MTPR

Field Notes

Sunday 12:55 PM, Tuesdays and Fridays at 4:54 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.

'Field Notes': All About The Western Meadowlark

May 13, 2018
Western meadowlark, or "thunderchunk".Western meadowlark
Kevin Cole (CC-BY-2)

If you have been in open country anywhere in Montana, you have heard, and probably seen, thunderchunks. These birds are everywhere, proclaiming territories and singing from fence posts, sage brush, and telephone poles.

'Field Notes:' Montana's Rain Shadow Explained

May 7, 2018
Montana Average Annual Precipitation, 1981-2010.
Montana State Library

I love driving from Missoula to Helena or Great Falls or Bozeman, over the big passes of the Continental Divide and along some of our country’s most spectacular rivers. On the west side of the Divide, we pass green foothills, huge ponderosas and larch, and soaring bald eagles and osprey. Dropping down onto the east side, we start to see grasslands, sage brush, mule deer and pronghorn. Travelers in Montana know that the climate on the east side of the Continental Divide is suddenly and significantly different than on the west side. Wondering why is a good thing to ponder on a long drive.

'Field Notes:' Cushion Plants Keep It Short

Apr 29, 2018
U.S.F.S. Northern Region

This spring I went out for a walk on one of the bald hills on the outskirts of Missoula, just east of Hellgate Canyon. I walked the crest of the hill and saw how the strong wind on these exposed ridges blows the soil away, leaving a gravelly surface. The plants growing on this stony pavement are different from the typical grassland species on the slopes.

'Field Notes:' All About Ravens

Apr 23, 2018
Raven in flight.
(PD)

I was walking through Greenough Park in Missoula the other day, enthralled by the bright spring afternoon. A yellow cascade of dandelions popped out against the grass. Rattlesnake Creek swelled with snowmelt. The air smelled of shoots, buds, and fresh growth. Then I heard an echoing croak. A raven swooped down and perched on a park bench, a defiant figure of darkness in the daylight.

Flickr user, Peter Stephens (CC-BY-2.0)

"Glacier lilies set standards in beauty and cultural importance. These charming flowers are the lights of spring, indicators of winter’s end, symbols of nutrition, yellow images of patience and longevity, and for me, a new and solid representation of pure human enchantment."

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