Montana Audubon Center News
May 2021

Here at the Montana Audubon Center Earth Day is not just a holiday, it is a lifestyle! We celebrate Earth as much as we can! Throughout April we investigated moths, identified trees, planted seeds, and more! Of course we always have our eyes out for the birds. This month we have seen Canvasbacks, Mergansers, and Buffleheads in our ponds, among others. The Ospreys are back on our Osprey platform and working hard at building their nest. We have seen them carrying sticks and, unfortunately, trash back to their platform. Second and third winter graced us with enough snow to make another snowman. There was a spirited debate on the name of this snow guy, and Frosty-Olaf Snowman was the final decision. We are staying connected to our planet by being grounded, literally. The Fledglings can often be seen playing endlessly in puddles of mud with buckets, shovels, and emptied containers. When one preschooler was asked what she was doing she replied "Made some stew of water and mud!" Then she kicked her bucket of stew into a puddle. We learn a lot when we engage with nature. To be a good with nature we must also give back and help out our planet. On Saturday, April 24 about 75 volunteers came out to help pick up about 250 pounds of trash! In collaboration with Bright n' Beautiful, volunteers scoured the Center grounds, Norms Island, and Riverfront Park for litter. Behind the scenes, we are planning a pollinator garden on the west end of the property. We hope to provide food and habitat for all the pollinators. A lot of fun is on the rise as summer approaches. There will be many volunteer opportunities, summer camp, and Fledglings graduating. We will surely try to embrace as much as we can.

Miranda Hernandez
Conservation Steward
Big Sky Watershed Corps Member

And we are off! Audubon Naturalists in the Schools (ANTS) got to canoe on a pleasant winter-like day. On the right, Frost-Olaf comes into creation.
Are the dead alive? The dead raccoon in the pond keeps relocating. Was it being dragged by a scavenger back to its den, or a friend looking for a respectable grave? The kids love witnessing the process of decomposition. One good whack and you can see all the insects scurrying around on it.
Donate through Yellowstone Valley Gives on May 6 & 7!
Yellowstone Valley Gives is a powerful online and on site celebration of giving, focused on connecting community members with area non-profits, and Montana Audubon Center is part of this effort!

Set May 6th (starting at 5pm) and 7th (ending at 5pm) on your calendar and make a donation for your favorite nature education center on the Yellowstone River - the Montana Audubon Center! Just click here and it will take you right to our page where you can choose your donation amount - any amount is greatly appreciated!

Thank you so much for your support!
You can also visit us at our table at the Yellowstone Valley Gives event on
Thursday, May 6, from 5 - 8pm at 404 N. 30th Street in Billings. Stop by and say hi!
We are offering field trips across the great state of Montana, including 3 in the greater Billings area! Check out our registration website for more information and to register!
Wings Across the Big Sky
Registration is now open for our 2021 Regional Bird Festival! Grab your ticket for our virtual AND in-person bird festival, including webinars, regional field trips across the state, and Montana Audubon goodie bags. Special thanks to our goodie bag sponsor Kate's Real Food who donated their delicious granola bars to all event participants. Register early as field trip participation is limited. 

Flying Mighty Chicken Hawks

From Fledglings to Flyers, this year’s first Kindergarten class in the Fledglings Preschool had many adventures; we grew physically, emotionally and socially as we navigated the twists and turns of life at the Center. We were medics to dying dragonflies, detectives for dead raccoons, keen observers and caretakers for box elder bugs and praying mantids, and we frequently stepped into magical worlds that only existed at the Shepard Nature Play Space. We figured out how to manage our emotions, adjust our expectations and respect one another in difficult situations. We significantly improved our impulse control, balance and mastered our dexterity and physical abilities while accepting our limits. Students went from asking for adult intervention to solve conflict, to successfully solving their own conflicts as I stood back and observed. It has been a truly beautiful experience, and I’m sad to say that the year is rapidly coming to an end. Soon the Flyers will be fully fledged and will fly out into the world to spread their compassion, kindness and love of nature with everyone they meet. Pictures are worth a thousand words, here are a few that highlight our adventures and the power of their kindness- tiny and mighty, we are the Flying Mighty Chicken Eagle Hawks. We will change the world for the better.
Hazel: Are you a predator? Mary: We are FIRE lions!
Ms Becca: Nope, just a friendly observer.
Rynn: We are the fire family.
Hazel: Okay, you can stay.
Mud puddles are an essential part of the Fledglings experience, thank goodness for Oaki suits!
Mary: I FOUND A FISH! I FOUND A FISH! Everyone, come look… I FINALLY found a FISH!
Learning how to handle insects delicately and safely is a huge responsibility. Respect for nature comes easily with practice and our Flyers got plenty of it this year!
Cut the Waste in the Bathroom
Did you know that every plastic toothbrush that ever has existed still exists today? Cut the waste! Swap out your plastic filled, wrapped or contained bathroom products with an environmentally friendly option. Plastic from bathroom products is difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. These products or containers can occupy space on our planet for hundreds of years. An estimated 79% of all plastic generated is accumulated in landfills or in the natural environment. Let's reduce waste together by not buying plastic in the first place. Earth friendly options are not packaged in plastic and are biodegradable. Their composition is more natural such as bamboo, hemp, or cotton. Their lifespan and decomposition is a lot shorter compared to plastic counterparts. Large retail chains are beginning to include plastic free products. Natural health stores, such as Natural Grocers, often have a selection of these products. Skim online stores such as and to see what options and swap outs you can try. Keep your eye out for locally made products that are not packaged or in reusable packaging. Sometimes vendors will accept and use reusable containers. Note, it takes time to adapt to change! Many of these products will be a different experience but will work just as effectively. Try different options and find what works best for you.
  • Loofah - Ditch the plastic netted loofah for a natural alternative such as bamboo loofahs, Konjac cleansing sponge, a sisal sponge, or a soap pouch made from natural fibers. Pictured above under the bar soaps is the soap pouch, my personal favorite. I actually don't put my soap inside it, I just use it as a washcloth. Keeping the soap bars drier helps get more use out of them.
  • Toothbrush - These are becoming the easiest swap out. At this point, many stores are beginning to sell bamboo toothbrushes. Hardiness varies by brand, so find one that feels good on your teeth.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and body soap bars - Shampoo and conditioner bars are solid bars just like body soap bars. Many are scented naturally. I purchased a wooden soap dish to place my soap bars on.
  • Deodorant - There are refillable deodorant sticks and deodorant in compostable packaging. These deodorants are unique and pleasant smelling. Trying a new deodorant each time I run out has been a small pleasure with no complaints.
  • Oral tablets - Ditch the massive toothpaste tube for toothpaste tablets or powder. For the tablets you pop them in your mouth, chew them up, and brush as usual. I prefer my homemade toothpaste powder with 2 parts bentonite clay, 1 part baking soda, and some peppermint essential oil drops. I just wet my toothbrush, dip it in my jar of powder, and brush as normal. Mouthwash tablets compliment the process. Bentonite clay can be difficult to find but can be purchased in bulk from herbal stores such as Other recipes for toothpowder are available online.

