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.

Field Notes podcast

Ivar Leidus

"What exactly is a weed? This can be a tricky question to answer. A plant that is nurtured and cultivated by one gardener may be yanked out unapologetically by the next, in favor of something preferable. It seems that a weed to one person can be a prized plant to another.

When Do Bumblebees Ignore Flowers?

May 29, 2015
Flickr user, Bramblejungle

Montana's State Insect, The Mourning Cloak Butterfly

May 25, 2015

"If you have ever spent any time with a three-year-old, then you’ve probably heard a lot of simple questions about the world around you. Here is one that occurred recently.

Seacrest Wolf Preserve

"If you are lucky, you might see some of Montana’s wolf pups emerging from their dens starting in mid-May. At first the pups stay at the entrance of the den, where they have been holed up with their mother since being born some three weeks earlier. They startle easily at first, disappearing frequently into the den, but soon they are exploring the area around the mouth of the den and socializing with the rest of the pack.

Cushion Plants Keep It Short

May 18, 2015
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.

The Brash Brown-Headed Cowbird

May 16, 2015
Flickr user, Rodney Campbell

"Across North America this spring, female brown-headed cowbirds will wait in the pre-dawn light for a songbird next to be left unattended. In those moments of opportunity, the cowbirds will swoop down and lay an egg in the nest of an unsuspecting mother.

Lewis and Clark Caverns: A Trip Down Under

May 11, 2015
Flickr user, Tjflex2

"Deep inside Lewis and Clark Caverns in the Tobacco Root Mountains of southwestern Montana, a pale spider crawls across the Madison Limestone and vanishes behind a stalagmite.  Scanning the ceiling for roosting bats, I realize the greatest concentration of wildlife here lies within the limestone itself.

Birger Fricke

"Early last fall, I was walking with my dog in the late evening. As we approached a tall silver maple, Benally pulled the leash taut in a fit of canine curiosity. I looked down to find him sniffing through a patch of peculiar-shaped mushrooms that were growing above the maple's roots.

Birds Of A Feather Shop Together

May 4, 2015
Flickr user, Andy Jones

"Have you ever been shopping at your local retailer, heard the chirps of birds coming from the rafters, and wondered, “How did those birds get in here?”

The Mighty Wren

May 1, 2015
Tom Talbott

“I was sunning myself on a large boulder along the snowy banks of the Lochsa River, absorbing warmth and the scent of red cedar, when an abrupt call, “check! check! check!” startled me out of my reverie. I turned to glimpse a tiny, dark brown animal disappearing into a rotted log.