Mountain High 

Spring is officially here, and with it comes thousands of migrating birds, making for a very busy week among the Audubon societies of Montana. From species identification classes to bird watching trips, the ornithologist in you will have more feathers to tickle your fancy than you can handle, so let’s have at it:

At the Five Valleys Audubon Society, this week’s Advanced Birding Workshop features Christina Smucker’s class on flycatchers at 7 PM on Thu., March 26, at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks office on Spurgin Road. The class costs $15, and you can RSVP at 549-5632.

For the bird watching sort more inclined to learn by doing, join Flathead Audubon for their trek to watch migrating waterfowl at Freezeout Lake, leaving at 10:30 AM on Sat., March 28, from the Kmart parking lot in Kalispell. Promises of thousands of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans might lure you all the way to the high plains between Choteau and Fairfield, but don’t forget to make overnight arrangements, or you may end up sleeping with your feathered friends. Contact Bob Lee to sign up for the trip and make carpooling arrangements by calling 270-0371 or e-mailing rml3@centurytel.net. The particularly eager can head out early on Fri., March 27, and join the group staying at Choteau’s Gunter Hotel. You can reach them at 543-6508. The whole gang will watch the geese leave the lake on Sunday morning, heading home just in time to make dinner, or watch “Desperate Housewives,” as the case may be.

For those of you ornithophiles who can’t make a weekend out of your habit, Larry Weeks of the Five valleys Audubon Society will lead a field trip to look for waterfowl and early migrants on the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Meet at 8 AM on Sat., March 28, at UM’s Fieldhouse parking lot or at 9 AM at the NWR parking lot by the visitor’s center. It’s free, and gaggles of geese, ducks, grebes and raptors await, so call 549-5632.

While it may be easy for birds to visit the world above the clouds, humans attempting a similar feat often return with a harrowing story to tell, and Eric Meyer is no exception. While attempting a climb of K2, the Colorado-based anesthesiologist was witness to one of the worst mountaineering disasters in the mountain’s history, when its “death zone” claimed the lives of eleven climbers. Meyer helped save the survivors brought back to base camp, and he recounts the historic event in his lecture series, “K2 2008: Finding Meaning After Tragedy,” at the Glacier Discovery Square in Columbia Falls, 540 Nucleus Ave., on Sat., March 28 at 7 PM. Free.

Here in the mountains of Montana, spring, as always, is followed shortly by fire season, and the Bitterroot Wildfire Contractor’s Association is helping to prepare those battling the flames with their Fireline Safety Class and Pack Test at 8:30 AM on Sat., March 28 at the Darby Fire Hall. You provide your own 45 lb. pack, and the whole shebang is $80. Call 523-7887 or visit bitterrootwildfire.com. 

And because all we really need to get along in life is just a little understanding, take the time to learn about Montana’s largest wildcat at “Understanding Mountain Lions,” a free conference of leading experts exploring the latest research on these reclusive cats at noon on Sat., March 28, at UM’s North Underground Lecture Hall. Call 542-3144.  

Speaking of understanding, the Rocky Mountaineers are helping to draw attention to the neglected orphan that is Lonesome Bachelor Mountain with a backcountry skiing and class 5 climbing trip on Saturday, March 28, and, if enough people are interested in an overnighter, Sunday, March 29. Get the scoop on equipment and sign up by calling 543-0898.

If that all sounds a bit to extreme, Missoulians on Bikes (MOB) invites you to partake in the Clinton Ramble, a 40-mile bike ride leaving from the Eastgate parking lot at 10 AM on Sat., March 28. You can bring a snack with you or grab a bite at Poor Henry’s Bar in Clinton. Call 721-8540.

For the sort that needs a little reward for their efforts, join MOB for their Sun., March 29, ride to Glen’s Café for Famous Pie, leaving from the old 4B’s on the corner of Brooks and Reserve at 10 AM. Volunteer to lead the 40-mile ride and treat yourself to an extra slice. 

It’s your last chance to perfect the Eskimo Roll with some professional assistance before the whitewater is upon us, so practice now with the heated goodness of Indoor Kayak Pool Classes at the Summit Fitness Center in Kalispell, 205 Sunnyview Lane, at 9:30 AM on Tue., March 31. $115/$90 if you supply your own equipment. Call 752-3794.

Returning now to the kingdom animalia, it seems as if birds aren’t the only ones making moves these days. A 6:30 PM lecture at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Visitor Center, 5705 Grant Creek Rd., on Wed., April 1, will compare current elk movements with those of the 1970s and ‘80s, and how it relates to brucellosis risk and hunter access. Free. Call 542-5500.

And if all this talk about birds and elk has got you feeling all nature-lovey, join the Flathead Audubon to celebrate the beauty of the birds with the first of their classes on “Bird Habitats of the Flathead,” starting at 6 PM on Wed., April 1, at the Flathead High School, 644 Fourth Ave. West in Kalispell. Registration is $10 and space is limited, so call 751-3500.

Then get out there, start looking up and put all that bird knowledge to good use. Just don’t forget to bring an umbrella.
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