by Linda Winnie
In December 1976 the Bigfork Bird Club voted to turn itself into an Audubon Chapter named the Flathead Audubon Society. The first meeting of this new organization was held in Bigfork in January 1977, 45 years ago. Officers were elected, and the group began gathering the 35 new members it needed to be officially chartered as a chapter of National Audubon. By late February 1977, 23 new members had been found, and in March the goal of 35 was reached.
The organization that started FAS had its roots in the first Bigfork Bird Count – held in December, 1974. The enthusiasm generated by that first Count inspired several Count participants to form the Lower Flathead Valley Bird Club, which later became known as the Bigfork Bird Club.
The first newsletter of the young Audubon chapter was called the Accipiter Express. That first issue of the Express appeared in March 1977. The name Pileated Post didn’t appear until 2 years later, in March 1979.
Many of the first members of Flathead Audubon are no longer with us; among them such familiar names as Barb Baxter, Sam Bibler, Jerry DeSanto, Roy Diamond, Loren Kreck, Jean Robocker, David Shaner, Elmer Sprunger, and Jack Whitney. But some are still members of Flathead Audubon today, including Lex Blood, Barb Boorman, Kris Bruninga, Dennis Hester, Elly Jones, Bob Lopp, Jack Potter, and Rick Trembath.
The March 1977 issue of the Accipiter Express includes the full list of founding members of FAS as of February 1977, and also offers an interesting window into the activities and concerns of the early Flathead Audubon – including descriptions of the organization’s March meeting program, spring field trips, and bird related projects, as well as reports of recent bird sightings. You can view this issue on the FAS website in the Newsletter archive.