by Denny Olson
Well, we are nearing the end of that chronically over-planned, not-enough-time-in-the-universe-as-we-understand-it, time we call “summer”. And I have to say … it has been fun! Five weeks of teaching senior citizens about birds and life in Glacier, four days of Audubon and Road Scholar grandparents and grandkids with talented FAS volunteers, many Glacier Institute classes, and planning with Flathead Land Trust and Fish Wildlife and Parks for a large bird education initiative to be started this school year, working on Sandhill Crane and Osprey educational trunks – was just a start!
In order to get ready for 5th and 7th graders culminating their bird education sequences this coming year, Flathead Audubon had to do some “infrastructure” work on our gem of a field trip location, Owen Sowerwine Natural Area. What I have discovered about our membership – besides their intellectual prowess and big hearts — is that we can do some darn hard physical work as well. Board Members Rod Wallette and Pam Willison helped cover our entire OSNA mainland area with 16 evenly-spaced plot-point posts, getting the area ready for future plant and bird diversity science work by our local students. Rick Mace loaned his boat, and himself, to help put up six waterfowl nest boxes on the Stillwater River and Big Slough in OSNA. Students will begin a monitoring project on comparative use of boxes with different entrance hole shapes and sizes next spring.
Pam, Rod, myself and new Board Member Will Beyer, carved a new primitive interpretive trail in the north section of OSNA. It is about a mile-long loop, complete with metal trail markers and overlook side trails to observe Osprey and waterfowl nests at an un-disturbing distance. New signage posts delineate where private land begins and OSNA land ends. Last year, we put up a high boardwalk entrance to our north outdoor classroom area to effectively provide reliable access for students around old spring-flooded river channels.
Access to that area – along with bus turnaround for dropping off public school students — is being generously provided by The Kalispell Montessori School and landowners Terry and Sally Welder. The Memorandum of Understanding we have with them, along with the License for Management we have with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), is a model for private-public-nonprofit three-way cooperation. It is based on a very simple premise of caring for our kids and for the land that they will inherit.
Still to come, as an extension of the black cottonwood regeneration study done by Flathead High School students in 2017, we will be erecting a couple to whitetail deer exclosures to have students test the effects of browsing on new cottonwood seedlings. The seedling crop is improving dramatically because of our efforts at invasive herb and shrub removal – which of course promises to be a yearly effort.
Sometime this fall, I will be offering a show-and tell of all of these efforts on an all-trails field trip in OSNA. I might even include some bird calls.