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Montana Birding and Nature Trail
Discover the Nature of Montana...

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Fox Lake Wildlife Management Area

Prairie Oasis

A lake and marsh in the arid prairie draws in birds from miles around and is a haven for migrating waterfowl in spring and fall.

 

Species of Note

Birds
  • Eared Grebe
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Sharp-tailed Grouse
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Upland Sandpiper
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Lark Bunting
  • Sprague’s Pipit
  • McCown’s Longspur
  • Chestnut-collared Longspur
  • Mallard
  • American Wigeon
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Virginia Rail
  • Sora
  • American Coot
  • American Avocet
  • Willet
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Killdeer
  • Marbled Godwit
  • Wilson’s Phalarope
  • Franklin’s gull
  • Marsh Wren
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Tundra Swan
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Barn Swallow
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Western Kingbird
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Savannah Sparrow
Other Wildlife
  • Mule Deer
  • White-tailed deer
  • Antelope
  • Common Raccoon
  • Deer Mouse
  • House Mouse
  • Meadow Jumping Mouse
  • Western Harvest Mouse
  • Masked Shrew
  • Meadow Vole
  • Red Fox
  • Northern Pocket Gopher
  • Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel
  • Long-tailed Weasel
  • Plains Garter Snake
  • Plain’s Spadefoot
  • Tiger Salamander
  • Woodhouse’s Toad
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What to Do

Visit the marsh and lake area surrounded by shortgrass prairie, and the rolling open hills of the uplands. This 1,492-acre public access area is divided into several parcels. Water in each parcel varies, depending on snowmelt or rainfall. While you can drive in on the north and south boundaries, to reach the interior you will need to walk in. Fall attracts hunters for game birds and big game.

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Field Notes

Billowing clouds drift over the marshy waters of Fox Lake. The water gently ripples. The prairie stretches out beyond the sparkling waters and the green sedges into a golden wild plain. You hear the cry of a sora rail, invisible in the reeds. A pair of Blue-Winged Teal swims closer. Behind you, the land rolls and rumples. A coyote trots in a zigzag through the shortgrass and vanishes behind a rise.

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Conservation

For birds, one prairie is not like another. Montana has shortgrass and mixed grass prairies. Shortgrass—found here—is the grass of the treeless prairie, dominated by blue grama and buffalo grass that thrived historically under heavy grazing by bison. Prairie birds that co-evolved with grazers in this kind of grasslands include the Mountain Plover (rare), McCown’s Longspur and Ferruginous Hawk. Mixed grass prairie has more kinds of native grasses and sometimes shrubs. Birds here evolved with moderate to light grazing. These prairies are ideal for Baird’s Sparrows, Sprague’s Pipits and Chestnut-Collared Longspurs.

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Cultural Connection

Nearby Lambert owes its beginnings to the Great Northern Railroad, when it ran a branch line here in 1914. Homesteaders had just arrived in covered wagons. They spent their first winter in dugout shelters in the foothills near Fox Lake. In the years that followed, Lambert became a wheat-growing Mecca—with a million bushels of grain filling its three grain elevators in the 1920s. The town quickly declined after losing the county seat to Sidney and in 1927 a fire burned a block of town. But several hundred people today still live in Lambert.

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Viewing Tip

Bring insect repellent from spring through fall—deerflies, gnats and mosquitoes.

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Best Seasons

April through October

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Getting There

View Google Map

Twenty-one miles west of Sidney on Highway 200. At mile marker 50 turn into the town of Lambert, drive straight through town. A half mile south of Lambert, turn right (west) on Richland County Road 325. South entrance to Fox Lake is on the right.

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Facilities

None. Food and gas are available in Lambert.

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Contact

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 54078 Hwy 2 W. Glasgow, MT 59230; Ph. (406) 228-3700

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