by Denny Olson

Kathy Ross and young bird lover at the Flathead Audubon festival booth

On September 14th, our crew did it again! The weather was great, as always, Lone Pine staff had the venue set, and from the time I led 12 rookie birders on a how-to-use-binoculars-and-spot-birds-field trip at 7:30 AM until our 1 PM closing, another 800 citizens had walked into our venue and learned, learned, learned! 

Special thanks go out to our presenters – Park Ranger Derrick, Montana Bird Lady Kari Gabriel and Avian Scientist Kate Stone – for sharing a wealth of raptor knowledge. As is usually the case, the biggest visual attraction outdoors was Beth Watne, Wild Wings Recovery Center Director, bringing many of her non-releasable birds and volunteer handlers. Most of the Flathead Audubon Board were there as volunteers, as usual, with some others who were not board members. The exhibits were informative, the shuttle system to alleviate parking room at Lone Pine went off without a hitch, and the food supplied by Lil Red Caboose was delicious! Kathleen Francis from Fancy Face Design had cute little hawk and owl faces running all over the place.

Kathleen the face painter and owl-faced boy

I had an inkling of how it would go that day around 8 AM. Our dozen new birders had seen nothing but red squirrels on the trail, when I explained that sometimes, this time of the year, birds don’t wake up until a little later in the day. Almost immediately, a flicker started yelling above us, a Pileated woodpecker flew just over our heads and landed, yelling as well. A mixed flock of two species each of chickadees and nuthatches flew into the tree in front of us, singing their different songs, and a Downy and Hairy woodpecker both sat next to each other on the same trunk for a perfect lesson on how to ID each.

More than one new birder turned and said to me, “I had no idea all this was out here!” New birders, new FAS members, the world shifting on its axis — just a tiny bit. It’s what we do.