Who's got spirit?'

A new gym in town doesn't focus on lifting weights to build strength.

But that's not to say that the kids who work out there are not strong.

According to Motion Athletics All-Star Cheerleading Gym owner Brittany Wilson, athletes lift weights; cheerleaders lift people.

Aside from cheering through high school and college, Wilson has been the head cheer coach at Bozeman High School for the past three years, and in January was hired as the head coach of the Bobcat Spirit Squad.

Her gym offers classes in cheer, pom dance, tumbling and stunting - the lifts and pyramids that are fundamental elements of competitive cheer.

All-Star Cheerleading isn't the high school cheerleaders you see at football games.

"It's full routines jam-packed with tumbling and stunting," Wilson said.

Cheerleading competitions on ESPN, for example, are All-Star Cheerleading, sanctioned by the United States All Star Federation.

Motion Athletics is the new home of the Blaze, a senior-level III All-Star Cheerleading team coached by Wilson that took first at nationals in Las Vegas last year and won the competition's showmanship award that is open to teams of all levels.

There is a need in Bozeman for a cheerleading gym, Wilson explained.

"It's important for kids to get exposed at young ages," she said. "Coaching at the high school, I have freshmen come to tryouts that don't know what they're doing - they were never exposed to it."

In most other sports, kids start in recreational leagues when they are young. Motion Athletics opens up opportunities for kids to pursue cheerleading as a sport, both recreationally and competitively. In addition to the senior-level Blaze, the gym opens the doors for junior-level and mini teams.

Motion Athletics is located at 421 Griffin St. #3. The grand opening is Saturday, August 28 with a free kids camp from 12 to 2 p.m. led by Blaze members. For more information, call 586-2444.

To the birds

The lack of birds chirping outside his windows in the wee hours this summer worried one Chronicle reader. But according to local ornithologists, this may be perfectly normal.

"Bird behavior can vary on very small areas of a much larger topography while on the larger scale nothing has changed," explained Byron Butler, an educator and biologist and program chair of the Sacajawea Audubon Society. "Think about standing very close to a large painting, then studying the painting with a small magnifying glass. Now, assume that the painting is dominated by brown and green hues but you are looking at a small area of the painting in which there are no browns or greens, the painting as a whole has not changed."

Bob Moore, an adjunct professor at Montana State University specializing in field ornithology, teaches a class on field identification of birds and said his class goes to the same sites around Bozeman each year

"I feel that we may have seen fewer red-winged blackbirds, yellow-headed blackbirds and mountain bluebirds than in past years," Moore wrote in an e-mail.

But as a whole, changes in population are normal.

"Small birds often do vary locally or regionally in numbers in any given year due to migration difficulties, changes in agriculture, etc.," Moore said. "However, unless there is some long-term environmental trend that is affecting them, they bounce back in numbers after a year or two."

Another explanation may be the season. Further into the summer, after the mating period, when birds are raising their young, the frequency of calls decreases.

"This is the time of year when birds are gearing up for the fall migration," Butler said. "Many species go through partial molts and are in hiding and are silent. ... Thus, August will be much more quiet than May, June, or even July. Between now and the end of September many of our songbirds will quietly slip out of town on good winds. No fanfare will accompany their departure. One day we will see them and the next day they will be gone."

Rachel Hergett already misses the birds. She may be reached at rhergett@dailychronicle.com or 582-2603.