Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana has about 200 species of birds, but it's the breeding habitat for Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, and Upland Sandpipers that got me to go there the first time in 2008. I also discovered birds I hadn't seen before; Sharp-tailed Grouse, Lark Bunting, and Common Terns. This is a wonderful place to visit in June for the breeding shorebirds but it's also, I hear, great in the spring when the Sharp-tailed Grouse are displaying.
I went to Benton Lakes NWR the first time to find, see and photograph Upland Sandpipers (I have a thing for shorebirds). Each morning as I drove to the refuge I'd find some, but they were often accompanied by Short-eared Owls. Sitting on the fence posts there would be three or four Upland Sandpipers then a Short-eared Owl, the pattern repeated over and over again as I drove past the fence posts. The wide open short-grass prairie doesn't have many perches so these fence posts are often the only perches around.
The auto-tour loop on the refuge offers many opporutinites to see breeding birds and in mid June the chicks are tall enough to get above the short-grass.
Located just outside of Great Falls, Montanta Benton Lake National Wildlfie Refuge was established in 1929 to enhance and protect a closed-basin of cattail and bulrush marsh surrounded by short-grass prairie. Several hundred thousand migrating birds, ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds, and song birds depend on this refuge.
Enjoy our National Wildlife Refuges! Thanks Tim