by Denny Olson

Cayuse Prairie students observing birds at the West Valley Viewing Area – photo by Denny Olson

The Sandhill Cranes in West Valley put on a show for students from Evergreen Middle school (2 days), West Valley School (2 days), Cayuse Prairie School, Fairmont Egan School and two adult morning and evening field trips led by Darcy and Denny and assisted by Tom and Cindy Roberts. Bald Eagles in every age plumage, Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks harassed the coots and shoreland mice. Huge locks of Canada Geese roared in like clockwork at 10 AM every day, Cranes on landing approach passed through a spectacular sunset, and a Great Gray Owl at each of the adult trips highlighted the cacophony of loud cranes coming in to roost. We are SO lucky to have this stopover on their long migrations!

Laura Katzman from Flathead Land Trust organized and co-led the Evergreen and West Valley school trips, as well as four 8th grade groups from Evergreen in Owen Sowerwine Natural Area acquainting our kids with Pileated Woodpeckers and the wonderful world of chickadees.

Denny led another OSNA trip for adults and the group watched a Pileated fight off and frustrate an overly-ambitious Sharp-shinned Hawk for a couple of minutes. The woodpecker, at least twice the size of the Sharpie, seemed to be saying “Really?”

And, of course, many of us this fall have visited the “top of the world” Jewel Basin Hawk Watch ridge for entertainment by a few thousand raptors doing their 100 mph flybys. Let it be said: we live in an absolutely wonderful place.