Montana Audubon Center News
Spring is here! Although flowers have not sprung, we are definitely enjoying mucking around the mud and basking in the sun. We still got our eye on the sky for that sneaky snow while indulging in what we call Golden Days. Golden Days are days we get to enjoy entirely outside, and we have been having many of them. The Fledglings and Flyers pecked around Riverfront Park and Norms Island, where they ate their lunches and played in forts. Spring reminds us of a time of new growth. Our kindergarteners and preschoolers are six months into their program and we can see such significant growth in them. Most of them can now navigate their own conflicts, they are no longer intentionally smacking each other with sticks, and they are letting us know when they are going to the bathroom. Although we are not clear of the cold weather we are looking forward to sunny days we can canoe, gather insects, and look at rainbows. For now we will plant our seeds for the blooms to come.
Big Sky Watershed Corps Member
Dead thing alert! We love finding dead creatures. It is a great opportunity to recognize nature is happening among us. How did they get here? How did they die? We can imagine as we observe decomposition in action.
Being a Better Steward at the Grocery Store
Plastic is the epitome of all waste and pollution. Plastic ends up in our waterways, alongside roads, in our wildlands, in animals, and even in us! Plastic sent to landfills just take up space, and can take decades or centuries to decompose. In 2018, only about 8.7% of plastic was recycled. Windstorms often bring plastic bags to the Center's landscape, and they wrap themselves around our trees. To decrease this crisis we are taking it to the store! Here are some tips on how to be a better steward at the grocery store. Do not be overwhelmed. These practices take time to incorporate into our routine. With effort and time we naturally become better stewards.
- Bring your own reusable bag: Reusable bags come in a variety of styles and fabrics to help you transport your groceries plastic free. There are netted or finer mesh fabrics for produce and bulk bins, and there are bags to keep your groceries cold or hot. Using reusable bags reduces the number of plastic bags dispersed from the grocery store to begin with. Keep reusable bags in your vehicle to help remember to grab them on your way into the store.
- Reduce the plastic bags you use: Be mindful of how many plastic bags you use at the store all together. From the produce section to checkout, the number of bags used can be reduced. A lot of produce does not have to be bagged in the produce section, such as carrots, cucumbers, and apples. If you prefer to have leafy greens in bags be sure to check out reusable produce bags. Heavier items in the checkout could be redundant to bag, such as large water jugs. Be sure to tell your grocer what you do not want bagged, or to use just a couple bags. Sometimes store clerks instinctively bag items that do not even have to be bagged.
- Recycle and Reuse (part 2): Sometimes inevitable circumstances require us to use plastic bags at the grocery store. It happens. Some stores have recycling bins to bring your plastic back to. Call and ask your local store and recycling center. Otherwise bags can be repurposed for at home use. Bags can be used for small bathroom and bedroom trash cans. Bags from the bulk bin and produce section can be reused for lunches, storing food in the fridge, and miniature greenhouses for seed starts. They are very nifty to keep around. You can give them a wash or rinse in the sink if need be.
- Eat locally produced food: Check food labels and stickers, and know where your food comes from. When food is sourced nearby it lessens the need for food sourced from states, or countries, away. Decreasing how far our food travels decreases air pollution, resources, and traffic used to transport here. Eating locally produced food also supports your local farmers. The best way to eat local is by shopping at your local farmers market.
- Eat more vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are often the only items at stores that are not packaged. Be mindful of what your food is packaged in. Eating more fruits and vegetables is also good for your health!
- Buy from the bulk bin: Buying from the bulk bin decreases the amount of packaging used for a product. Check with your grocery store to use reusable bulk bin bags.
Spring Field Trips
We are pleasantly surprised by the large number of field trips scheduled at the Center this spring! Just a few months ago, we thought virtual programming with our ANTS (Audubon Naturalists in the Schools) classes might continue through the end of the school year, but fortunately they are now able to attend in-person field trips at the Center. A handful of other school groups and private organizations are also visiting us this spring. Curriculum topics are all focused on place-based, nature education, and include nature walks with journaling, canoeing, insect collection, macroinvertebrate collection, birding, native games, invasive weeds and restoration activities. We are endlessly thankful for the support from our ANTS partners in making these in-person field trips happen, along with heightened interest from community organizations and schools in getting kids outside.
