by Denny Olson

I decided not to wax philosophical this month, and instead, give you a report on the day-to-day of my Conservation Educator’s life, and what is planned for the near future. After the December Bigfork (with Bridger Donaldson) and Kalispell (with Tom and Cindy Roberts and Mary Auxier) Christmas Bird Counts, and a “Professor Avian Guano” presentation for the Flathead Wildlife Youth Banquet, it was back to projects, in various stages of completion.

I’m re-tooling the oldest educational trunk we have in our set of eleven trunks and five supplemental materials boxes, “Common Birds of the Flathead”, and will finish it with help from Jennifer Doolan, one of our Ambassador volunteers. Board member Pam Willison has added another line to her resume’, videographer, by operating the camera for an upcoming website and Facebook/Youtube video called “Birds Rock!” while Prof. Guano narrates and does his usual antics in a fast-moving piece about the incredible value of birds in our environment. BJ Worth and Josh Covill will be supplying gorgeous high-definition video clips for this film from their extensive collection at Birds in Motion. I’m in the middle of editing-in the special effects, texts, bird footage and upbeat music.

Right on the heels of those projects is finishing a brand new “Sandhill Cranes” trunk, also already in progress, again with the help of Pam who is making enough crane costume parts for a class jigsaw puzzle activity, and I have finished two powerpoints on crane natural history and crane dance moves – which will be used for a “Dancing with the Cranes” activity. Cranes in art, crane calls and songs, and an autumn field trip to the West Valley crane stop-over area with be included.

An Osprey trunk with activities leading to an Owen Sowerwine Natural Area (OSNA) field trip is just over those horizons. Graphic artist Susie Waldron will be working (remotely from California) with me (supplying the educational content) to produce a new FAS exhibit for all of our events. Hopefully it will be ready for the Flathead County Science Fair February 27, where Cory Davis and I will judge projects and present a “best wildlife project” award to two students.

By the time you read this, I will have led a 3-hour Flathead Audubon OSNA field trip for adults January 18th. On Valentine’s Day I’ll start the first of six successive Friday afternoon classes on “Birds of the Flathead” for Flathead Valley Community College’s Senior Institute. Kathy Ross, Kari Gabriel and her birds of prey, Jake Bramante on Bird apps and bird feeding, will be instructors as well.

FAS has also teamed with the Laura Katzman of Flathead Land Trust to do a series of bird education presentations and field trips – fall West Valley cranes, winter birds of prey, and spring waterfowl in Lower Valley – for seventh-graders in the Valley. Evergreen Middle School is our test group this year, but we hope to expand to other schools and include a spring Ospreys/OSNA field trip next year.

We (many volunteers and myself) will also be at Arbor Day, Earth Day, and International Bird Migration Day celebrations this spring, and I’ll be teaching a river-bottom birds field trip for a group of place-based education teacher/leaders in a long-term series about our Flathead area.

There’s a theme here. With all the volunteer names I have listed, and many more not listed here, we can accomplish a lot! I’m so grateful for them! We are always recruiting more to join the fun, and I’ll be setting up some Ambassador Volunteers training sessions through this winter and spring, to assist teachers with all of our trunks. Help us! Join the fun!