Conservation Educator’s Summer Blitz

by Denny Olson FAS Conservation Educator

Denny OlsonAn interesting start to my tenure as FAS Conservation Educator!

June is always a busy month for our Audubon Crew. It started with a number of us attending the Montana Bird Festival in Missoula, camping at Tally Lake for the Warbler Weekend, and then Birdathon. Before I was aware that I would become the FAS CE, I had already scheduled a full summer (56 days!) of Field Instructor work in Glacier National with Road Scholar and the Glacier Institute, teaching on the trail and away from electronic contact with other humans.

With the days “off”, here and there, I tried to get myself oriented to the yearly rhythm of Audubon education programming, had some monogrammed vests made to identify Auduboners as we work with the public, re-wrote the activity booklet used for our joint Road Scholar Intergenerational program, worked with Audubon volunteers on the above on two Fridays, generated another Basic Birds / Costume trunk, did a waterfowl program at Wayfarers State Park, two days of joint programming with Whitefish Legacy Partners for 5 – 8-year-olds, and scouted with teachers for our fall mentoring and monitoring event at Owen Sowerwine Natural Area.

The latter event will have happened by the time you read this (September 27), and, as part of our Wetlands Grant from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, will feature high school students from Flathead and Glacier Highs mentoring 3rd and 4th graders from the Kalispell Montessori School – teaching them “nature detective” skills, showing them how to monitor plants and animals (birds!) at our permanent study plots, and removing invasive plants by hand as a service learning project. It promises to be a great day.

Looming over the busy summer for me was being responsible for coordinating the tenth annual Birds of Prey Festival in conjunction with Lone Pine State Park. This year’s theme was Celebrating Hawk Watch, and included a training session for new volunteer hawk-watchers by Dan Casey in the afternoon. The weather was beautiful, Glacier Park and Sally Snag from USFS were there, Kathleen from Fancy Face Designs painted beautiful raptor faces on kids, many Audubon volunteers dressed kids in bird costumes, Hockaday Museum docents and Lone Pine staff did art projects, Kari Gabriel (Montana Bird Lady) brought her hawks and did a great program with Doug MacCarter, John Ashley talked about Harlequin Duck research, Dick Walker did a wonderful “tips and tricks” program on bird photography, and a very odd Professor Guano patrolled the grounds and regaled families with bird lore and bird songs. 285 people walked through the door in four hours, and the conservative estimate (to the great re-lief of yours truly) was that 350 people showed up outside! Many, many thanks to all the great volunteers who chipped in their time and talents that day, and to Lone Pine for hosting and co-sponsoring . No way could I have pulled it off without a lot of planning help.