Welcome to Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society

“Building on the tradition of special interest in birds, Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society is organized to promote enjoyment and protection of natural environment through education, activism, and conservation of bird habitat.”

Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society hosts a Public Program Series with a featured speaker September through May on the 3rd Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Mayflower Congregational Church. Members, the general public and visitors to the Billings area who are interested in birds, bird habitat and conservation are invited to join us. YVAS sponsors birding field trips, ornithology classes, the Christmas Bird Count, a monthly newsletter, and various conservation and educational projects. Feel free to contact any Board or Committee member for more information.

For the latest news and updates, see the March 2023 newsletter, The Flyer.

Visit us on Facebook – the link is in the upper right-hand corner.

Join a birding trip – 2023 Bird Field Trip Schedule.

The YVAS mailing address is YVAS, PO Box 1075, Billings MT 59103. 

Urban Forestry in Billings

Steve McConnell, Speaker

March 20, 2023 

Billings counts among its many assets a well-developed park system with over 10,000 trees. Aside from the beauty they add to the landscape, these trees provide residents with important benefits and environmental services. On March 20, in the monthly Audubon program, Steve McConnell will challenge the conventional understanding of urban infrastructure as engineered of concrete and steel by discussing the integration of “green infrastructure” into a well-established system of “grey infrastructure” and the impact that may have for how urban forestry is currently practiced in Billings.

He will also cover some new developments such as the nascent Arboretum at Centennial Park, our network of Natural Areas and Billings’ participation in the national Forests in Cities group.

The Emerald Ash Borer poses a severe threat to the city’s many Ash trees, and Steve will discuss plans for dealing with the insect when and if it should arrive here. He will also provide an update on federal funding being made available for urban forestry work to most cities from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

Steve has been City Forester since January 2017. Prior to his move to Billings, he worked as a Regional Extension Specialist in Forestry for Washington State University. Housed in Spokane, he covered most of NE and SE Washington, and, as most of the population of eastern Washington (84%) lives in cities, it was in that position that Steve began his urban forestry career. Steve’s formal education includes a B.S, M.S. and PhD degrees in Forestry. Steve is a long-time member of the Society of American Foresters where he has held numerous leadership positions and was a persistent advocate for bringing urban forestry into the fold, now an official position of the SAF. He is also a member of the International Society of Arboriculture.

Come early and enjoy decaf coffee and cookies. This program is free and the public is welcome. Join us at 7 p.m. at the Mayflower Church at 2940 Poly Drive to learn more.

Next month’s speaker will be Abiya Saeed, Extension Horticulture Associate Specialist from MSU Bozeman. She will be talking about bees and hummingbirds. 

Photo by Ginny Waples

2023 Orientation Programs for Osprey Nest Monitors

The Billings Osprey Orientation Program for nest monitors will take place on Saturday, April 8, in the Community Room at the Billings Library from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. 

Photo by Dorothy Bartlett

The Livingston Orientation Program will be held Saturday, April 1, at the Livingston-Park County Library from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Contact Deb Regele at debregele@gmail.com for more information and to register. 

Upcoming YVAS Birding Field Trips 2023

Unless otherwise noted, field trips are open to the public and depart at 8:00 a.m. by car from the Rocky Mountain College parking lot on Rimrock Road next to Billings Studio Theater. Make transportation arrangements ahead of time if possible. Carpooling cannot be guaranteed due to Covid.

April 15 (Sat) – Pryor Mountains: Search for Sagebrush Sparrows. Meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Bridger Rest Area. Sack lunch. Stan Heath, leader. 

April 22 (Sat) – Phipps Park: Bluebirds & Blooms. Meet at 8:00 a.m. at Phipps Park Parking lot. STEEP HIKE, 3 miles to the top of Phipps Park. Hiking poles recommended. Carolyn Jones, Sue Weinreis, & Jerry Dalton, leaders.

April 29 (Sat) – Exxon Ponds and Emerald Hills. Meet at 7:30 a.m. at Rocky or 8:00 a.m. at the Exxon Gate on Johnson Lane. Brian Henderson, leader.

For the current status of bird trips, check the YVAS website, YVAS Facebook or the Flyer. Links to these and the 2023 Bird Trip Schedule can be found above. To be added to the Bird Trip Notification List, contact Carolyn Jones by text at 406-670-4449 or email at carolyn684@gmail.com

Killing of Native Migratory Birds to Save Nonnative Fish

Steve Dubois

In 2018, the US Fish Wildlife Service began issuing Osprey Depredation Permits to the Miles City Hatchery allowing them to kill native migratory Ospreys that were eating their nonnative largemouth bass. With the approval of the US Fish Wildlife Service and the Dept. of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, the eastern most breeding population of Ospreys on the Yellowstone River was lethally removed by the MT Fish Wildlife & Parks’ Hatchery Division at the Miles City Hatchery in less than two years.

YVAS and others immediately protested this practice and the permit process (and continue to). Yet the Miles City Hatchery continues to apply for and receive Depredation Permits from the US Fish Wildlife Service to shoot Ospreys indiscriminately in order to protect nonnative fish.

The Hatchery’s brood stock of largemouth bass spend three summer months at the Miles City Hatchery before being hauled by trucks to the Bluewater Hatchery outside of Bridger, MT, for nine months. Due to an outbreak of invasive New Zealand mudsnails at the Bluewater Hatchery in 2021, the bass brood stock were destroyed in late 2021. In May 2022 another outbreak of the invasive snail occurred at the Bluewater Hatchery.

Still the Miles City Hatchery continues to apply for and receive Depredation Permits from the US Fish Wildlife Service to shoot Ospreys to protect their nonnative fish. Great Blue Herons, Double-crested Cormorants and Canada Geese are also included in their Depredation Permits. 

YVAS, Earthjustice and others are vigorously pursuing corrective measures to this lethal management of native birds and misguided permit process.

For more information see: 

Journal of Raptor Research – Range Contraction of an Osprey Population Following Lethal Control at a State Fish Hatchery in Montana by Dr. Marco Restani

Billings Gazette – FWP’s Bluewater Hatchery contaminated by mudsnails 2nd time in 2 years

Shooting Birds at the Miles City Hatchery (070821) and Protect The Wild Fishing Birds Of Eastern Montana (121321).  

The Twine Collection & Recycling Site is Open and Accepting Clean Twine

Deliveries of clean, dry twine can be made year-round, weather dependent.  Small deliveries can be left in the shed or in the outside bin.  Access is through the red pedestrian gate to the left of the locked vehicle gate.  For large loads requiring vehicle access or for assistance with AG totes/bags, please call in advance.  Leave a message at 406-200-7873 and we will return the call.

The TCRS is located 2½ miles north of Laurel on the west side of Buffalo Trail Rd. Or, 3/4 of a mile north of the intersection of Laurel Airport Rd with Buffalo Trail Rd.  For more details, see our location mapTCRS Brochure and “Why Recycle Twine”.

An excellent article by Dr. Marco Restani Baling Twine and Ospreys: A Deadly Combination but now a practical solution was published in the March 2022 issue of Trader’s Dispatch.  

Like all recycled plastics, the twine will need to be 90% to 100% clean. Net wrap (mesh) is not being accepted since most mesh is not recyclable and it is one of the most difficult plastics to clean. For addition information about the Twine Collection Project, follow this link. If you would like to volunteer, contact Deb Regele at debregele@gmail.com.

 We want your photos!