Call For Insect Citizen Scientist Volunteers
This season, the Center is proud to announce its collaboration with the Montana Moth Project (MMP), a research effort spearheaded by the grassroots non-profit, Northern Rockies Research and Education, Inc. (NRRES).
Moths, like butterflies, belong to the order Lepidoptera, a large insect group that boasts more than 170,000 known species, 90% of which are moths! And yet, despite this remarkable diversity, moths are largely understudied and undervalued, a product, perhaps, of their subtle beauty and (mostly) nocturnal lifestyles.
The MMP’s mission is to investigate and document Montana’s moth diversity, distribution, and ecology through place-based research and citizen science efforts, with the long-term goal being a better understanding of the ubiquitous roles moths play as pollinators, herbivores and prey in representative habitats throughout the state.
The Center will serve as the MMP’s first Yellowstone County sampling site and we will be sampling moths on or around the new moon every month starting in April and continuing until the snow flies. But we can’t do it alone! Here’s how you can help:
What: Friday evenings we will prep three UV light bucket traps and set them up around the Center. We will also set up some black-lighted sheets for observation, and will document interesting moths with photos that will be submitted to iNaturalist.
On Saturday the traps are turned off and emptied. The moths are then carefully layered in tupperware and packaged up for shipment to MMP collaborator Chuck Harp, a moth expert at Colorado State University’s Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity in Fort Collins, CO. The Museum is collating and storing a voucher and research collection of Montana moths and other insects produced via MMP sampling.
When: Friday evenings beginning about a half hour before sunset until around 10:30pm (possibly later during the longer days of summer), and the following Saturday morning at 6:30am until the moths are all packaged up on the following dates:
August - October TBD
Who: We are looking for 2-3 dedicated volunteers that want to participate monthly, or close to monthly in this unique citizen science project. While we hope you want to participate in both the Friday night sampling and the following Saturday morning packing, we would also encourage you to contact us if you can only do one or the other.
How to get involved: Please email Heather Bilden (email@example.com) and Marian Kirst (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in participating
The Native Plant Symposium Team Thanks You!
On behalf of Montana Audubon Center and our Native Plant Symposium team, we would like to thank our sponsors. Canyon Creek Nursery, Rocky Mountain Compost, and The Basecamp helped us put on this years Native Plant Symposium. We appreciate their generosity and support. These organizations demonstrate their values in community building and keeping Billings great. Our sponsors enable us to keep engaging and educating the community on the wonderful benefits of planting native plants. Please support them and let them know Montana Audubon Center sent you! To learn more about the Native Plant Symposium Click Here
We are pleased to be able to offer community programs that get you and your family outdoors, enjoying the Montana Audubon Center! To ensure everyone's safety during this unprecedented time, programs are held outside and are limited in size. We are taking the following precautions to protect everyone's health and safety: Our community programs are held entirely outdoors or online. Masks are required for all in-person programs, and social distancing between participants will be maintained. Please stay home if you feel sick or have a fever.
Bright n’ Beautiful Clean Up
Bright n' Beautiful believe that everyone deserves to live in a clean, green and beautiful environment. They inspire and educate people to take action every day to improve and beautify the environment of Yellowstone County. They partner with organizations throughout the county to end littering, promote recycling and beautify the communities we serve.
The Montana Audubon Center is excited to continue being a part of this community clean up day. Join staff and other volunteers down in the parking lot Saturday, April 24th at 9am to learn about the day's tasks. Please dress for the weather and feel free to bring friends! Contact Anthony for questions
Nature Nuts Preschool Program
Every Tuesday 10 - 11am
Nature exploration comes naturally, especially for little kids! Children ages 1 to 4 (and an accompanying adult) join our teacher naturalists for guided outdoor play and learning about the local area. Advanced Registration Required
April Themes: Nature is Neat
April 6th- Rock Painting
April 13th- Eggs
April 20th- Camouflage
April 27th- April Showers
Suggested donation $5/child or free for members
April 10th from 8:30 - 10am
Enjoy a morning stroll by the river and learn a few birds along the way. Great for beginning birders. Binoculars and guidebooks available to check out. Suggested donation $10/adults, $5/students, or free for members.
