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.

Montana's Moose Population

Feb 28, 2014
Ryan Hagerty, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

"Fieldnotes," March 2nd & 3rd, 2014: “Moose in Montana," by Matt Hannon.

Mule Deer Scent Behavior

Feb 21, 2014
Yathin S Krishnappa

"Fieldnotes," February 23rd & 24th, 2014: "Mule Deer Scent Behavior," by Beverly Dupree.

"It would be easy to assume, looking at those ears, that the mule deer's most important sense is hearing. But then I noticed a curious behavior that led me to the conclusion that mule deer depend just as much on smell as on hearing.

Chinook Winds

Feb 14, 2014

"Fieldnotes," February 16th & 17th, 2014: "Chinook Winds," by Stephanie Gripne & Caroline Kurtz.

Owl Afternoon

Feb 7, 2014

"Fieldnotes," February 9th & 10th, 2014: "Owl Afternoon," by Caroline Kurtz.

Hot Springs

Jan 31, 2014
Brocken Inaglory

"Fieldnotes," February 2nd & 3rd, 2014: "Hot Springs," by Zach Voyles & Caroline Kurtz.

Blue Stain Fungus and Mountain Pine Beetles

Jan 24, 2014
U.S. Forest Service

"Fieldnotes," January 26th & 27th, 2014: "Blue Stain and Beetles," by Richarda Ruffle.

Big Sagebrush

Jan 17, 2014
Sue Weis, Inyo National Forest, U.S.F.S.

"Fieldnotes," January 19th & 20th, 2014: "Big Sagebrush," by Katie McKalip.

River Otters

Jan 10, 2014
Ken Thomas

"Fieldnotes," January 12th & 13th, 2014: "River Otters," by Beth Horn & Caroline Kurtz.

The Eyes of Jumping Spiders

Jan 3, 2014

"Fieldnotes," January 5th & 6th, 2014: "Jumping Spiders," by Sallie Sills.

Clark's Nutcracker

Dec 27, 2013
Michael Sulis

"Fieldnotes," December 29th & 30th, 2013: "Clark's Nutcracker," by Charles Miller / Caroline Kurtz.

Evergreen Needles

Dec 20, 2013
Oregon State University

"Fieldnotes," December 22nd & 23rd, 2013: "Evergreen Needles," by Peter Lesica / Annie Garde.

National Park Service

"Fieldnotes," December 15th & 16th, 2013: "Beargrass," by Lois Mason.


Dec 6, 2013
Wing-Chi Poon

"Fieldnotes," December 8th & 9th, 2013: "Rainbows," by Caroline Kurtz.

Snake Encounters

Nov 29, 2013

"Fieldnotes," December 1st & 2nd, 2013: "Snake Encounters," by Edward Monnig.

Woodpeckers and Insect Larvae

Nov 22, 2013
Peter De Wit

"Fieldnotes," November 24th & 25th, 2013: "Gall Foragers," by Charles Miller / Caroline Kurtz.

Ungulate Breeding Calendar

Nov 15, 2013

"Fieldnotes," November 17th & 18th, 2013:"Ungulate Mating Seasons," by Milo Burcham / Caroline Kurtz.

Pleistocene Plains

Nov 8, 2013

"Fieldnotes," November 10th & 11th, 2013: "Pleistocene Megafauna," by Thomas McKean.

Live Wires, Dead Birds

Nov 1, 2013
Rick Harness and EDM International, Inc.

"Fieldnotes," November 3rd & 4th, 2013: "Raptor Electrocution," by Jessica Lindsay.

Nature's Costumes

Oct 25, 2013

"Fieldnotes," October 27th & 28th, 2013: "Halloween," by Lynn Tennefoss & Caroline Kurtz (read by Allison de Jong).

Walking in the Golden Rain

Oct 11, 2013
Montucky /

"Fieldnotes," October 13th & 14th, 2013: "Larch," by Edward Monnig.

"Walking in the golden rain. There is nothing that reminds me more of Missoula's beloved naturalist and social commentator, Kim Williams. It was Kim's phrase for the crisp fall days when the larch trees are showering their needles across hiking trails in a last, glorious outburst prior to the onset of winter."

Autumn Leaves

Oct 4, 2013
Doug Kueffler

"Fieldnotes," October 6th & 7th, 2013: "Leaf Fall," by Peter Lesica, Anne Garde,  Caroline Kurtz.

"As autumn progresses, trees prepare for winter by stopping the production of chlorophyll, the green pigment that captures light. The leaves gradually change color as nutrients are withdrawn and transferred to roots and stems. At the same time, enzymes digest the cells at the base of the leaf stalk forming an abscission layer, or scar. When digestion is complete, the leaf falls off."

Painted Lady Butterflies

Sep 27, 2013

"Fieldnotes," September 29th & 30th, 2013: "Painted Lady Butterflies," by Byron Weber / Caroline Kurtz.

Glacial Lake Missoula

Sep 20, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

"Fieldnotes," September 22nd & 23rd, 2013: "Glacial Lake Missoula," by Caroline Kurtz & Bruce Weide.

James Woodcock

"Fieldnotes," September 15th & 16th, 2013: "Grasshoppers," by Leeann Drabenstott / Caroline Kurtz.

Marat Roytman

"Fieldnotes," September 8th & 9th, 2013: "Mallard Sleep," written by Kassy Holzheimer, read by Nicole Schegg.

"Although technically, the mallard is sleeping, one side of its brain remains active throughout the night. The open eye usually points towards potentially dangerous directions, and when it recognizes a danger, the mallard becomes fully awake quickly and can usually escape."

Mosses: Sponges of the Air

Aug 29, 2013

"Fieldnotes," September 1st & 2nd, 2013: "Moss," by Erica Wetter.

"My eyes alighted on a spectacular patch of jade green smack-dab in the middle of the sandy-colored rocks: moss. I leaned close and the fresh aroma of moist springtime soil rose up to meet me. It was like diving into a lake on a steamy summer night. The moss was like a miniature paradise, with waterfalls spilling down into tiny green valleys."

A Spin on Sex Roles: Wilson's Phalarope

Aug 23, 2013
Dominic Sherony

"Fieldnotes," August 25th & 26th, 2013: "Wilson's Phalarope," by Nicole Schegg.

"Wilson's Phalaropes are the exception to the rule in the bird rule, because the typical sex roles are reversed. These birds are polyandrous, which means that the female mates with several males. The females are more boldly patterned than the males. The females chase the males, display courting behavior, and the  male is responsible for incubating the eggs."

Nature's Ecosystem Engineers: Beavers

Aug 16, 2013

"Fieldnotes," August 18th & 19th, 2013: "Beaver Dams," by Elizabeth Ann Straub.

Huckleberry Time

Aug 9, 2013

"The fruit is the easiest way to tell huckleberries from unrelated plants. However, if no fruit is showing, the leaves and stems are where to look. Huckleberry leaves are always alternating along the stems, unlike many look-alike plants that have opposing leaf patterns. Huckleberry leaves are broad and lance-shaped, and their stems make a zig-zag pattern. They grow mostly on mountain slopes, at medium to high elevations."

Order in the Turkey Roost

Aug 2, 2013
The National Wild Turkey Federation

"Fieldnotes," August 4th & 5th, 2013: "Wild Turkey Hierarchy," by Jim Giese (read by Allison de Jong).