Area residents have been getting out more, enjoying the recent unusual and record warm February temperatures.  Unfortunately for the “Brown Bag with the Birds” bird-watchers, the birds have also been out and about, flying further afield to forage rather than relying on the bird-feeders provided at the Lewis and Clark Missouri River Visitors Center (the Center).
The Center holds a free “Brown Bag with the Birds” lunch hour every Friday in January and February so locals and visitors can bring their lunches in and relax inside the museum while enjoying a spectacular view of the Missouri River and a wide variety of birds flitting about right outside the massive windows.
Executive Director Doug Friedli said that usually there would be ice on the river and/or snow on the ground, and birdwatchers could see 12-15 different species of birds within the lunch hour.   During typical January and February weather, a dozen or more birdwatchers might share the view out the Center’s windows. With the warmer weather, Friedli said  birdwatchers are having better luck in the morning hours.
To facilitate birdwatching at the Center, Friedli said they have five birdfeeders of different types located close to the building.  They also have 13 Bluebird houses scattered across the property.
Winter visitors are likely to see Bald Eagles (mature and immature), Chickadees, Nuthatch, Titmouse, Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Goldfinch, Sparrows, Grackles, Bluebirds, Golden Eagles, and occasionally Coopers Hawks, scaring the others away or eating them.  
“One of the things I hear a lot from out-of-towners,” Friedli said, “is that they see birds here that they never see elsewhere.”
Susan Quinn, the local bird expert brings in charts identifying birds when she comes in, and is more than willing to help others identify what they are seeing and talk about the birds.
Friedli said the Center has been a haven for birdwatchers, serious and amateur, and local artists often visit for ideas for their work.  
With the recent addition of a table and bench and journaling sketchbook next to one of the big windows, he expects to see more people trying their hand at drawing what they see before them.
The Lewis and Clark Missouri River Visitors Center is open year-round, located at 100 Valmont Drive, and more information can be found at:  http://www.mrb-lewisandclarkcenter.org.