In order to limit group size, advance registration is required by clicking here.
Weekend Wonders Family Program
3rd Saturday of the month from 9:30 - 11am
These naturalist-led programs are designed for all ages of explorers. Every month features a different topic that will get you and your family outdoors, learning about the plants and animals in our big backyard.
April Theme: 5 Senses (April 17th)
Our senses are sensational! Join us this weekend to explore your 5 senses by playing games, discovering new smells, sounds and sights in nature. Learn about a few animals with incredible senses and how they use them to survive.
Suggested donation $5/person or free for members
Walk with a Naturalist
April 27 from 6:30 - 8pm
The weather is warming up, plants and animals are waking up, and we’re ready to get outdoors exploring! Join us to make observations, follow our curiosity, and share naturalist knowledge with each other. Each month we’ll explore a different natural area in and around Billings. This month we’ll meet at Swords Park on E. Airport Rd. (at the parking area by the picnic shelter and vault toilets), and we’ll be joined by City Forester Steve McConnell. Wildflowers should be in bloom here on the warm, sun-drenched cliffs!
Please bring a mask and any naturalist tools you like to use (binoculars, field guides, magnifying glasses, journals, etc.). We’ll also have some equipment you can borrow.
Suggested donation $5-10/person.
Advance registration is required by clicking here.
The Annual Native Plant Symposium Workshops
Saturday, April 10
The annual Native Plant Symposium informs and engages the community with native plants. Native plants are beneficial for our local water, wildlife, and well being.
9:30 am-11:00 am: Dendrology Identification- Steven McConnell, City Forester at Billings Parks and Recreation
Join Billings us for a jaunt around Norm's Island and Riverfront Park, while learning identification skills for our native trees and shrubs. Meet at the front of the Montana Audubon Center parking lot
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: Composting- Cynthia Jessie, Songbird Community Garden
Join this basic composting workshop. Learn how to keep the right balance in your compost and some beneficial best practices. Meet at Songbird Community Gardens (1559 Songbird Drive, Billings 59101)
Suggested donation $5
Learn more about our COVID protocols for programs here.
Donate Your Truck!
We are looking for a pickup truck in good condition that can be used for land restoration, grounds work, and maintenance projects on site at the Center. Our current truck is on its last legs and our busiest season is fast approaching! Do you have a pickup truck to donate? Let us know! More info & sign up on our website, click here.
Time to Renew or Join!
Become a member of Montana Audubon Center today!
Free entry to recurring programs
Free canoe use at Saturday Open Houses
Discounts on classes and programs
Early registration for select programs
Montana Audubon printed newsletter (2x/year)
Not to mention the joy of supporting the high quality outdoor, nature-based programs that reach thousands of people yearly, in Billings, Montana.
Membership levels start at just $30/year
For more details and to sign up to be a member, visit our website.
Thanks so much to all those who share in our vision and our work - we truly
couldn't do it without you and your support. Thank you to the following individuals, organizations, and corporations that made contributions to our programs, including through membership, in the month of March.
Lance and Barb Brady
Liz and Roger Schlosser
Sarah and David Burns
Anastassia and Bradley Rogers
Sara and Isaac Wald
Laura and Andrew Gundlach
Katherine and Harold Huston
Richard and Patti Lewallen
Nicholas and Assa Burton
Mary and Larry Apple
Katie and Nathan Fjelstad
Aubyn and Hans Bone
Nathan and Sharyl Vincent
Sandra J Abraham
Anna and Caleb Rogers
Gary and Karen Breetz
Buds preparing to burst around Will's Marsh