Field Notes

Sunday 12:55 PM

For keen observers, a walk to the grocery store or a hike up a mountain can inspire questions. Where do magpies nest?  Why doesn’t a spider stick to its own web? How do water striders keep from sinking?  Every week since 1992, Field Notes has inquired about Montana's  natural history. Produced by the Montana Natural History Center, Field Notes are written by naturalists, students and listeners about the puzzle-tree bark, eagle talons, woolly aphids and giant puffballs of Western, Central and Southwestern Montana.

Interested in writing a Field Note? Contact Allison De Jong, Field Notes editor, at adejong [at] montananaturalist.org or (406) 327-0405.

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Field Notes
5:00 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Fungus Feeders Flying Around The Philodendron

Dark winged fungus gnat (Sciaridae). (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Ian Jacobs

"It was fall, and my favorite heirloom house plant had outgrown its container, so I replanted it in a larger pot. To do this, I used some potting soil that had been sitting in sacks in the backyard. Soon after, the house was teeming with little flies. I knew they came from the potted plant, but I had no idea what they were. It turns out they were dark-winged fungus gnats, which feed off fungus in potting soil. These persistent little insects have followed me from one rental house to another over the past two years.

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Field Notes
5:00 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Lobster Tails, On The Rocks

Anomalocaris canadensis, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Anomalocaris is the name for a wide range of early sealife very similar to shrimp, scorpions, lobsters, and crabs. (CC BY-2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Tim Evanson

"In the late Cretaceous period, from 90 to 65 million years ago, Montana had a lusher climate than today. The Rocky Mountains formed one edge of a vast inland sea - Fort Peck was beachfront property on the edge of that sea. There are three distinct sedimentary rock formations from that era running through the area. The T. rex, "Peck's Rex," was found in the Hell Creek formation in 1997, just inland from the ancient coast. The sparsely-fossilized Fox Hill sandstone is a remnant of the beach itself.

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Field Notes
5:00 am
Fri November 28, 2014

Bats vs. Insects: A Sonic Arms Race

Bats at sunset. (CC BY 2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Bev Sykes

"Bat Hearing," written by Erick Greene, read by Caroline Kurtz.

"Most people know that bats are able to perceive their surroundings using ultra high frequency sonar. But how exactly do they do it?

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Field Notes
5:00 am
Fri November 21, 2014

Tough Nut To Crack: Strategies At The Bird Feeder

Pine Siskins at the feeder, Putney VT. (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Putneypics

"Birds and Seeds," by Brian Williams.

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Field Notes
5:00 am
Sat November 15, 2014

How Do Insects Survive Winter?

Hibernating ladybugs (Coccinellidae) (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Jason

"An Insect's Guide To Surviving the Winter," written by Ashley King, read by Caroline Kurtz.

With the help of fur, hair, or clothing, warm-blooded mammals keep a consistent internal temperature, no matter the air temperature. That's not true for insects. How do they survive the cold of winter? 

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Field Notes
4:28 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Martens And Fishers, Elusive Carnivores Of Montana's Old-Growth Forests

American marten (Martes americana)
Credit United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Walking around old-growth forests this winter, if you're lucky enough to see fur-lined tracks leading to the base of a tree, or scat containing porcupine quills, look up. Scan the treetops. You might catch a glimpse of a marten or a fisher, two members of the mustelid family that roam Montana's winter landscape.

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Field Notes
4:29 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Super-Morph: Botanist In The Produce Aisle

Plant morphology in the supermarket. (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Sandor Weisz

"Plant Morphology in the Supermarket," by Peter Lesica and Annie Garde.

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Field Notes
9:45 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Mount Aeneas In Autumn

Mount Aeneas, Swan Mountains, Flathead National Forest, Montana. (CC BY 2.0)
Credit Liz Rohde

"Mount Aeneas," by Margo Whitmire.

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Field Notes
5:00 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Dance Of The Sandhill Crane

Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) dancing at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM. (CC BY 2.0)
Credit Manith Kainickara, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

"Dance of the Sandhill Crane," written by Clare Antonioli, read by Caroline Kurtz.

"Why do sandhill cranes dance? There are several theories. They may be establishing territories, or they may be warning other cranes of possible danger, but the most widely accepted theory is that the dance is a mating ritual. However, sandhill cranes dance all the time, even when they aren't mating, so how could a dance be only a mating ritual? Even juveniles, who are not of mating age, dance.

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Field Notes
8:29 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Daddy Longlegs: Two Eyes, Eight Legs, And No Webs

Harvestman, a.k.a. Daddy longlegs (Holocnemus pluchei). (CC BY 2.0)
Credit Mattknight

"Daddy Longlegs," written by Melissa Zapisocky, read by Caroline Kurtz

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