by Denny Olson

 None of us had a playbook called COVID 2020. Hunkering down at home with only the closest ones to you (or completely alone), internet TV subscriptions and binge-watching, too-easy access to recreational beverages, adults/kids/pets all sick of each other, and when you go out in masked anonymity, no hugs, shaking hands, or whispering secrets, wiping down everything after infrequent forays into public, inventing home and yard projects–everything for humans has changed. It’s humbling.

When we venture into the natural world, it is in stark contrast. Everything is humming along better than ever with less human influence, direct and indirect. For those who think beyond their self-pity-bubble, one could also come to a realization that we humans are just not that important in the larger scheme —   except in the way we affect that scheme negatively. Humility lesson two — one with which we Auduboners are already familiar.

All that aside, we miss being able to chat, joke, laugh, hug, learn, teach and collaborate with you, our FAS “homies”. And we are stubborn. The general attitude among our FAS board members when all of this came down was “OK, a challenge. A big one. Cool!” So our response, and my response, is to create ways to educate as much as we can remotely. Compared to our outdoor, hands-on, field-trippy business as usual, it isn’t quite the same. But we have committed to adapt.

The commitment has led to some pleasant surprises. We decided that since we have a limited array of personal contact opportunities with students, teachers, program participants, and our members, let’s do some remote-learning things that will serve us well as introductory permanent programs that will help us both during and after the pandemic. 

The first of those — in partnership with fantastic bird video footage from Wings in Nature (WIN, — is our “Birds Rock!”, a 15-minute video which addresses the initial requirement for bird education — to convince everyone that birds are important, amazing and absolutely critical to our well-being and even our survival. It is out in release and available on our FAS website. It is lighthearted, full of   critical information, and hopefully you will not realize you learned something from it until it is too late …

But then a series came to mind. If we can show why birds are important, and our audience begins to value birds, then the next step is to show how we, you and I, have not contributed to their well-being as much as we would like to think. Using the best science, the latest and best evidence, it appears that birds are not doing well. The evidence suggests that nearly a third of them are gone in the last 50 years. Various projections and estimates (again, using the best (National Audubon) evidence available and with eyes wide open to doomsday scenarios that have proven to be “chicken-little” in the past), suggest that due to climate changes many of our Northwestern Montana birds will be gone from here in 80 years.

So, the second video in the teaching sequence — again a collaboration between FAS and WIN — will be “Bird Trouble …”, will look at these issues. Are birds in trouble? How much? How do we know? It could be a challenge to make this one “fun and entertaining”, but we’ll do our best. I really can’t think of much that would be more important. They need us, and we need us, to change the way we operate.

Third, we want to show birds in the big picture with a video about the intricacy of the ways native plants, native insects, and native birds have evolved and harmonized with each other for literally millions of years.

And last, we will do a video about how you can help birds — in your home, in your yard, on your land, and in the bigger picture. We have that power.

Aside from these videos, our COVID response will be to digitize our PowerPoint presentations and monthly programs to make them available anywhere at any time.

Our goal is to have these resources available to every teacher, student, parent, public servant and politician in Northwest Montana.

And, we will need your help. Please spread the word, and the hyperlinks!