Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Andi Bourne

Students go birding with local children's author


Toni Hatten

Sunset School students looking for birds and learning about their adaptations in the Rice Ridge Fire burn scar.

SEELEY LAKE – Sunset School students were out scouting for woodpeckers Friday, May 10 with Missoula author Sneed B. Collard III. Along with woodpeckers they observed many other birds and studied structures and adaptations that help them survive.

Last September, Sunset School was part of the Blackfoot Challenge's excursion to the Monture Guard Station to learn about forest fires, fire behavior and the effects of a burn on the forest and habitat. This experience coincided with their exploration and lessons with the educational trunk that the school checked out from the Fire Science lab in Missoula. The students followed up with a trip to the Fire Lab where they were able to investigate fire behavior in their lab.

Supervising teacher Toni Hatten said this spring they have been learning about structures, adaptations and cycles of animals and plants in their science curriculum. Sunset School superintendent Erin Lipkind arranged for Sunset students to go birding with Collard.

"It actually fit perfectly with our beginning of the school year when we were learning about forest fires and later in the year, science curriculum," wrote Hatten in an email.

Collard is the author of more than 80 award-winning books publishing his first book "Sea Snakes" in 1993. Collard received the Washington Post Children's Book Guild Children's Nonfiction Writer of the Year Award for his body of work.

Toni Hatten

Sneed B. Collard autographing one of his many books at the end of the day for Lucas Nygard.

Hatten said one of the goals with Collard was to learn about woodpeckers since he authored "Woodpecker: Drilling Holes & Bagging Bugs." They learned about how a variety of woodpeckers' structures and adaptations help them survive, help the forest by providing new habitats for other species, as well as how the cycle of plants and animals thrive after a fire.

Collard's most recent book is entitled "Birds of Every Color." Hatten said he proposed the idea of birding with the students.

"We agreed that it would be a unique experience for our students to spend time with an author and to go birding in areas around us," said Hatten.

The class birded on Morrell Creek Road, visited the observation platform near the Seeley Lake Ranger Station, Salmon Lake and Harpers Lake. They saw a pileated woodpecker, a red tailed hawk, a turkey vulture, swallows, blue mountain birds, red-necked grebes, loons and many others.


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