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Learn why birds matter at the National Bison Range

MOIESE — Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day 2014 at the National Bison Range on Saturday, May 10. This year’s theme, “Why Birds Matter”, focuses on the benefits of birds to humans and nature. They will share the many ways in which birds matter to the earth, to ecosystems, and of course, to us.

Some bird species provide practical solutions to problems, such as the need for insect and rodent control. Others disperse seeds, helping to revegetate disturbed areas. Others help with pollination, ensuring that we are graced with flowering plants, trees, and shrubs. And beyond the utilitarian, birds are inspirations for the arts. For example, Amadeus Mozart had a pet starling that motivated the opening theme of the Third Movement of his Piano Concerto No. 17 in G.

As usual, the BIG event of Bird Day is the opening of Red Sleep Mountain Drive for the summer season, weather and road conditions permitting, of course. This is a 19-mile, one-way gravel road which climbs 2,000 feet to the high point of the Range. Because it travels through a variety of habitats, including grassland and forest, the scenic drive is a great place to see a broad spectrum of birds that have migrated back for the nesting season.

For those who are new to bird watching, or those just wanting to dust off the winter cobwebs, the Refuge will conduct a Beginning Bird Walk early on Saturday morning. The group will take an easy stroll around the Nature Trail to see which birds have completed their migration and have returned for the season. They will also hold a Backcountry Birding Adventure along some of the back roads of the Refuge. Both activities have limited space and will require registration. Call the office at (406) 644-2211, ext. 207 to register and get details about meeting place and times.

Wildlife photographer Donald M Jones will be available from noon to 2 p.m. to autograph his wildlife books, including “Buffalo Country; America’s National Bison Range”. And at 5:30 p.m. he will lead a wildlife photography trip (registration required). Additional activities for the day include special bird games, bird videos, trivia contests, tips and tidbits, coloring pages, and free posters.

Other walks and activities may be added at a later date so check out our new website at www.fws.gov/refuge/national_bison_range. And these trips have limited space so preregistration is required.

The Refuge and its scenic drives will open at 6:30 a.m. and the Visitor Center opens from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors coming in the evening will need to start Red Sleep Mountain Drive by 6 p.m. to complete the trip before the Refuge closes as dark. All Bird Day events are free but fees are charged for the scenic drives.

International Migratory Bird Day celebrates the incredible journeys of migratory birds between their breeding grounds in North America and their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central, and South America. For more information about migratory birds and about events happening throughout the nation, you can check the website at http://www.birdday.org/birday.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. They are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region via our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/51986662@N05, and watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws.

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