Responding to requests from the public, the Montana Audubon Center is offering several new programs this summer, including weekly nature tours of Norm’s Island and monthly early-morning bird walks.
Also new are Tuesday-evening and Sunday-afternoon events involving canoeing on the nature center’s ponds or taking self-guided tours with “Nature Knapsacks” full of activity suggestions and equipment for each activity.
And this Saturday, the fifth annual Get Outside Montana program will kick off with events from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Audubon Center, 7026 S. Billings Blvd., about half a mile south of Interstate 90.
Carolyn Sevier, the education coordinator at the center, said Audubon has heard from people who want to learn more about the natural history of Billings, and “we’ve head lots of requests for canoeing.”
In the past, she said, most of the center’s programs have involved private events or programs aimed at groups of students visiting during the school year. A lot of those students want to come back with their families and do things like canoe on the ponds, Sevier said, but they didn’t have that opportunity, until now.
The free events designed for families will be offered noon to 5 p.m. every Sunday until Sept. 11 and every Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m. from June 14 to Sept. 13. Participants will be able to check out a Nature Knapsack geared toward bug catching, bird-watching, tracks and animal signs, or general nature observation, and then hike around the center’s three-plus miles of trails. That activity is free.
The “Rise and Shine Bird Walks” will be offered on three Saturdays this summer—June 25, July 16 and Aug. 13. The introductory birding walk through the riparian corridor will cost $10 a person. Binoculars and guidebooks will be available and there will be instruction on birding basics and field techniques.
The event will include also information on other birding opportunities in Billings. To register, which is required, call 294-5099.
The nature tours on Norm’s Island, which is next door to the Audubon Center, will be offered on Fridays at 2 p.m., June 17 through Aug. 26. Under the guidance of a knowledgeable local naturalist, participants will look for birds, learn about native plants and watch river geology in action.
That activity is also $10 a person and requires registration, also by calling 294-5099.
The Get Outside Montana kickoff, meanwhile, will take place this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Get Outside Montana is a summer activity passport program for south-central Montana, and all activities, self-guided and scheduled, are free.
More than 10 area organizations are involved and will offer, among other activities, hiking, bird-watching and trail-building. Families are encouraged to register as teams, which build up points in their passports by taking part in events. All teams that amass a minimum number of points will be eligible for entry in a raffle for prizes related to outdoor activity.
Last year, more than 500 people representing 154 teams attended the kick-off event. The whole idea of the program is to encourage families to be physically active and to enjoy some of the many outdoor and educational activities in this part of the state.
You can register Saturday at the Audubon Center or by filling out an online form at www.mtaudubon.org/center. At the kickoff, T-shirts, goodie bags and passports will be available.
Partners with Audubon in the program include the Bureau of Land Management, Yellowstone Rivers Parks Association, Pompeys Pillar National Monument, Billings Parks and Recreation, Cooney, Lake Elmo and Pictograph Cave state parks, Billings TrailNet, Billings Bicycle Club, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Montana Wilderness Association, Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation and Custer-Gallatin National Forest.
In addition to all that, the center will be having open stewardship days on the second and first Tuesdays of each month from 2 to 5 p.m. and the second and fourth Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m.
There will be a variety of restoration projects to work on. Check the center’s website for more information about each session’s activities. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
And don’t forget the center’s Shepard Nature Play Space, which is open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours. Even if the gate to the center is locked, you can park your car and walk a short distance to the play area.