the interior west, the Cassin’s of the West Coast, and the Blue-headed Vireo of eastern North America. Field Identification of the three species warn Goguen and Curson (2012) “requires caution and is not always possible.” Southern Montana is on the northern end of the Plumbeous Vireo’s range, but none of the other vireos discussed in this post are found here. The habitat, dry Ponderosa Pine forests, is perfect for a Plumbeous Vireo.

No comments:

Post a Comment