Volunteer Updates

Billings Arbor Day - May 12th
Join The Parks and Recreation Department for our Annual Arbor Day Celebration at North Park! Our Parks are home to over 10,000 trees! We understand the importance and many benefits that trees provide to our park users and community as a whole. From providing shade to storm water management, urban temperature regulation to increasing property values, trees have a larger impact on our everyday lives than we often recognize.
This year, we will be holding two Arbor Day Celebrations. Our Spring Arbor Day is scheduled for May 12th and will consist of tree planting, volunteer projects, and park beautification projects.

Volunteer Opportunities:
  • Landscaping Team– Help improve the landscaping around the North Park Center.
  • General Work Teams– Mulch trees, make improvements to the baseball field, paint picnic shelters, etc.
  • Tree Planting Team– Help parks department staff run the tree planting education station and plant additional trees in the park.
  • Event Assistants– Help with setup and take down at registration, lunch and ceremony. Deliver beverages to volunteers during work time. Assist where needed

Summer Camp is Filling up!

If you haven't already signed up your kids for summer camp, be sure to do it soon! Many of our camps this year are already full, with wait lists.

If you have older kids, entering 6th - 9th grade, check out the following camps that still have space available:
Field Day (June 21 - 25)
Challenge Accepted (June 28 - July 2)
Made in Nature (July 26 - 30)
Water Warriors (Aug 2 - 6)

Also, we are still looking for a couple of fun staff members to join our team this summer! If you're interested in learning more, visit our website or contact Hannah or Taisha.
Community Programs

We are pleased to be able to offer community programs that get you and your family outdoors, enjoying the Montana Audubon Center! Please join us!

Open House: May 15th 11am-3pm
We are excited to again offer our weekly Saturday Open Houses this summer! Come down to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. Ask a naturalist your essential questions about animals and plants. Borrow field guides, insect nets, and binoculars. Or get in a canoe and explore the ponds (suggested donation $10/canoe or free for members).

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

May Themes:
May 4th- Magnificent Mud
May 11th- Bird Migration
May 18th- Life Under Logs
May 25th- May Flowers

Suggested donation $5/child or free for members

Bird Stroll 
May 8th 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. 
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. 

May Theme: Plants and Weeds (May 15th)
Spring has sprung and so have the plants! Come learn about plants and their adaptations with the Yellowstone County's leafy spurge. There will be a short story followed by interactive games and a craft. We are happy to partner with the Montana Weed Control Association for this event. Bring your family to learn so much about Montana plants!

Suggested donation $5/person or free for members

Walk with a Naturalist
May 25 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 Zimmerman Park, located on the Rims above Billings on Highway 3. This beautiful natural area is a county park with scenic views of the Yellowstone Valley, and winding paths through forest and prairie. Be prepared for more wildflowers in bloom this month! 
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

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!
Benefits include:

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.
Thank you!

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 April. 

Monica Cordonwy
Canyon Creek Nursery
Carrie and John Broyles
Karen Thompson
Jeanette Davis
Norm Schoenthal
William Clagg
Caleb and Kathy Jobes
Heidi and Nate Matelich
Brianne Prolo
Bonnie Ayre
Tiffany and William Spire

Cottonwood catkins and Buffalo Berry flowers burst around Will's Marsh
Montana Audubon Center