Become a Master Naturalist
At the Montana Audubon Center, we have the pleasure of helping students learn about and explore the natural world. We love to see the spark of imagination and excitement in response to a discovery in nature.
And nature study is not just for kids! Our adult programs are an area of growth–from our new Coffee Walk With a Naturalist series to plans for upcoming Sip and Sketch programs. As the core of our adult programs, we are pleased to bring the Montana Master Naturalist Program to the Center in Spring 2018.
This 10-week course introduces participants to local geology, ecology and natural history. Originally developed by the Montana Natural History Center in Missoula, the program has been adapted to cover the mountains, rivers, and prairies of the Billings region. Students will spend time observing the natural world and developing the skills to interpret the local flora, fauna, and landscape. At course completion, students may opt to receive an official Master Naturalist certification and to serve as a naturalist volunteer in the community.
The Master Naturalist course runs March 20th – May 22nd on Tuesdays from 5:30 – 8pm. It also includes two full-day field trips on Saturday April 28th and Saturday May 19th. The cost to participate is $250 (10% discount for members), with official naturalist certification available from the Montana Natural History Center for an additional $100. Participants may also earn OPI credits or professional development credits through MSU-Billings Extended Campus. Registration is now open on our website (scroll down to find the Master Naturalist class description).
Phenology Feature: Billings Owls
February is a great time to be an owl, especially if you’re a Great Horned Owl looking for a mate.
Billings’ two biggest owls, the Great Horned Owl and Long-eared Owl, start building nests and looking for love in February and March, with baby owls emerging from the nest 4-6 weeks later. Interestingly, these two owls have neither horns nor ears, but tufts of feathers that both help to break up the round facial disk for camouflage and to make it easier for them to spot each other in profile in dark forests.
Here are the most common owls in the Billings area:
Great Horned Owl (pictured): Big owl and relatively common in town. Call is a classic whoo-whoo-whoo sound.
Eastern Screech-Owl : Small (8-10″) owl with ear tufts, often seen in trees along the river or in town. Calls are descending or monotone bouncy-ball trills, kind of like the whinny of a horse, or a classic screech sound.
Short-eared Owl : Medium size owl that depends on large, open spaces, and often hunt during the day. Call is a repeated squawk or bark sound.
Burrowing Owl: Small, long-legged owl that depends on prairie dog towns, lives in burrows, and spends most of its time on the ground.
Other owls spotted in Billings include Long-eared Owls (large and lives in woody draws) and Northern Pygmy Owls (reports from in Red Lodge and along the river in Billings – very small owl with black “eye spots” on the back of the neck). There are also occasional reports of Barred Owls, Barn Owls, Northern Saw-Whet Owls, and Snowy Owls, the sighting of any of which would be a rare treat!
Want to learn more about owls in Billings and try to spot/hear one along the river? Join us on February 17th from 7 – 8:30 for our annual Owl Prowl at the Center.
Program Spotlight: Fledglings
Launched only three years ago, Fledglings has grown into one of the biggest and most well-known program at the Montana Audubon Center. In 2018 we’ll be expanding to offer five different classes, including half-day and all-day options.
One of the first nature preschools in Montana and the first in the Billings area, Fledglings Nature Preschool is founded on the idea that kids learn best through play and hands-on experiences. With 80% of school time spent outside on our 54-acre campus and adjacent public land along the Yellowstone River, our program and location offer endless opportunities for curious minds and bodies to grow, experiment, discover, and thrive. Fledglings is a member of the Natural Start Alliance, a national network for outdoor Pre-K programs.
Open registration for the 2018-2019 school year begins March 1st, 2018. Preschool families are required to be members of the Center. To secure enrollment, all registration forms must be turned in and first month’s tuition paid. Registration form will be available for download on or before February 15, 2018.
Fight the winter blues with some quality nature time! More info and registration on our program page. Programs marked with an * require pre-registration.
February 3rd, 10am: Coffee Walk with a Naturalist — Naked Plants: How to Identify Plants In Winter.
March 3rd, 10am: Coffee Walk with a Naturalist— It’s in the Clouds!
March 20th – May 22nd: Montana Master Naturalist (see article)
January 10th – Feb 28th, 3:30-5:30: Afterschool Adventures in Nature — Animal Adaptations and Snow Survival*
January 8 – March 1, 2:00-3:45: Homeschool Science — Mad Scientist*
March 5th – 29th, 9am-12:30pm: Homeschool Science — What’s Up? The Sky!*
February 9 and 12, 8am-3pm: Break Camp*
Every Tuesday, 10-11am: Nature Nuts
February 10th, 8am: Saturday Morning Bird Stroll
February 17th, 7pm: Owl Prowl
February 18th, 3:00-4:30, : Weekend Wonders Family Program — Great Backyard Bird Count