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] or (406) 327-0405.

Joel Penner

"Pine Squirrel Caches," written by Caitlin Fox, read by Caroline Kurtz.

"Last September, I went on a hunt for buried treasure. I had heard of a man who put himself through college collecting pine nuts from squirrels' winter caches and selling them to the local grocer. He must have learned their hiding places and robbed their summer's work in late fall. I had pictured uncovering stores of hundreds of smooth, white pine nuts, individually shelled, like candy.

Jared Tarbell

"Lichens," written by Ted Morrison, read by Caroline Kurtz.

"As I belayed my partner up to the ledge, I examined the colorful world on the rock in front of me. The closer I looked, the more I saw. The small cracks in the mat of lichen surged like huge crevasses in a microworld, curving and breaking with the topography of the rough granite. The small polygons of green were flecked by a multitude of browns and grays.

Mint Evolution

Sep 12, 2014
Flickr user, Dendroica cerulea

"Mint Evolution," by David Kerber.

Ravens At Play

Sep 5, 2014
Niccolò Caranti

"Ravens At Play," written by Michael K. Schwartz, read by Caroline Kurtz.


"Reflections on Wilderness," by Allison Linville.

Malcolm M. Furniss and Parks Canada

Pine beetle chirps are too quiet for humans to hear, but they play an important role in beetle courtship.

Bob MacInnes

"Squirrel Behavior," written by Tracy Wendt, read by Caroline Kurtz.

Roger Lynn

"Blodgett Canyon," written by Ben Johnson, read by Caroline Kurtz.

Tom Friedel

"Striped Skunk," by Peggy Miller, read by Allison De Jong.

John Picken

"Montana's Common Loons," by Ben Turnock, read by Caroline Kurtz.

Stump Stabber

Jul 18, 2014
Richard Bartz

"Giant Ichneumon Wasp," by Christine Wren.

Common Mergansers

Jul 11, 2014
Amanda Bales

7/13/14 & 7/14/14: This week on Fieldnotes: "Common Mergansers," written by Kristi Johnson, read by Allison De Jong.


Jul 4, 2014
Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service,

7/6/14 & 7/7/14: This week on Fieldnotes: "Pinedrops," by Peter Lesica, read by Anne Garde.

"All of our conifers form a symbiotic partnership with certain soil fungi. The fungus helps the tree get minerals and in return receives energy-rich carbohydrates. Pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea) insinuates itself into this partnership by taking some of those carbohydrates from the fungus.


Jun 27, 2014

6/29/14 & 6/30/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Spiderwebs," written by Deborah Richie and Lynn Tennefoss, read by Caroline Kurtz. 

Tree Bark

Jun 20, 2014
Jami Dwyer

6/22/14 & 6/23/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Tree Bark," written by Peter Lesica, read by Anne Garde.


6/15/14 & 6/16/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Montana's Forgotten Fish," written by Bridger Cohan, read by Caroline Kurtz.


6/8/14 & 6/9/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Flower Crab Spiders," by Sara Mintz.

Ron Klinger from Kays and Wilson's Mammals of North America

6/1/14 & 6/2/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Packrats," written by Sandra Murphy, read by Caroline Kurtz.


May 23, 2014
Gaurav P.

5/25/14 & 5/26/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Mont-Africa," by Camille Barr.

Animal Curiosity

May 16, 2014

5/18/14 & 5/19/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Animal Curiosity," by Adam Phillips, read by Allison de Jong.

5/11/14 & 5/12/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Maiasaura," by Thomas McKean.

"Small, croaking chirps emanated from a tidy pile of mounded vegetation. A huge hulking dinosaur raised its bony skull to investigate and plodded to the mound. With a careful nudge, the dinosaur, a Maiasaura, uncovered her hatchlings with her wide duckbill-like nose....This Maiasaura, Latin for "good mother lizard," knew precisely where to find good food in this area. For years she had been returning to this very spot to lay her eggs...

Dave Carlson

5/4/14 & 5/5/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Of Driftwood and Journeys," by Anna McNairy.

Watermelon Snow

Apr 25, 2014

4/27/14 & 4/28/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:"Watermelon Snow," by Boo Curry.


Apr 18, 2014

4/20/14 & 4/21/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Horsetails," written by Kim Todd, read by Caroline Kurtz.


Apr 11, 2014
Brent Wilson

4/14/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Dirt," by Deborah Tanner.

Chickadee Songs

Apr 4, 2014
University of Massachusetts OEB Program

4/6/14 & 4/7/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Chickadee Songs," by Archie McMillan.

"Pretty Shield, a medicine woman born to the Crow Nation 160 years ago, heard the bird saying, 'Summer's near, summer's near!' She taught that the bird has a single tongue in the fall, and then, as the seasons progress, more tongues each month until spring, when it has seven...

Mammal Insulation

Mar 28, 2014
Tim Bowman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

3/30/14 and 3/31/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Mammal Insulation," by Carol Alette.

Canada Thistle

Mar 21, 2014
Oregon State University Research & Extension

3/23/14  &  3/24/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Canada Thistle," by Heather Sarantis.

Bird Migration

Mar 14, 2014
Andreas Trepte

3/16/14  &  3/17/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Bird Migration, Part 2," by Andrea and Don Stierle.

Birds of a Feather

Mar 7, 2014
Douglas Dunn

3/9/14 and 3/10/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Bird Social Behavior," by Mark Hanson.

"Except when mating and nesting, Bohemian and Cedar waxwings are simply highly social birds. They seek food and water supplies large enough for the entire flock. Even more remarkably, they will sometimes pass berries from bird to bird down a line until a berry is finally swallowed. They not only eat together, but they may also become intoxicated together, indulging their tendency to gorge themselves on overripe berries."