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.

Cattail: Plant Of A Thousand Uses

Apr 2, 2018
Cattails
(PD)

Cat-o-nine-tails, reedmace, bulrush, water torch, candlewick, punk, and corn dog grass. The cattail has almost as many names as it has uses. Humans have taken their cue from the animals over the centuries and continue to benefit from cattail’s nutritional, medicinal, and material uses.

Flickr user Tim Jones (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The bark of any tree is more than just a good-looking facade. Even the most graceful aspen or stately ponderosa requires bark to protect its sensitive inner flesh from disease, parasites, and other environmental stresses, such as fire.

'Field Notes:' How Scientists Study Bird Migration

Mar 19, 2018
Bar-tailed godwit.
Ian Kirk (CC-BY-2)

Migration is one of the many adaptations used by birds and other animals to cope with the cold temperatures and scarcity of food that winter can bring. As scientists and naturalists we are interested not only in where birds go in the winter, but in how we know where birds go in search of more hospitable conditions. Traditionally, scientists captured, tagged and released individual birds and hoped that someone, somewhere, would find this bird and report its whereabouts.

'Field Notes:' Great Horned Owls

Mar 12, 2018
Great horned owl watercolor.
Wenfei Tong

I was admiring a blanket of stars spread above Lake Como in Montana’s Bitterroot valley, when out of the stillness of the chill winter night came floating a deep, dignified, hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo.

There are few things more evocative of wildness in the northern woods than the hooting of great horned owls.

A red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) eating a cone.
(PD)

Not long ago I was out hiking in the mountains during one glowing afternoon. I turned off the trail and headed into the woods in search of a comfortable place to nestle down and daydream. As I found a spot for myself a red squirrel came bounding toward me on a fallen log. It jumped onto the trunk of a ponderosa pine and gave me that bright-eyed stare accompanied by several swishes of its feathery tail. Then it headed up the tree and disappeared among the high branches. I'd been sitting in a peaceful reverie for only a minute when suddenly a pine cone came crashing to the ground just a couple of feet away. I looked up and saw two more falling. The squirrel was attacking me!

Pages