There’s one thing members of Bitterroot Audubon Society have in common. They are passionate about birds. A few members stopped by the Bitterroot Star last week to talk about the 2022 Birds of the Bitterroot Valley calendar that came out in July. These calendars are extremely popular, filled with gorgeous photos of birds that can be found here in the Bitterroot. Competition is fierce among local photographers who vie with each other to get their bird photos into the calendar. The calendars also feature information about all the birds in the calendar, as well as artwork by 4th graders from Daly Elementary School.
Proceeds from the sale of these calendars, which began in 2013 and have been published yearly except for last year, go towards a plethora of events and projects that Bitterroot Audubon supports in order to educate the general public about the important part that birds play in our environment and how and why they need to be protected. Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and earth’s biological diversity.
Becky Peters, BA board member, made a list of the donations that Bitterroot Audubon has regularly made:
• Bitter Root Land Trust Fishing Access Sites and Riverfront Park acquisition
• Wildlife rehab
• $1000 yearly scholarship to a university student enrolled in environmental studies
• 4-H fair premiums in natural science category
• Audubon Adventures for classrooms
• Winter Eagle Project
• Financial assistance to local kids to attend summer camps
• Wild Skies Raptor Center
• Binoculars for field trips
• Bitter Root Water Forum – Skalkaho Bend plant pollinator flower seeds
• Important Bird Area
• Teller Youth Expo
• Bird in Flight videos for local classrooms.
Bitterroot Audubon rents a booth at the Hamilton Farmers Market. It’s an educational experience, says Peters, providing outreach to the community. Those manning the booth spend much of their time answering questions from the public, such as how to deal with injured birds, how to keep feeders clean, and bird identification. Along with selling the calendars, they give out many hundreds of handouts, covering many bird topics. For example, one brochure is about why hunters shouldn’t use lead bullets (lead shatters on impact, allowing toxic lead fragments to spread throughout the game meat and in gut piles that are left behind, harming both humans and birds). Another is on seven simple actions to help birds (keep cats indoors, use native plants, make windows safer [Peters says that 50% of the birds that hit your windows and fly off later die], use less plastic, drink shade-grown coffee, avoid pesticides and do citizen science). Another one is on growing a pollinator garden, another on winter raptors of the Bitterroot, another on Wild Skies Raptor Center.
Peters tells the story of Gracie, a great grey owl that was injured when she hit a car and then rehabilitated and let loose near Hamilton, where she got trampled by a cow and had to be rehabilitated all over again at Wild Skies Raptor Center. Peters noted that Brooke Tanner, who operates Wild Skies Raptor Center, only takes in raptors and now that Judy Hoy, another well-known wildlife rehabilitator, has retired, there is no place to take other birds that have been injured.
Mike Daniels, a professional photographer whose photos are often selected for the calendar, said he’s noticed that there are far fewer flying insects in the valley then there used to be. Insects are food for the birds. The loss of insects is attributed to the use of herbicides and pesticides that stay in the soil for seven years. Audubon has created a Pollinator Gardeners Group to encourage people to create these pollinator gardens to attract birds and insects. Pam Murphy recently attended a tour of local pollinator gardens, which featured no tilling, no chemicals, and plantings that attract pollinators like milkweed and bee balm. Peters said that the City of Hamilton is working on establishing pollinator gardens around town. “They’ve done a really good job,” said Peters.
“What we do is educate,” said Peters. “We sell the calendars, and then donate that money to our causes, but we also do so much educating.”
“It really is fun,” said Mel Holloway, another member whose photos have made it into the calendar. “People come up to me at the farmers market and it’s so fun to talk with them.”
At the beginning of next year, Bitterroot Audubon will be calling for photo submissions for the next calendar. They only accept photos of birds that live here or are regular visitors to the Bitterroot Valley. According to Audubon, there are at least 300 varieties of birds to choose from. Pam Murphy is on the selection committee. She said it’s very difficult to make the decisions, because the photos have to be the right combination of composition, education (are the identification markers visible), and of course, beauty. “You have to give up some of your own personal favorites,” she said.
Bitterroot Audubon is very proud of the calendars, and all that they are able to accomplish through the production and sale of them. The calendars can be found at the following locations:
Florence: Florence Ace, Gary and Leo’s Foods
Stevensville: Eastside Ace, Valley Drug and Variety
Corvallis: Corvallis Drug, K&S Greenhouse
Hamilton: Joe’s Studio, Lakeland Feed, Robbin’s Hallmark, Bitterroot Drug, Stone Cottage, Chapter One Book Store.
Calendars can also be purchased for $25, which includes mailing costs, on BAS’s website https://bitterrootaudubon.org/support-us