by Darcy Thomas
After hearing that the Montana Land Board had approved the conservation easement for Owen Sowerwine, I told my husband to put his boots on as we needed to go walk among the trees and enjoy the music of bird song, as we reveled in the accomplishment that had been so many years in the making. A couple of days later, Ronda Howell and I returned to bird watch. Owen Sowerwine is not only a birding hotspot but is also designated as an Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA). IBA’s protect sites of critical importance for the conservation of birds. They are “managed and preserved for the benefit of the important bird populations they serve” (https://flatheadaudubon.org/protect/important-bird-areas/). Because of this and because Flathead Audubon manages Owen Sowerwine, Ronda and I were especially happy that the Montana Land Board viewed the conservation easement, which soon will be in place, as an important preservation area. Both of us felt a great desire to bask in the beauty of this rich birding habitat knowing that it would remain undeveloped for perpetuity.
We enjoyed watching a Pileated Woodpecker fly into a nearby tree and begin whacking at it in search of something yummy to eat. We watched him for a long while and were quite enjoying ourselves. It is always wonderful to get a good look at a Pileated Woodpecker as it is our Flathead Audubon mascot. Just as I was saying, “I wonder if we will see a Belted Kingfisher”, we spotted one zooming along the river like a fighter pilot and breaking the silence with his rattling call. We caught sight of a Cooper’s Hawk and in quick succession a Merlin. Seconds later, the Cooper’s Hawk flew toward the river while the Merlin chased after him mobbing and harassing him in the air. It was a wonderful outing, and we went home with smiles on our faces.
A few days later, I decided I just couldn’t get enough of the place and headed into Owen Sowerwine again. I walked along a backwater channel and then took the main trail to the river before taking the Greenridge Trail. My phone dinged. Taking it out of my pocket I looked at my text messages and read the following, “I laughed when I pulled into the Treasure Lane parking lot and saw your car. Might see you on the trail. Happy birding!” It was Ronda. It seemed she couldn’t stay away either! Many people gravitate to this special spot for its trails, birds, wildlife, native flora, and rivers. Maybe you are one of them. Now is a great time to visit and ponder what the conservation easement will mean to all the living organisms that call Owen Sowerwine home. It is certainly a victory to celebrate.